Sound of Gratitude: Pune claps, clangs, whistles a salute to health workers

Residents clapping and making noises with plates at a housing society at NIBM Annex wadi in Pune. (Express photos by Arul Horizon)

Prime Minster Narendra Modi had called for five minutes of gratitude. Pune responded with gusto. Families who had spent the day indoors observing Janata Curfew came out to their balconies, rooftops, verandahs and pavements to clap, ring bells, beat plates and blow on whistles or conch shells to honour health workers at the frontline of the battle with COVID-19. At Naidu Hospital, Mayor Murlidhar Mohol handed over roses to medical staff.

“The city had been unusually silent for a Sunday. We could hear the birds. Suddenly, around 5 pm, everything seemed to wake up. A great mix of sound resonated from every direction with force and energy,” said a resident of Camp.

From Sinhagad Road area, which saw the first infected case in Pune, to Kasba Peth and Pashan, people united spontaneously to create the music of thankfulness. The civic staff working at the PMC main building gathered in an open space to express gratitude by clapping together. In some parts of the city, the public enthusiasm spilled over to bursting crackers.

On Pimpri-Chinchwad’s Spine Road, which is five km from Moshi Pradhikaran, where two cases have been detected, and Bhosari where the isolation wards are located, residents broke into impromptu clapping and beating plates with spoons as an ode to health workers. Almost every window, balcony and rooftop was lined with people.

Near Jupiter Hospital in Baner, Atharv Dwivedi, 8, and his brother, Aarush Dwivedi, 3, whose schools have been closed, had been practising since Saturday for the event. “Beating the thali is easy and we enjoyed this very much,” says Atharv. “We took the opportunity to explain to the children that we must thank the doctors, nurses and other professionals who are working to keep us safe in these tough times,” said their father, Rajnish Dwivedi.

Police personnel in Mumbai join in to participate in the PM's call for gratitude on Sunday. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Outside Naidu Hospital, where cases of COVID-19 are being treated, another father, an auto driver called Bhalerao, came with his children to be part of a crowd of more than a 100 people from nearby colonies and slums who were expressing their gratitude to the medical professionals within. Few of them wore masks or maintained any distance from others. “The COVID-19 cases are taken to hospital by ambulances and treated inside. I am confident that we are safe from the virus. I thought it was important to come outside and salute the medical staff as the Prime Minister told us to,” said Bhalerao, who lives near the hospital.

Musical groups, too, entered the fray. The Jet Set Band, made up of Eardley deSouza and Errol deSouza on drums and Elvin deSouza on gong, presented a performance at a park on the Katraj-Kondhwa Road. “We are just doing our part to keep up everyone’s spirits and thinking with gratitude of those taking risks for us in this battle, for a battle it is,” said the band in a statement.

Church bells of the diocese of Poona provided increased impetus to the exercise. The bells of all the churches of the diocese pealed at 7 am to mark the beginning of the Janata Curfew and again at 5 pm. “This is to manifest our appreciation and support for doctors, nurses, health workers, police personnel and their families of the affected and all others who are fighting tis deadly disease,” said Father Malcolm Sequeira, Vicar General, Diocese of Poona.

Anti-CAA protest goes on 1-day break

The all-women indefinite dharna (sit-in) in Kondhwa, which has been underway since January 10, took a break on March 22. "The matter is of concern, especially in Pune. We stopped the protest for today. From tomorrow, we will continue with four to five women. They will sit three feet away from each other, maintaining all precaution and hygiene," said Dr Alsaba Shaikh.

Several anti-CAA and NRC protesters in Pune protested from their balconies and verandas. "Since there is concern over the viral infection, mass gatherings and street protests cannot be conducted. Taking the Janata Curfew as an opportunity, it was mutually decided among protesters that we protest from our own spaces. We wanted to put it out that yes, the coronavirus is a serious matter but we should not forget about this issue," said Alina Lule, a protester.

She said while they have gratitude for the individuals who are on the frontlines against the fight against coronavirus, clapping hands and beating utensils is not the solution when people are coming together.