Meet SocialStory’s top 10 heroes of the pandemic

As the year comes to an end, SocialStory remembers the top 10 pandemic heroes, who have been in the forefront, helping those in need.
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The pandemic brought the world to a standstill in March, following which a number of lockdowns were announced and social distancing was strictly enforced.

Businesses shut down, economies took a hit, and the world saw many deaths due to the spread of the coronavirus.

In the midst of the uncertainty and helplessness, India gave rise to many heroes went out of their day to help people in different ways.

Getting day passes, distributing meals, masks and essentials like sanitary pads, sourcing and sorting groceries, helping migrants find an easier way back home – our ‘pandemic heroes’ have done it all!

Some were as young as 16, others were senior citizens – but age was not a deterrent to helping those in need. While a businessman from Indore, Hitesh Gungan helped over 700 families, three brothers from Bengaluru in a unique initiative, distributed milk to the underprivileged families – the stories continue to inspire faith in millions that there is still a lot of good left in this world.

As the year comes to an end, SocialStory remembers and salutes all the pandemic heroes who’ve played a vital role in helping people face and survive the pandemic.

Rohan Ray and Akash Raghavan

Rohan Ray and Akash Raghavan

With schools shut and restrictions placed on travel, sports, and extra-curricular activities, many young adults are exposed to stress, isolation, and undesirable habits like binge-watching shows, as well as gaming addictions. 

In order to combat these, Rohan Ray and Akash Raghavan - 16-year-old students from Bengaluru - have launched an online fitness initiative to enable children to stay healthy. The sports enthusiasts have always understood the significance of exercising and keeping in shape. They started the COVID Fit Club on May 3, 2020, through Zoom with more than 60 children participating in their initiative.

Hitesh Gungan

Irrespective of their financial backing, people across the country were faced with an unprecedented situation after the government declared lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus. The situation wreaked havoc as all services came to a standstill, and people were confused about the state of affairs, which resulted in panic buying.

In this situation, 32-year-old Hitesh Gungan, an entrepreneur from Indore, rose to the occasion and from the time the lockdown began, Hitesh turned into a delivery man. Despite the risk of getting infected by the coronavirus, Hitesh started delivering essentials to people in his neighbourhood. So far, he has helped over 700 families.

Harsh and Heena Mandavia

Heena and Harsh Mandavia

The pandemic forced many people, especially the underprivileged and migrant labourers out of jobs, and also deprived them of shelter, food, even water.

From May 2020, when the crisis was at its peak, 26-year-old Harsh Mandavia, and his mother Heena Mandavia, 49, have been selflessly distributing food at their eatery to homeless people and the unprivileged. The mother-son duo run ‘Harsh Thali and Parathas’ tiffin service in Mumbai. They started feeding people for free after one of their regular customers inspired them.

Zeeshan, Javid, Zufishan Pasha, Shehzar Shariff

While the central and state governments were trying their best to supply essentials to the poor, milk, the basic source of nutrition for children, was being left out.

Realising the importance of distributing milk to the poor during the pandemic, three cousins from Bengaluru - Zeeshan Javid (27), Zufishan Pasha (23), and Shehzar Sheriff (23) started Mission Milk in April. The Bengaluru-based entrepreneurs, along with a team of volunteers, and are distributing nearly 500 litres of milk a day in the city.

Anahit Bindra

16-year-old Anahit Bindra.

With an objective to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, 16-year-old Anahit Bindra launched an initiative in Khayala slum in Delhi. Known as ‘Sew the Divide’, it is focused on enabling women to earn a livelihood by stitching clothes, masks, and other accessories and earning an income.

Rajesh Kumar

Dr Rajesh Kumar

Over 6,000 people were stranded on the L&T campus in Sarai Kale Khan in Delhi after the lockdown. While around 3,000 people embarked on the tedious journey to their hometowns, those remaining stayed back, hoping things would turn around.

Rajesh Kumar, 56, who has been working at the grassroots level to improve the drug situation in India, came across the plight of the migrant workers on the campus. Rajesh, who runs around 80 shelter homes across the Delhi, came to their rescue with his NGO Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM).

Ravi Puli

US-based businessman Ravi Puli

The nationwide lockdown in India, as well as restrictions across the world, not just affected the country’s residents, but many citizens overseas were also unable to come back home. Despite the government’s Vande Bharat repatriation flights, pregnant women, senior citizens, exchange students, non-Indian citizens with Indian parents, as well as those who couldn’t afford to the tickets, couldn't come back home.

That’s when Washington DC-based Telugu businessman Ravi Puli and his team of volunteers arranged a chartered flight for 250 Indians from the US to return to India. The passengers were picked up from different cities across the US and flown to Hyderabad.

Nandish Reddy and Sujatha

Nandish distributed tea to the policemen who work tirelessly during the lockdown

Scorching heat and exposure to the deadly coronavirus – that is what policemen, healthcare personnel, and sanitary workers expose themselves to, every day, to ensure the rest of us remain healthy. This was the scenario during the Janata curfew in India.

But considering their exposure to these circumstances, Bengaluru-based Nandish Reddy and Sujatha decided to serve herbal tea to policemen posted at three checkpoints between Nagarabhavi circle and Ambedkar College traffic signal in Bengaluru.

Niketa Khanna and Tia Poovayya

Niketa Khanna and Tia Poovayya

Amidst the coronavirus-led lockdown, while essentials like groceries and medical supplies were distributed easily, sanitary napkins were hard to find. It became an obstacle for many girls who relied either on schools for sanitary pads or bought cheap ones available in stores.

Bengaluru teenagers, Niketa Khanna and Tia Povayya, Class 11 students from the Mallya Aditi International School, Bengaluru, decided to distribute sanitary napkins in the slums of Bengaluru. The duo has been distributing pads in the Koramangala and Ulsoor areas. They also distributed two rounds of 1,000 hygiene kits in these areas.

Nilachala Parida

Nilachala Parida selling vegetables in his makeshift kiosk.

Nilachala Parida, a resident of Baramunda in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, made it his mission to help the elderly during the pandemic. The 25-year-old, who is a national-level mountaineer, was about to lead an exciting expedition when the pandemic struck the community. But instead of feeling dismayed about his adventure getting cancelled, he decided to help those in need. 

In the last week of March, Nilachala set up a small makeshift shack near his house to sell vegetables, with an option of ‘free home delivery’ specifically for senior citizens and people suffering from illnesses. 

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan