The heart of a city is its people. Mumbai, which has been reporting the largest number of coronavirus cases in India, is also showing astounding resilience. The person who you are going to read about just now is from Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, which is now a red zone for the authorities as they fight to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Meet Komal who was a child participant on the Magic Bus programme in Dharavi and went on to become a Community Youth Leader.
19-year-old Komal lives with her three siblings and parents at Shastri Nagar, Dharavi, also known as Asia’s largest slum and, very recently, declared a coronavirus hotspot in Mumbai. Komal’s father lost his job as a painter in construction work after India entered a 21-day lockdown period followed by a 2-week extension. Komal and her mother are running the family with their own incomes. Komal works with a local NGO that also helps her pay for college while her mother sells fruits and vegetables in her alley.
Despite the economic hardships, Komal and her parents, Kalpana and Krushna, decided to do their bit to save families in their neighbourhood from impoverishment. Their next-door neighbours are extremely poor and have mental health issues. Komal also knew of several other daily wage laboures’ families who now had no source of income and food. “I have mentored their children when I was a Community Youth Leader with Magic Bus. I knew how dire their conditions were,” she explains.
She identified 11 families in her neighbourhood who were the most vulnerable. Her mother and she donated Rs. 3000 from their income; she reached out to her friends to contribute. “They gave whatever they could but everyone gave something. I didn’t want us to wait for help to come. I wanted us to help our vulnerable neighbours at this hour of crisis,” she says. With the money, she bought ration of rice, flour, oil, and vegetables for the 11 families. “It would last them a couple of weeks but at least they will not be eating the discarded food from the streets,” she says.
Komal has been a part of Magic Bus for the last 10 years. She had joined as child, learning through the activity-based sessions. She grew to become a mentor for children and was always someone they would consider a role model.