A celebrated violinist, a mountaineer who have scaled the Everest and a model who walks the ramp for the likes of Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Bal and others are likely to have very little in common. But in Kolkata, the three are strung together by the harrowing experience of dealing with the deadly coronavirus which has either infected them or their loved ones.
This shared experience has now brought them together to team up with some doctors to launch the COVID Care Network (CCN) with the aim to guide and counsel people infected by the contagion.
When model Madhabilata Mitra's mother contracted the virus, it sent her into a spin. "I was unaware of things - how to deal with the virus, where to go, where to admit her. It was very stressful for both me and my mother and also the family," she says. After a strenuous hunt for a hospital to get her mother admitted and treated, Ms Mitra found a bed at the Calcutta Medical College & Hospital.
Her mother is now well and back home after 22 days in the hospital. "But I don't want others to face what I have faced. So I have associated myself with the COVID Care Network to help people know what to do, where to go and to tell them to not be afraid of the virus."
Guinness record holder mountaineer, who scaled Mt Everest in 2016, Satyarup Sidhanta's uncle fell ill a few weeks ago. "We had to go through the ordeal all by ourselves... Right from the testing to hospitalisation to recovery. In this journey, we got to know about a lot of things and realised that if this information is passed on to patients at an early stage, it can benefit them. That's how the COVID Care Network was born."
The doctors steering the platform are public health activists and senior professor of medicine Dr Abhijit Chowdhury and Dr Arijit Ghosh who themselves have survived the coronavirus infection and have even donated plasma for patients who remain critical.
"There is a dire need for an NGO of this kind. We are seeing people getting mentally tormented, tortured once they contract the infection. When I got infected, I thought everything has come to a halt, momentarily. What will I do, where will I get admitted, what will happen to my family. At CCN, we will try and mitigate this fear psychosis."
Dr Abhijit Chowdhury feels the platform must be stretched beyond Bengal's borders. "We are going to use this organisation like a myth buster and reach out to those social circumstances where a person is ostracised within a community because he has been told he has COVID-19. This is happening everywhere. We will reach out to those communities through local clubs and organisations . We are beginning this in Kolkata."
The doctors at CCN will advise patients on a range of issues once they test positive, including whether they need to be admitted to a hospital or stay at home, whether their family should be in quarantine and whether they should have alternative medicines for the infection.
The group hopes to act as a bridge connecting the people, the government and the private health services.
"The health infrastructure - private and public - may be a little muscular in the approach towards patients. We hope to be the tender fingers to counsel them through the journey to good health," Dr Chowdhury added.
Violinist Pallab Banerjee is a COVID-19 survivor after having tested negative just a couple of days ago. He has composed the theme music for the CCN helpline which will be up from Sunday. He hopes the music will drive away the fear of the virus.
"You can beat coronavirus," says Mr Banerjee, adding, "A little help from friends like CCN could be the wind beneath your wings."