WITH their eyes glued to cellphone calendar and notebook, Yasir Mukhtar (25) and Musaib Ibrahim (26) are getting close to right count. It’s after seven weeks that the childhood playmates and pals from Srinagar’s Hyderpora locality got the time to tally the cash receipts and the kits worth lakhs distributed since COVID-19 lockdown began in the valley.
“Remember, in this turn, we aren’t excluding families we reached out before the holy month of Ramadan,” says Musaib while drawing a line on the notebook he’s holding.
“This is the final draft and it seems we’ve passed Rs 2.5 lakh already,” replies Yasir while continuing with his calculations.
Almost two months back, as the virus disrupted the social order, the two friends realized that some needy families were being unnoticed by the community-based NGOs and welfare bodies in many Srinagar pockets amid the post Article-370 siege followed by COVID-19 lockdown.
At about the same time, the duo had started a WhatsApp group to track the pulse of the society amid curbs.
In the same group, a person would soon express his desire to help three needy families, if identified for him.
“We identified the families, shared their details and bank account numbers with the person, but he never responded,” says Yasir while adding that they had to make a choice to step up again.
Knowing that most people in Kashmir have been under a complete lockdown for more than 9 months, they couldn’t start a campaign for public donations.
“But we had to keep our promise and help those needy families,” says Musaib, as he speaks of the trigger for a seven-week-long restless journey.
“So we reached out to our immediate friends and relatives for contributions.”
The duo wasn’t left disappointed, as almost everyone whom they approached for help supported their ‘noble cause’.
“This love and care for others is what differentiates us humans from other creatures,” continues Yasir who along with Musaib was joined by four other local boys—Adil, Burhan, Aqib and Ubaid—within a week. “Islam teaches us the same community spirit, so does our Kashmiri identity.”
After contributions came, the team started collecting, sorting, packing and distributing relief kits among needy families. The process continued for more than six weeks, without any break.
Back in the room where the two friends have been calculating the relief amount, the consistent contradictions have been falling in.
Musaib has set two different categories of distributions.
“Our regular kits lasting 15 days carried household essentials, from salt, sugar, soap, chilly to cooking oil, tea, wheat and pulses,” explains Musaib.
“With our Eid kits, we tried to make the occasion special for those who were badly hit by the pandemic lockdown. Chicken, cheese, some vegetables, biscuit packets and little more bakeries are what our Eid kits carried,” says Yasir with a sense of satisfaction nestling on his face.
Before Eid, the duo would also run what they call the Iftaar Desk and quietly help many unprivileged families and patients.
It was two years ago, in the holy month of Ramadan, when the duo first set up Iftaar Desk at Hyderpora square, with an aim to help passersby to break their fast on time.
“The idea came after we saw students from the educational hub, Parraypora, getting late for home and couldn’t break their fast on time,” Musaib, who’s a civil engineer, says.
Starting with just two packets of dates and one box of mineral water bottle, the Iftaar Desk soon became a crowded spot, swarmed by students as well as commoners heading home from work.
“The initiative was appreciated and financially boosted by many unassuming Samaritans,” says Yasir, who’s a graduate. “People contributed water cases and date packets for the cause.”
Social media appreciation equally perked up the month-long initiative. “It was because of the community response and support that we were able to make a little difference,” says Yasir.
Once done with counting, Yasir and Musaib talk about the hundreds of regular and over sixty Eid special kits distributed among the needy.
“We started with Rs 3000, and ended up distributing relief worth Rs 3.4 lakh,” Musaib points out.
After ‘setting records straight’, Musaib makes a concluding remark to which Yasir nods back with a smile, “To clear the illusion for those who’re confused of our survival and red cheeks, they should know that our care for each other makes us survive the toughest times, and our love for each other keeps our cheeks red!”
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