For over four hundred years now, Dasara has been celebrated with pomp and extravagance in Karnataka as the Naada Habba or state festival. The 10-day event, which sees around 10 lakh tourists flocking to Mysuru, will see some major changes this time around — the procession will be restricted to the palace premises, with just 200 people for the inauguration and 300 people for the Jumboo savari. However, one aspect remains unchanged: Dasara will still celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
In the time of Covid-19, the forces of good have taken the form of thousands of frontline workers — the medical fraternity, pourakarmikas, social workers and the police — and the Karnataka government has planned to felicitate them for their tireless work.
For constable Kumar P, the additional duties involved enforcing quarantine and tracking the primary contacts of those who tested positive and had travelled to different cities and states.
“Kumar and his team did significant work in locating the source of infection in large clusters. Some people even gave them wrong numbers which made it very difficult to trace them, but the team persevered,” said N Prakash Gowda, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mysuru.
For pourakarmika worker Margamma N Narasimha (38), the pandemic took a heavy toll. “My mother was hospitalised and eventually succumbed to Covid-19,” said Margamma’s husband. Despite this loss and half of her family testing positive for the virus, once Margamma and her husband recovered, they went back to work. “Apart from being a necessity, work for me is dharma and I have to do it,” she said.
Of hope and courage
While Margamma’s motivation is fulfilling her dharma, Noor Jahan (32) was drawn to the idea of instilling hope. “To hope, one has to have himmath (courage). In my work, I met people who gave me courage and in turn I was able to instill confidence in others,” she said.
As an Asha worker, Noor spent most of her day comforting anxiety-ridden patients, checking on their recovery and even hand-delivering food and medicines.
On the frontline, courage seems to be essential. Ayub Ahmed (40), social worker and founder of the Insanyat Charitable Trust, emphasised the need to confront the challenge. “If we shy away and do not rise up at a time like this, everything we stand for is in vain,” he said.
Ahmed’s organisation has been working to provide food, clothing and shelter to the homeless across the country. So far, they have been able to reach over 58,000 people. He also works to ensure dignified burials and has helped bury more than 350 bodies since March but he doesn't like to keep count because it's just a service and does not want to see it as an achievement.
In March, before the pandemic struck the state, P M Rukmini (49) a nurse, spent her time preparing wards to treat potential patients. With no elevator and about 250 beds to set up on different floors, her small team of six also had to painstakingly shift all the equipment into the designated wards. Rukmini shared that her muscles ached, “but at the end of the day it was all worth it. When the first batch of 90 patients left the hospital, cured and happy, I felt as though my close relatives had come and gone,” she said.
Dr Naveen T R who works at an Urban Primary Healthcare Centre in Mysuru, has been working to test thousands of people, treat patients in containment zones, and also ensure the smooth functioning of regular immunisation programmes. “We have been working without a break and are simply doing our duty sincerely. I could not have done any of this without my team. I am not just accepting this honor for myself, but on behalf of all doctors and all Covid warriors,” he said.
Honour for all
Kumar P, Margamma N Narasimha, Noor Jahan, Ayub Ahmed, P M Rukmini and Dr Naveen T R are all frontline workers who will be felicitated by the state government at the Dasara celebrations. They have been recommended for exemplary work during the pandemic by their departments.
“These extraordinary people are representatives of numerous others like them. This honour also extends to every other person who has been working day and night to provide essential services,” said Manjunath Swamy, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mysuru, a member of the Dasara Committee. This recognition holds a special significance for Ahmed, who once was a spectator to these festivities. “As someone who used to watch this celebration growing up, to be part of it today makes me feel very happy and grateful.”