The word ‘hero’ generally makes you think of iconic political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Or maybe even Superman. But the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the word ‘hero’ forever. 

Today’s heroes aren’t freedom fighters or fictional flying men. Instead, they are the ordinary men and women who are putting their lives at risk every day and going the extra mile to keep the world safe from a deadly disease.

As the world grapples with the catastrophic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the real heroes are the frontline health care professionals, sanitation workers, engineers, vegetable vendors, truck drivers, and grocery store workers. 

They are also everyday people who have stepped out of their comfort zone and risen to help their communities cope with the crisis. 

One such hero is Ashwini Ananth, a Bengaluru entrepreneur with more than 14 years of experience who runs a construction consultancy called Uttaram InConstruct.

When the lockdown began, she discovered that more than 60 migrant laborers working at one of their construction sites were stranded without any basic provisions. They had nowhere to go and no way to get home.

That’s when the hero in Ashwini kicked in. She put in some money of her own and roped in her company’s leadership team to help provide the workers basic provisions and medicines for the next three weeks. When the lockdown was extended, they spread the word in their networks and raised funds to continue supporting the workers.

The next big challenge was the health and security of the workers when construction resumed in the second week of May. Migrant laborers are vulnerable during a pandemic because of their poor living conditions and minimal access to high-quality healthcare.

Not only did Ashwini ensure that all the workers got the necessary safety equipment such as masks, gloves, and sanitizers, she also made sure they had access to doctors. She says they supplied workers with vitamin C tablets to boost their immunity levels.

If you were to ask Ashwini where she gets her tenacious motivation to help others, she would say that it comes naturally to her. She constantly asks herself how she can make the world a better place, and it is this desire to create an impact that makes her a hero. “We did this just to help a co-human who was in need, and what we did was a tiny drop in an ocean,” she says. “It’s time to give back to society and make the world a better place.”

Ashwini is one of 10 Habit Heroes or everyday people who Harappa is celebrating for their can-do spirit who have helped fuel change and engaged the community. 

These Habit Heroes are driven by a range of factors, but they all have one thing in common: a hero habit. It could be one of Harappa’s five Habits—Think, Solve, Communicate, Collaborate, and Lead. Or it could also be some other habit.

Ashwini was able to take charge, collaborate with her team, and solve an imminent crisis. Her story serves as an inspiration for the rest of us to be heroic and take that first step towards change. As Ashwini puts it, in a world where we can be anything, let’s be kind. 

Ashwini Ananth is one of 10 Harappa Habit Heroes. Meet all the Habit Heroes here and learn more about the work of other Habit Heroes here and here.

Atul Rokkam is an intern at Harappa Education. He completed his degree in Economics from Ashoka University and will spend the next year studying Mathematics and Philosophy at Ashoka. He aims to work in the development sector, with a focus on education and health. 

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