Art knows no boundaries and keeping this philosophy on the forefront, a group of theatre practitioners have started a welfare fund for Tricity artists, intending to provide basic support to young artists who are struggling to find means to run their daily lives and kitchens. The idea was floated by Vijay Machal from Mask Theatre, who reached out to various artist groups from the Tricity for coming together to help needy artists in these taxing emotional and financial times. The thought, which initially needed a lukewarm response, adds Chakresh Kumar of Alankar Theatre, needed more persistence and following up and Kumar decided to pursue it as he believed in these times, more than ever before, artists must come together on a platform, communicate and gear up to work together as a family.
The first step was to draft an application, which was done by Punjabi theatre director Sahib Singh, that was sent to the North Zone Cultural Centre and Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi on behalf of all the theatre groups of the Tricity, where it was proposed that both the cultural organisations support this welfare fund by giving the groups five shows each, which the groups would later perform on stage. From the oldest group Abhinet to the very new ones, the letter changed the perspective of many theatre groups, as the letter was sent to the Ministry of Culture, Departments of Culture of Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and also many bureaucrats. “The point was to start a drive where all of us, part of the Association of Tricity Artists began work on the Artists’ Welfare Fund, and the first contribution came from Vijay, and was followed by many senior artists pitching in with their support, even from outside the city and Canada,” shares Kumar.
The fund was first opened to freelance and struggling artists, with ration and rent money provided to many, with many young theatre artists also distributing cooked food to those who were new to the city. “We told kariana shops in the sectors to provide ration to some artists and we paid them online so that everybody who needed had food on their tables. I called a very senior actor who has worked with almost all the groups in the city and lives on her own, and she broke down after receiving my call, as she said that just the fact that I called her to ask about her welfare, was enough. I feel we are a family and if we have been able to show each other that we care, we all can take forward our demand of an Artists’ Welfare Board, where artists from various disciplines are given support in such a crisis. Art is a mirror of society and we work for society’s betterment and the government must support us, for the survival of artists is paramount. We are still waiting for a reply from various cultural organizations, but our work continues on an individual level, as we have been able to circulate funds according to needs,” sums up Kumar.
Elsewhere, getting up, close and personal with some of the essential needs and requirements of front-line workers like doctors, nurses and paramedics amongst others, who are running essential services, staking their lives so that we are safe is ‘Care for Caregivers’, a campaign under project Nanhi Jaan. The NGO which has done exemplary work in paediatric care is committed to providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the medical fraternity. “None of us would be in doubt on the nightmare that would follow if the medical fraternity is not protected and gets infected as may already be happening. Any work for this cause would go a long way to help us to deal better with this situation as our lives are affected by the Coronavirus in one way or the other and our hopes are tied in the hands of our doctors, nurses and paramedics,” shares Dr Sandeep S Chhatwal, Managing Trustee of the NGO.
The fund-raising for the campaign began about three weeks back, with an overwhelming response from people of all walks of life, with the project striving to strengthen the facilities and protect the caregivers working to provide care to COVID-19 patients. “On the auspicious day of Baisakhi, wishing peace, strength, prosperity and health for all, Nanhi Jaan handed over 1000 PPE coveralls to PGIMER, 200 PPE Coveralls to GMCH-32, and 50 face shields each to both hospitals, reaching out to the Resident Doctors’ Association. Besides this, we have already donated around 1,000 sanitisers, 450 eyes protective wear, as also upgraded ICU’s with devices in GMCH-32 and PGIMER. We plan to extend the Care for Caregivers campaign even beyond the Chandigarh City if funds permit, and we will continue to run the campaign till the Caregivers are fighting this battle, as the smallest help counts,” sums up the doctor.
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