With Coronavirus pandemic came an outbreak of charity, some merely for publicity sake, while several civil society organizations fell short to sustain their pre-corona times philanthropy, owing to numerous constraint in face of the crisis.
Nonetheless, even in these testing times the altruistic zeal and infectious compassion of Shimla-based philanthropist Sarabjeet Singh Bobby to serve the poor and needy continues to thrive.
His charitable trust ‘Almighty Blessings’ founded by him in 2014, has come a long way rendering yeomen service to ensure the welfare of myriad sections of the society through life and death.
Amid the existing crisis, undaunted Sarabjeet adapting the new normal has overcome the new challenges that comes his way and the restrictions of in person volunteerism.
Without missing even a single day, ever since the Corona pandemic, he is ensuring that the ‘langar’ (community kitchen) service continues to provide three square meals a day to patients and attendants at Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) Regional cancer hospital and Kamla Nehru Hospital daily, so as to provide respite to patients and their attendants coming from remote areas and especially the poor who are weighed down by the treatment costs.
In October 2014, the idea of running a free canteen initially offering tea and biscuit took off. Three months later the success motivated Sarabjeet to begin, first ever ‘langar’ service in Himachal Pradesh.
His selfless service to mankind and his conviction – ‘Garib ka muh bhagwan ka gullak’ (mouths of the poor are donation box of God), became so contagious that donations monetarily and in-kind started to trickle in. He effectively used the social media to spread the word around.
“Over the years the idea of hosting ‘langars’ at the hospital to celebrate the special occasions, instead of temples and other places of worship has gone down well with the people. It has now enabled the free canteen to serve around 2500 people daily,” said Sarabjeet.
Responding to the unprecedented crisis, Sarabjeet even took upon himself to donate masks, sanitizers, face shield, gloves, goggles and 200 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits worth Rs 4 lakh, to IGMC frontline warriors at IGMC to fight Covid.
“The health professionals are risking their lives for us and as a token respect and gratitude, we decided to contribute our bit to ensure their safety,” he said.
In the last few months ever since transport services were hit by covid, the fleet of three free ambulance services run by ‘Almighty Blessings’ for cancer, Thalassemia and dialysis patients within the periphery of Shimla witnessed a significant demand. The highest 90 calls was received a few weeks ago in a single day.
Smitten by urge to help the underprivileged, he took a leap to serve humanity twenty years ago by volunteering to drive a funeral van free service 24X7, to help dead in their last journey.
Though the van was then run by the Guru Nanak Sewa Society, however, in 2012 he bought a crowd funded funeral van , as government-run hospitals lacked the same.
It’s a usual sight for locals to see Sarabjeet behind the wheels of the funeral van in Shimla, even at odd hours to transport dead bodies. Till date he has ferried over 5000 bodies free of cost and also volunteers to perform the last rites of unclaimed dead bodies.
The blood donation camps organized by him in the last 15 years have collected over 40,000 units of blood for blood banks.
To bring cheer into the lives of more and more people, he started picnics and celebrated festivals with the inmates of orphanages and old age home.
His laudable efforts have won him widespread admiration and media attention. Even the President of India has appreciated his philanthropic endeavors.
Unlike most of the people who work hard to leave a legacy of riches for their next generation, however for him it is the obsession to serve humanity that he intends to pass on. This is already getting the better of his son Parbeen (19), as he partakes in the noble cause, living by the dictum ‘humanity is the biggest religion, serve it if u can’ that his father advocates.
“Complacent with a small shoe business, my family has always supported me in whatever yeoman service I undertake to rekindle hope in the lives of the needy people,” he said.
His endless empathy has no stopping, he has built a free shelter for cancer patients and attendants visiting the hospital for chemotherapy, however administrative apathy has delayed it from making it functional.
Lending wings to his novel ideas, Sarabjeet plans of setting up an old age home and an orphanage side by side, so that an emotional bond blooms between the deserted elderly and the young.
“Having visited old age homes a number of times, what pained me most is the sight of elderly confined to the quite corners, yearning for some love and affection in the twilight of their lives. A concept of an old-age home along with an orphanage could help both the elderly and the young find some love and compassion,” said he.
Ask him what he finds best in his numerous act of kindness, he says it is the unique ‘Roti bank’ that has managed to harness mass volunteerism and community engagement involving different sections of society including school children.
“The concept doesn’t just merely aim at collecting ‘Rotis’ (Indian bread) from the people, but an idea to inculcate the spirit of sharing and caring among the school children in particular. The students bring one or two or even more ‘Rotis’ extra for lunch, to be deposited at the collection centres in their school, which is then transported by ‘Roti’ vans to be served at the langar,” he said.
As the schools are closed it has been temporarily stalled indefinitely, till they resumes again.