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Volunteers bridge communication gap in Calcutta

City residents living elsewhere rely on good samaritans for news on families
With communication crashing post-Amphan, people out of town have lost touch with their families back home. And reports of devastation in Calcutta have left them worried about their well-being.

Sudeshna Banerjee   |   Calcutta   |   Published 24.05.20, 10:13 PM

When Subhoroop Ghosh reached the Majumdars at Srinagar colony, Panchasayar, the elderly couple had spent 48 hours without electricity and desperately needed to be ferried to a relative’s house in Dhakuria. “Their daughter-in-law in Pune had called me. Their phone was not working but I found the house and booked them an Uber,” said Ghosh.

Rounak Dey got a call from California seeking news of a family in Baranagar. “The address was 15 minutes away from my place. I could make the couple speak to their daughter on my phone,” he said.

With communication crashing post-Amphan, people out of town have lost touch with their families back home. And reports of devastation in Calcutta have left them worried about their well-being. Some good samaritans are now offering to visit strangers amid the lockdown and bring their news to their families.

It started with Swati Moitra, a Gurudas College teacher, tweeting an offer on Thursday to look up elderly parents for out-of-town children who were unable to contact them. “In Salt Lake, power was restored after the cyclone though phone lines remained dodgy. It struck me that our township being an elderly hub, many would be trying to contact their parents and failing,” said the AD Block resident.

The tweet was noticed by Shreyasi Talukdar of Patuli who brought it up during an online chat with her friend Sreyashi Dastidar from Bangalore, who herself was trying to connect with her family in Behala, where power supply had not been restored. “She suggested that we scale up the service Moitra was offering and find more volunteers,” Talukdar said.

As part of the group Humans of Patuli, she and her friends like Sudeshna Duttagupta were already supplying weekly rations to the local slums. “After the cyclone, we added this to our services,” said Duttagupta, a Sanskrit College student. So a volunteer list was floated online, asking others to add their names and preferred area of help. The first night’s list of 11 volunteers has increased to 41, from areas as far-flung as Baranagar and Barasat. “People have joined from Krishnanagar and Bally too,” Moitra said.

Most queries are coming for addresses in Behala and Narendrapur. “Some requests we are failing to keep, like for a power bank or for drinking water. We are also looking for volunteers in Barrackpore,” Moitra added.

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