There’s a new force in our war against the pandemic. A force that has risen from obscurity and oblivion to turn the tide. A force that has transformed the failures of life lessons into a mission to save the community, the country, the planet, and ultimately the universe from the tentacles of this pandemic and, if time permits, even from alien invasions. A force that has made dad jokes its mission statement. A force that you had never reckoned with, but must now negotiate with to enter the realm of sheltered calm that is your own home. This is the gatekeeper of the collective conscience. This is the village elder whose word is law. This is the man who does not take no for an answer, even if it is the only option.
Meet your friendly neighbourhood RWA Uncle — the Chacha Chaudhary of the pandemic.
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For those knitting their brows in puzzlement, RWA stands for Residents Welfare Association. Welfare, obviously, is its middle name, just as it is the first name of most Uncles, karma-yogis who have entered a phase of life where their zeal for community welfare knows no bounds. Having elected themselves unopposed to the administrative bodies of housing societies, they have found amidst the quagmire of middle-age a new calling. Miraculously, it seems to have come at a time when life seemed to be running out of purpose, and they seemed to be running out of ideas.
Until early this year, RWAs had been languishing, mired in a swamp of WhatsApp forwards comprising patriotic good-mornings interspersed with mountains of unresolved complaints about plumbing, and lamentations about the presswallah’s prolonged absence. Lockdown No. 1 aka Janata Curfew came as a shot in the arm. RWA Uncles snapped out of hibernation and sprang into action, answering the clarion call of the Supreme Uncle as he exhorted everyone to stand on their rooftops and clang pots and pans.
Like elves, they got to work, carrying out the visionary task of nation-rebuilding. Not only did they donate to PM Cares, they furnished the receipt as proof of their unstinting commitment. As early adopters of Aarogya Setu, they posted daily status updates on the WhatsApp group until, mysteriously, they stopped.
Don’t think being an RWA Uncle is child’s play. You need to make sacrifices. You have to ensure 24/7 availability. You must be polite to ladies and elders. You must know how to organise AGMs and Ganesh pandals and Chhath pujas. You need to share interesting and motivating news regularly. You must have the right contacts in the municipality, the electricity board, the police, etc. You’re a level up if you know the local corporator. And, if the local MLA knows your name, you’re a sought-after man for the job. Everything works basis contacts only; what else is democracy?
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Lest you forget, RWA Uncles are thinking about residents’ welfare 24/7. They have carried out a number of path-breaking surgical strikes since the lockdown began. They wasted no time in amending by-laws and using public funds for the greater good.
It’s a godsend that our full-time RWA Uncles are part-time chartered accountants. Even as the Finance Minister was wringing her hands about the sagging Sensex, the RWA passed a resolution to utilise the corpus fund that had been set aside for the rainwater harvesting system to purchase infrared thermometers and CCTV cameras — the former to ensure that no feverish person goes undetected, and the latter to keep a vigilant eye on the security guards using the aforesaid gadgets. Everyone agreed (on the WhatsApp group) that it was a great idea. Rain will come and go, but monitoring temperature is the need of the hour.
Some housing societies are fortunate to have failed novelists on their RWA. You should read some of the beautiful messages penned by our Uncles — even the minutes of the AGM read like a gripping thriller. They merit a larger readership than our WhatsApp group. Some of them have been forwarded to other RWA groups also, purely to set an example. What greater honour can you think of? Our distinguished RWA Uncles regularly write letters to the editor of Times of India. Some have even got published.
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Some of our Uncles should have been IAS officers. Alas, the stormwater drain of life washed them up on these narrow domestic shores. Nonetheless, there’s no need to be disheartened. The pandemic has given these hard-working men a golden opportunity in the prime of their lives to reveal the administrative mettle and passion for yeoman service that they had kept under wraps all these years. Talk of peaking at the right time!
Today, if anything, India is running on Uncle Power. In this 74th year of our Independence, the nation rests its hopes on their tired but determined shoulders.