EEMA’s Silent Covid Warriors: Mandeep Malhotra

Industry Watch | May 7, 2021 | Feature

Mandeep Malhotra EEMA

“We need to do something,” said a message on an Event and Entertainment Management Association’s (EEMA) WhatsApp group chat. That was around 20 days ago when calls for help from Covid19 patients and their families were rising alarmingly, recalls Mandeep Malhotra the sender.

What followed was a deluge of replies from people who were all chipping in individually. Soon, systems were put in place to do what they could collectively, to help mitigate the blow from Covid 2.0. “The responses started trickling in. Eventually, we realised that everyone wanted to do something to help,” adds Malhotra, seasoned adman and Founder of Srishti Media.

A partnership with Apollo 24/7 followed, whereby EEMA members, their families, vendors, artistes and the rest of the fraternity from across India can avail priority doctor consultation and online medicines with special offers.

EEMA, which had formed a Covid Task Force in 2020 to help prepare the suggested SOPs for conducting safe events, formed a Second Wave Task Force for all zones to provide help in a time of unprecedented distress. Several chats from the early days of the Second Wave Task Force point to ‘silent warriors’ working tirelessly behind the scenes. 

From online consultations to bed availability updates, set up of oxygen ICUs at home, medicine availability to food drives for Covid patients, responsibilities were picked up  by people voluntarily as activities were streamlined. Most importantly, a dedicated team authenticates the messages received to validate requests. Apparently, several of the messages – close to 65 percent – are not authentic, says Malhotra. TrueCaller is helping too.

The activity is no longer EEMA or event-industry centric though it is led by the body’s members. Anyone who approaches the core team of endless EEMA members and  their associates can get help, says volunteer Malhotra, who would prefer to call himself just that.

“We are working with people who we have never met before. All of us share just the one agenda – to be able to help,” he adds.

In Gurgaon, one EEMA initiative is taking a physical form. A Covid care isolation facility and field hospital is coming up at Sector 83. It is the result of EEMA’s efforts to bring together funds, charitable institutions, oxygen cylinders and everything that it takes, including OYO which has chipped in with the premises.

As someone commented in an EVENTFAQS report recently, the representative body of an industry that is among the worst hit by the pandemic, EEMA, is actually supporting the government’s relief efforts in these painful hours of crisis. The industry’s organising skills, resourcefulness and heart are on show for the world to see. Malhotra underlines that he is one of many moving the body’s initiatives with their shoulders to the wheel.

While it is heartening for volunteers like Malhotra to help someone find a bed or oxygen, the joy is in seeing recovery. Sadly, that is not always the case. But the team knows that it is literally a matter of life and death. That’s what is driving them.

This isn’t just a back-end job. There are volunteers physically posted at oxygen refilling centres. Then there are others delivering food. Some families have offered their cars to enable these deliveries. Malhotra himself visited about 15 doctors that the team is working with recently. He likens it to the relationship building exercises one has with clients. And this time, for sure, there is only one thing driving the client and the agency – the shared mission to save lives.

“There are times when it is heartbreaking to hear that we managed to find a bed but the patient didn’t survive. That we managed the food delivery, but the patient didn’t survive. One lady told us as her husband passed away, that she was glad that he did not have to die hungry,” surmises another silent warrior.

(Know of another silent Covid warrior from the event / experiential space who deserves to be featured here? Write to gokul@eventfaqs.com.)

What started with a message on a WhatsApp group is today a movement that will see, among several initiatives, the launch of a Covid care isolation facility and hospital in Gurgaon.

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