Covid and the colony

The Cusrow Baug United Sports and Welfare League will continue to help out residents as needed even after the lockdown eases off, stated committee member Hoshaang Gotla to Parsiana on June 4, 2020, in the week when Bombay was partially opening up after the 10-week Covid-19 induced lockdown. "Once more shops open, there may not be the need to have things available in the Baug,” he stated. The initiatives undertaken by the 74-year-old League included inviting vendors into the 508-apartment complex for groceries and essential supplies, discouraging the need to step out of the gated community, often referred to as the queen of colonies in Bombay.

For many residents, joint honorary secretary Hoshang Jal was the face of the welfare association these past weeks. His multiple daily WhatsApp messages on which vendor would visit on what day kept residents informed. From basics like fruit and vegetable vending vans, the committee arranged sale of household groceries via large chains such as Zorabian, Parsi Dairy Farm, Reliance and D Mart. A mobile ATM machine visits the Baug located in Colaba. The League invested in a spray machine and disinfectants to sanitize building staircases/handrails/landings and the common areas of the colony at regular intervals, Gotla noted in an email to Parsiana. Aside from in-Baug food delivery from the colony canteen and sale by home cooks from within and outside the colony, "the League is providing free food to some families in and around Cusrow Baug," Jal noted.

When two senior citizens were infected with coronavirus, the concerned buildings were sealed by the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) as per their protocol. Volunteers provided residents of the sealed building with provisions for 14 days. The BMC liaison was personally looked after by Jal, Gotla noted. One affected resident returned from hospital on June 4, Jal informed Baug residents via their WhatsApp group. The colony held a car wash drive to collect funds for the various ongoing expenses of the League. "Close to 125 vehicles were washed in three days by youngsters,” Gotla noted.

Baug resident Jeroo Buhariwala commented "Hoshi’s (Jal) leadership and selfless service to the residents and to the poor and old of the community is commendable.” "Knight(s) in shining armor,” resident Dr Dilnavaz Gamadia currently stuck in the USA commended the office bearers of the League. "Committeewala bau poon nu kaam karech [the (League) committee is doing meritorious work],” an elderly lady standing in a queue for chalk no chuno (powder for rangoli) told us. "Thanks for uplifting everyone’s morale,” said another. Yet another resident observed that the team "managed the vendors to the T.”

Gotla said, "The entire colony came together and that will always be appreciated and remembered. People who never knew of one another now share WhatsApp groups, offer help, volunteer and connect. The community has really rallied together to help the senior citizens with delivery of medicine, food, helping with filling of drinking water etc.” When a dozen security guards left Bombay for their home towns, "volunteer groups of three manned the front gate in shifts round the clock,” he noted.

Besides Jal, the key office bearers are joint honorary secretary Rustom Banker and treasurer Rayomand Marfatia. Aspi Pardiwalla functions as president and Neville Patel as vice president. The committee members besides Gotla are Vispi Shroff, Zubin Jaorewalla, Rustom Irani, Cusrow Damania, Shahram Mavandadnejad, Firdos Pallonji and Kerfegar Eduljee.

There are many stories of similar camaraderie, bonding and provisioning of services in various other baugs. As Bombay Parsi Punchayet trustee Kersi Randeria noted in a conversation with Parsiana in the early days of the lockdown, "Cusrow Baug set the benchmark for other colonies to follow.”

Photo: From the Facebook page Cusrow Baug... Our home, by colony resident Behram Colah