A pandemic and a unique challenge

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Here is a bizarrely paradoxical situation. This crisis has all of us pressed under its spikes, our faces squished against the ground. However, to see it off, everyone has to stick to a circle of isolation, be physically separated, but at the same time look out for each other.

From how the past few weeks have played out, it is clear that resources and labour have to be shared generously. There is also an unmistakable need to exercise considerable empathy

For instance, gated communities, and even neighbourhood associations, are being challenged to rise to new heights of unity and empathy.

Nearly a fortnight ago, the committee of the residents’ association at CEEBROS Belvedere, a gated community on Old Mahabalipuram Road, sent out a mail to residents that was poignant in its plea.

“Until now, fortunately, nobody in the community has tested positive for COVID-19; or has had to quarantine themselves on account of their travel history or any other factor. We sent out a message to the community that if a situation arises where someone tests positive for COVID-19, the community should not discriminate against them, but stand with them. So, we have decided that there will be a few points of contact — I am one of them — that this family can connect with for their needs, as they will stay put in their flat. We will have all the essentials they need delivered at their doorstep,” says Kiran Gupta, association president at CEEBROS Belvedere.

There will be tacit understanding in every community, gated or neighbourhood, that everyone should be kind to any family that may be suffering on account of a closer brush with the novel Coronavirus, but it is necessary for associations to spell this out, in specific terms. Otherwise, the understanding will most likely not get translated into positive action, when it becomes a need, and is not an abstraction anymore.

It has to be put down in writing, and the stated commitment should be circulated at every possible opportunity so that the idea is planted, nourished and reinforced.

Another challenge has to do with household chores. Now mopping the floor and scheduling a business call have become back-to-back events, thanks to the novel Coronavirus.

This difficult situation gets amplified and gains a lot of ground, literally, when you are part of a larger, extended family called “the gated community”. With the housekeeping staff staying at home and away, gated communities are challenged to broaden their idea of oneness.

Rakesh Ohri, residents’ association president at The Central Park South, also on Old Mahabalipuram Road, recently pointed out how household chores have become exponentially huge.

“On every floor of every block, residents take turns, family after family, to mop the lobby floor and disinfect surfaces,” says Rakesh, adding that the notion of home has become bigger, so has the sense of responsibility.

There is actually no end to the creative ways in which communities can overcome problems resulting from this exigency. But every time, almost without exception, the challenge remains the same.

Here is how CEEBROS Belvedere met it.

One of the leitmotifs of gated communities today is the difficulty their critical technicians face while getting there to manage operations such as STP and WTP, which are essential to the workaday functioning of these “modern life-filled megaliths”.

This gated community dealt with this problem by just creating a home for its various personnel.

Explains Kiran, “We just asked them to stay with us, and provided them with whatever it takes to make them feel at home. Initially, we were providing them with all the meals of the day, making it ourselves; and then, we realised that they would be more comfortable if we provided them with the kitchen supplies and let them cook their food themselves. We have also taken care of the spaces they would live in. The security personnel are being accommodated in the community centre; arrangements have been made for the housekeeping staff, who are all women, to stay at the sports hall. The technicians stay at a separate room, which has always been a space for the facility management staff. We got the facility manager to stay at a vacant flat in the community, We got in touch with the owner and explained that we would pay the rent for the period that the facility manager would stay at the flat.”

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