+ #My2020Hero - Celebrating Real Life Heroes - CII Blog

The single biggest impact of COVID-19 has undoubtedly been on the psyche of people. Not only has the microscopic virus changed societies and systems, but more importantly, it has caused an indelible impact on human consciousness.

This is reflected in the mass awareness regarding the importance of service providers, from healthcare workers to garbage cleaners, street sweepers and vegetable vendors, to name just a few. People realized that not only is it important to celebrate global and national heroes, on screen personalities and others, it is equally important to recognize those who keep us going in our everyday lives.

In order to give a platform to real life heroes, CII came out with the #My2020Hero Contest – where participants could exhibit the photographs of their real-life heroes in action and also illustrate their contributions by means of photo essays.

In order to uphold the purpose, the contest had a rigorous selection process, which included –

Selection of 54 photos by the #My2020Hero team, which was done on the basis of relevance to the open call and the overall quality of the entry.

Each jury member graded the 54 entries individually, on a scale of 0 – 10, following the parameters of: quality of the image, quality of the story and the overall impact made. 15 entries were shortlisted, followed by an open discussion amongst the jurors to finalise the top 9 entries.

A picture speaks a thousand words. Here are the glimpses of the top entries:

1st Place –

Mayank’s 2020 Hero – Ashfaque Ahmad, the lab technician

The story –

“Ashfaque Ahmad is one of the most hardworking professionals I’ve seen working on the frontlines of COVID-19. He tests people 7-days a week even at the remotest corners of the National Capital Region. This visual is from one of those journeys where one could find him collecting nasal swab samples from a child living across the river Yamuna in New Delhi, India. He is one of those guys who works overtime irrespective of all the physical and mental stress associated with the job, and still greets you with a big smile. He is #My2020hero,” says Mayank.

2nd Place

Anand’s 2020 Heroes are the Household Workers

The story –

“It felt as if the floor below us vanished when pandemic hit us. Every day felt like a struggle, and every morning I used to come to my balcony and see these akkas doing their work. No matter how things were, they came every day and did their work with utmost dedication. They are my heroes because their dedication felt therapeutic to me,” Anand mentioned.

2nd Place

Bikram’s 2020 Hero is Mr. Gomes, the Musician

The story –

Peter Gomes is an Anglo-Indian musician. Like everyone else, he too is quarantined at his home in Ripon Street. He is neither able to go back to his family in his homeland which is thousands of miles away in a different country, nor can he contact them very often. But he’s still coping with the pandemic with the help of his passion, his music, his musical instrument. Every day he prepares himself to perform his music on his balcony to entertain his neighbors. Some ignore him, some even call him mad. But he does not mind all this. He keeps performing everyday religiously, with love. The isolation has hit him hard, but he has the spirit to fight it back. Seeing him, I’ve learnt that if you keep your passion ignited, you can get past even isolation,” highlights Bikram.

3rd Place

Manoj’s 2020 Hero is Shyam, the daily wage labourer

The story –

“Fearless helper: Shyam is a daily wage labourer. During the lockdown, to sustain himself and his family, he started looking for jobs in different houses. That way, he came to me one day and explained his situation. So I gave him the small task of cleaning my garden, and at the same time offered to pay him more if he modelled for me. At the end, he agreed. He is my hero of 2020 because he offered his services not only to me, but also to other people without any fear of Corona. I have been practicing Ambrotype for two years now, and clicked this image during the lockdown,” says Manoj.

3rd Place –

Shraddha’s 2020 Hero is Anushka

The story –

“Keeper of my sanity, Anushka, is my new lockdown best friend. She accompanies me every morning for walks near her hamlet in Maharashtra’s Palghar district where malnutrition has increased during COVID-19 by 2% among tribal children. The five-year-old picks up Mahua flowers on the way as we recite numbers till hundred. On one of our walks, this little one made two leaf garlands — one for her ‘gudiya’ and another for me, a gesture that helped my touch-starved self get through a particularly exhausting week of struggling with anxiety. In her forever bright-coloured clothes, Anushka takes pride in matching bangles with her shirts. After her father lost his job as a construction labourer, the family has been depending on Anushka’s mother to earn a livelihood by selling alcohol made of Mahua flowers,” says Shraddha.

3rd Place

Subhasis’s 2020 Hero

“I found this little girl while working at Uluberia Hospital. She’s only 12 years old. Her father was critically ill and unable to move his feet, but this little girl took him on a van rickshaw to hospital as they couldn’t afford to hire an ambulance. She, who’s taking care of her father despite her lack of much physical strength, is my Hero of this pandemic. She is stronger in her thoughts. In India, a male child is usually the first preference, but she proved to be more than any son,” Subhasis explained.

Honorable Mention –

Viraj’s 2020 Hero is Kayyum Khan

“I met para-swimmer Kayyum Khan on July 8th, 2020, on Marine Drive, Mumbai. My brief but meaningful encounter with him left a lasting impression on me and gave me the strength and courage to carry on despite the odds. Kayyum travelled to Mumbai in May, all the way from Assam, just six days before the city went into lockdown. He made this journey to train with a new coach and make a good life for himself in the city of dreams. However, due to the coronavirus, Kayyum had to seek refuge in a friend’s house with no access to training and no means of earning a livelihood. Despite all adversities, Kayyum assured me that he was positive and hopeful. Smiling, he told me that he would continue to strive to achieve his goal of participating in the Para Olympics no matter what life threw at him,” said Viraj.

The Jury consisted of eminent people who have a keen appreciation for photography and who are experts in their chosen field, including:

Dhanya Rajendran

Dhanya Rajendran has reported from all five southern states for over a decade, and is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the digital portal www.thenewsminute.com publishing in-depth and incisive reports from South India.

Rajiv Menon 

Celebrated cinematographer, director, ad film-maker, singer, orator and teacher, 53-year-old Rajiv Menon has worked with top directors such as Mani Ratnam, Girish Karnad, and Shyam Benegal, among others, in his long career.

Saumya Khandelwal

Saumya Khandelwal is an independent photojournalist based in New Delhi, India, contributing for The New York Times and National Geographic, among others.

While we learn to live with COVID and at the same time, get on with our lives, let us cherish the life lessons taught by the pandemic, the lockdown and continue to give due recognition to all those who contribute to our lives.  

For more photos and stories, please visit – https://my2020hero.in/