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Home > Lifestyle News > Culture News > Article > Stories beyond the statistics An online Covid 19 memorial is helping keep the memory of the deceased alive

Stories beyond the statistics: An online Covid-19 memorial is helping keep the memory of the deceased alive

Updated on: 27 May,2021 03:52 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Anuka Roy | anuka.roy@mid-day.com

The National Covid Memorial is a website started by the Kolkata-based NGO Covid Care Network. Their aim is to have a safe space where people can pay homage to loved ones and revisit it whenever they want. They don’t want these deaths to be mere Covid-19 numbers

Stories beyond the statistics: An online Covid-19 memorial is helping keep the memory of the deceased alive

The photo is for representational purpose only

A nephew mourns the death of a beloved uncle to whom he couldn’t even say goodbye in person. A son is still in shock that his police officer father was taken away from him in just three days. These are only two of many heartbreaking tributes posted on the National Covid Memorial website. 


The pandemic has claimed a lot of lives. India, on Sunday, May 23, became the third country in the world after the USA and Brazil to record more than three lakh deaths due to Covid-19. The deadly disease, which comes with various medical and administrative protocols, has robbed many people of the chance to be next to their loved ones in their last moments. Funerals were held on Zoom, and in some cases, strangers performed the last rites because of travel restrictions. The second wave of coronavirus was even more brutal. In some cases, the virus claimed entire families. How then should one mourn or let out one's grief?


That is what the website, www.nationalcovidmemorial.in, wants to provide -- a safe place to remember those snatched by the deadly virus. The portal has been designed by Covid Care Network (CCN), an organisation founded by Dr. Abhijit Chowdhury, who is a professor and head of department of hepatology at the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research in Kolkata. It was launched on January 30 of this year, exactly a year since the country reported its first case. 


“As a nation, in general, and as a health worker myself, we could not pay as much respect as the departed deserved. It was too painful,” says Chowdhury, who first came up with the idea for the online memorial. These people are not mere numbers and their stories deserved to be told. Chowdhury thought that there needs to be a place where they could be remembered for years to come. He says, “The remembrances need to be preserved in a way that the near and dear ones can re-visit whenever they want. Not just that, the entire world should be able to pay respect to them.” He also thinks the memorial has become even more relevant during the second wave because of the increased loss of life. 

The team also has eminent advisors on board for the portal. Some of them include N Ram, director of The Hindu Group of Publications and Pullela Gopichand, chief national coach of the Indian badminton team, among others. The initial days were challenging because people didn’t want to revisit their loss. But slowly the website started getting submissions of tributes, notes, and photographs. Satyarup Siddhanta, secretary of CCN says, “We told people that the idea was to create a place of peace and tranquility for them. That the information provided by them will be kept on the website and would not be used for commercial purposes.” Currently, the website has about 140 eulogies, says Siddhanta, a mountaineer.

Siddhanta and the team of volunteers from different walks of life – artists, students, and athletes – are in charge of editing and verification of the notes they receive. They sometimes even have to get in touch with people to get more details, and that is often tough. “Someone who has lost his wife, you have to ask him to reiterate the entire painful incident because you want a particular detail, that can be extremely hard,” he says. While they do get emotional sometimes reading the submissions, the volunteers are mindful and follow strict guidelines – of not getting personally involved with the families -- to stay objective.

Although initially they had asked for death certificates for verification, Chowdhury informs us that they are doing away with that condition. “It will now not just be restricted to relatives paying tribute to their own; any acquaintance who wants to pay tribute can submit their entries on the website,” he says. So, one can either go to the website and post their homage through the 'submit memorial' tab or they can mail it to nationalcovidmemorial@gmail.com. They have a WhatsApp number too – 8777820376 — where people can send their notes in their mother tongue and it will be translated into English. However, Chowdhury informs us, they have plans to allow people to post tributes in their native languages as well, very soon. “Some people prefer to keep the homage as it is – in their own native language. This will also help us to reach out to more people,” says Chowdhury. 

As a health worker, Chowdhury hopes that we are able to fight this pandemic and come out of it soon. When it comes to the future of the website, he says, “At some point, this website will have a historical value. This website will be a source of stories of people who we lost and want to remember. Even though we started this initiative without any expectation, I hope at some point the government takes it over and keeps it alive.” 

Also Read: How Mumbai citizen volunteers rose to organise hospital beds and hot meals in the second wave

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