“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it is going to launch you into something great. So, just focus and keep aiming.”

These words of advice could be the words of wisdom espoused by Preeti Sundar from Bengaluru, India, who has done magnanimous work for senior citizens, quarantined families, and particularly has helped women and children in distress. A born leader with genuine compassion, Preeti has galvanized the support of approximately 35 women to help provide free meals to the senior citizens and quarantined families of her apartment Brigade Millennium and other neighboring apartments in J. P. Nagar, Bengaluru. Terming themselves the ‘Friendly Neighbourhood Group’, Preeti and her band of volunteers started their work during the pandemic.

Preeti and her team knew that several senior citizens would be at a disadvantage as their maids and cooks had stopped working during the lockdown last year. Preeti and her sister, Priya, had floated this idea and with their HR and admin backgrounds did everything very professionally with a human touch. Preeti would send around a roster the previous evening, and the ladies would enter the items they would bring the next day and for which meal, i.e., breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They were careful while dealing with the diet specifications of seniors and not just “what they wanted to eat.”

Since tea shops and canteens were closed, they saw to it that they provided tea and snacks to the security guards and housekeeping staff of the apartment. All the women were wary of the COVID precautions. They wore masks, sanitized their hands after dealing with the quarantined families, and ensured that the food was prepared and packed in disposable containers and trays. All this without taking any money, the women working with a sense of commitment, cooking delicious meals as if they were cooking for their own family members. They never complained, nor did they get any complaints.

What exactly is the mindset behind Preeti’s selfless compassion when most families were just cooling their heels and relaxing during the lockdown? Preeti attributes her sense of service and compassion to her upbringing in Calcutta, where she attended school and college and was inspired by Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, as well as stalwarts like Florence Nightingale and educationists like Rabindranath Tagore. Moreover, she says that she is a truly secular Indian, having been born in Delhi, brought up in Calcutta, and married and lived in Mumbai. She further says that she is a Tamilian from Kerala (Palghat Iyer) currently staying in Bengaluru. She is clearly a universal citizen!

Preeti’s sense of service and sacrifice did not end with the pandemic or when the lockdown was lifted. Her kindness and service extended to the senior citizens now during the phase of vaccinations, where many of them are not computer savvy and have no idea how to use apps like Aarogya Setu or Co-Win on smartphones or even what an OTP is. Since many of them do not have their tech-savvy modern children and grandchildren with them, Preeti and her team assisted them in registering for vaccinations. From continuously trying to get the registration (because the link was busy) to ferrying and transporting some of the senior citizens to nearby hospitals for vaccinations, armed with their Aadhar cards with the correct address and mobile phone information, her team is trying their best to help them. Truly, this is a case of ‘Love thy neighbor’.