The Superhero of Corona War

Akham Bonbirdhwaja Singh *

Many heroes emerged in this war with corona. In England, there was an ad for 250000 volunteers to ease pressure on health workers, overnight, 750000 applied, over three times. They were trained and used, real heroes. But this story is about an unusual hero who emerged in this war with corona; the battlefield was UK, the warrior was a hundred year old soldier. I thought the story of this superherowould be a morale booster for many here. This is my tribute to the hero...

The hoardings and electronic ad boards were more than life size, huge ones, "Thank you to our amazing NHS staff #thankyouNHS", "Thank you to our care workers, You are incredible", "Thank You NHS for keeping Britain ticking" and many other slogans (NHS stands for National Health Service in UK) were on display everywhere.

When nobody travels due to covid, the buses will ply only for NHS workers, Many Pizza huts would give at concessional prices, the giant supermarkets would keep dedicated time slots for NHS workers, the workers would get free meals at Hospitals because they don't have time to buy and cook their meals, they are provided scrubs free of costs because they need extra as they are washed every day, every Thursday the people of Britain would applaud the NHS workers at 7 pm.

Every day was a battle for NHS staff during the peak period of the pandemic and my daughter was among them. So, these gestures really touched me. I was also hugely impressed by another good gesture, the way they maintained their Queues and social distancing. Every shop and apartment have hand sanitisers installed near the entrance, and needless to say, most people used mask. The appreciation and gratitude to NHS was heartfelt, it was from everybody there.

The room for superstition, mismanagement and mob actions are ruled out there. When I came back to Imphal, from airport to my paid quarantine, the vehicle and passengers were changed three time exposing myself three times in addition tothe aircraft. The local ASHA worker asked me to quarantine for 28 days. May be there still is lack of resource and lack of training here. The hotels also are charging exorbitantly, understandable considering the risk but now is time for some sacrifice and dedication.

On way to Imphal, at Kolkata airport, I was worried of getting some food as all the restaurants would be closed, but then, some philanthropists organisation offered me a nice lunch, free of cost. Now, it is time we improve our knowledge and actions a little more, to be more disciplined, follow the SOP in true sense not for showing to others; who knows the vaccine is just round the corner.

Anyway, my point is that the way the public there fought the virus was impressive. Of course for UK too, the war against corona is far from being over, I wish them success.

But then, what impressed me most was this man, the super hero of covid war, the frail man, a centenarian, who cannot walk and uses walking frame, a war veteran who fought in these parts in the Burma Campaign of General Slim (World War II) who was about to celebrate his 100th Birthday in a few days' time.

He asserted that being hundred years old does not deprive you of your social relevance, your spirit would not desert you as long as you do not allow it, what a lesson? What a lesson for the retired people like me? What a lesson for all in the society about the difference a single man can make in the society?

I was overawed by the strength of this crouching limping man. Now understanding came to me, this could be the reason why the British society respect their olds so much, care so much and love so much.

Let me now introduce this unlikely superhero who has become world famous for his achievements raising money for charity in the run-up to his 100th birthday during the COVID-19 pandemic. His involvement made the 1945 movie song "You'll Never Walk Alone" become the anthem of support for medical staff, first responders, and those in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic; he is Mr. Thomas Moore (DOB 30.4.1920), popularly known as "Captain Tom", is a former British Army officer and centenarian.

Thomas Moore was conscripted in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment in 1940, stationed in Cornwall, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 28 June 1941. He served in India, the Burma campaign during the Second World War, and later became an instructor in armoured warfare.

I was in London when he started his programme and read in papers. I thought, good, people should reciprocate the sacrifice that the health workers are making. My daughter being in NHS made me more concerned too. By then, a few kids, organisations and even some celebrities also took up such programmes in UK and USA. But I thought his activity and the target were a bit ridiculous for the problem of the pandemic of this magnitude.

On 6 April 2020, at the age of 99, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and with his 100th birthday approaching, Captain Tom began a fund-raising campaign for NHS Charities Together, a group of charities supporting staff, volunteers and patients in the British National Health Service (NHS). He aimed to complete one hundred 25-metre (27-yard) laps of his garden (please read this line again), ten laps per day, with the help of a walking frame, branding the endeavour "Tom's 100th Birthday Walk For The NHS" he began to walk laps of his garden in aid of NHS Charities Together, with the goal of raising 1,000 by his hundredth birthday.

In the 24-day course of his fund-raising he made many media appearances. The initial 1,000 goal having been realised on 10 April, the target was increased, first to 5,000, and eventually to 500,000 as more people around the world became involved. Contributions rose exponentially after British media publicised the endeavour, beginning when Moore made a brief appearance by telephone, on Michael Ball's Sunday programme on BBC Radio 2 on 12 April.

I could not believe when his fund-raising reached one million pounds. I told my friends and my daughter that this man has achieved the impossible, this man "Captain Tom". But then, from there, he was unstoppable. He became a popular man by now, he was asked if he had any wish, and his wish was "To meet the queen once". What a plain and lovely wish? They are almost contemporaries, the queen being 94 already.

On the morning of his hundredth birthday the total raised by his walk passed 30 million, and by the time the campaign closed at the end of that day, it had increased to over 32.79 million. His birthday was marked in a number of ways, including flypasts by the Royal Air Force and the British Army. He received over 150,000 birthday cards, and was appointed as honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College.

On 17 July 2020, he was invested as a Knight Bachelor at Windsor Castle. The investiture, by Elizabeth II, took place outdoors, in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle, on 17 July; Moore was the only person honoured at the ceremony, and it was the Queen's first official engagement in person since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. The Queen used the sword that had belonged to her father George VI.

In July, Moore became the first member and captain of the Football Association and England National Football Team's Lionhearts squad. This honour was presented by former England captain David Beckham. Another honour was via video link, Moore was guest of honour and opened, the NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the Humber, in Harrogate, on 21 April, 2020.

People knew that the man would honestly use the charities, the fund he is raising, so the people donated generously. Now also, there are good people who donate without limit if the motive of the fund-raiser is clear and integrity is absolute. It pains the donor if there are doubts raised where his money has gone, I mean the lack of transparency.

This fellow, Sir Thomas Moore has broken all the records and has found an entry in the Guinness book of records. The pandemic being far from over, such gestures are highly required.With people like Sir Tom around, our victory over the virus is not far.

His wish was just to meet the queen once, and he was knighted by the queen, his joy might have known no bounds in the Windsor Castle grounds. After knighting, the queen had a few words with Sir Thomas Moore, the beaming young man of a hundred years. Inquisitive journalists asked what transpired and Sir Tom replied, "That was between the Queen and I".

* Akham Bonbirdhwaja Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at bonbir13(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 22 2020 .

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