Tiffin-On-The-Go: Kolkata artiste plays a humanitarian role during pandemic

Srabasti Ghosh has been providing home-cooked meals to Covid-19-affected families in North Kolkata apart from amplifying calls for help on social media

Published: May 27, 2021 04:00:20 PM IST
Updated: May 27, 2021 04:10:02 PM IST

Srabasti Ghosh packs food for Covid-affected people, at her home in North Kolkata’s Bagbazar area. She sends home-cooked food to 50 to 60 families

Srabasti Ghosh hardly has the time to look up and talk. The 26-year-old is busy packing home-cooked food for Covid-19-affected people in the remote corners of North Kolkata. “I have been providing meals to all five members of a Covid-19-affected family in Dum Dum area since the past several days. It’s unfortunate that one of them passed away a few days ago,” she says with a tinge of sadness. “I have been providing meals to one or two members of many families here. Now I have to increase the number of meals in a short span of time as their family members are also down with the coronavirus. The situation is alarming and people are helpless when it comes to dealing with pandemic.”   

After completing her graduation from Kolkata’s Presidency University in 2016, Ghosh moved to Delhi to pursue her master’s in performance studies from Ambedkar University. Three years later, armed with her master’s, she returned to Kolkata. A professional artiste in dance and theatre now, Ghosh also works with the Kolkata Centre for Creativity.

Kolkata was among the worst hit cities during the second wave of the coronavirus. Since the pandemic brought havoc in the lives of people, Ghosh felt a strong urge to do something for the helpless. Belonging to a middle-class family, she realised she could not do something on a large scale. But that didn’t stop her from making small contributions. Initially she forwarded verified leads to people on queries related to availability of oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, ambulance numbers, on social media.

“I was attending hundreds of phone calls then… I tried my best to provide information about oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, plasma etc, but often realised some numbers were not functional or the facilities were not up to our expectations. It took time to check the verified leads. And in emergency situations, I would just forward the numbers without talking to people. This prompted me to think how I can be of help to people directly, and discussed it with my parents. That’s when I decided to deliver home-cooked food to the affected families in North Kolkata,” says Ghosh, a resident of Bagbazar area.

Initially, she began by delivering two meals to 15 people in her neighbourhood. That number has swelled to 50-60 now, making it 100 to 120 meals a day.

“My mother, Ajanta, 55, a state government employee, has single-handedly taken the responsibility of cooking the meals. Earlier, my father, Subir, 60, a retired state government employee, would visit the market to buy vegetables, eggs, fish and groceries, but now we have stopped him from going out. Some of my friends and neighbours help us with that,” adds Ghosh. “It’s a small contribution if you compare it with the magnitude of the pandemic. But I will continue doing this till the curve flattens. That’s all that I can manage with my limited financial condition.”

The meals include rice/rotis, dal, vegetable and egg or fish curry. Ajanta is a hypertension patient and it is exhausting for her to cook so much food every day. But she is determined to help her daughter. “Though I am a state government employee, I manage to find time to involve myself in this noble cause. My husband is also quite active in helping me with other household work,” she says, adding that having a small kitchen and small utensils means she has to cook rice 5 to 6 times.

Ghosh says she shared her phone number and mission on social media in the second half of April, and began her service on April 28. The requests soon ballooned due to word-of-mouth. Eventually, some of Ghosh’s friends, Ajanta’s colleagues and strangers on social media contributed financially. “Besides all this, I also have to do my office work. At times, I need to visit office as well,” she says.

Santodeb Dutta, 26, Anirban Sikdar, 26, and Soumya Bhattacharya, 26—all performing actors in theatre and Ghosh’s friends—help in delivering the food. “We often get calls from the people, complimenting us for our good deeds. There are many Covid-19-affected senior citizens who cannot cook food… their children are abroad and they have no one with them. They keep blessing us. That is our only inspiration to carry on this service,” says Ghosh.

Ghosh’s mother, Ajanta, a state government employee, has single-handedly taken the responsibility of preparing the food

The meal consists of rice/rotis, dal, vegetable and egg or fish curry

Ghosh’s father, Subir, would initially go to the market to buy groceries, but the family has now asked him not to step out. He, therefore, helps them with household chores

Three of Ghosh’s friends help deliver the packets, especially to senior citizens who live alone

Ajanta is a hypertension patient and it is exhausting for her to cook so much food every day. But she is determined to help her daughter

Santodeb Dutta, a theatre artiste and one of Ghosh’s friends, helps deliver food

Subir and Dutta ensure there are no last-minute issues

A Covid-affected person in Kumartuli area of North Kolkata is glad to see Dutta arrive with a packet of food

The packet is delivered at the doorstep

A Covid-19-affected man picks up his parcel and thanks Dutta

All photos by Subrata Biswas for Forbes India

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