Gautam Gambhir: I can’t thank Akshay Kumar enough for helping us in this crisis, every donation matters
Every help in this gloom comes as a ray of hope,” tweeted MP Gautam Gambhir, as he thanked actor Akshay Kumar for pledging ₹1 crore to Gautam Gambhir Foundation (GGF), for food, medicines, oxygen during this Covid-19 crisis. In a freewheeling conversation with HT, Gambhir talks about Kumar’s donation, what more his foundation is planning to do for Delhi amid this crisis, being accused of hoarding Fabiflu medicines and getting trolled on social media for the same, and also being criticised for commentating at the IPL.
Tell us something about how did Akshay on board and decide to help your foundation?
Delhi is crumbling. Delhi is dying. It and needs every kind of support. At this time, every contribution matters and I can’t thank Akshay enough for coming forward and supporting us in this crisis. When we spoke, he said, ‘Whatever you want during this COVID situation — oxygen cylinders, medicines, or whatever you want to do — please feel free to do it and I’d want to donate’. In fact, he also said why don’t we open an ICU or COVID center with everything oxygen, ventilators and stuff. I said we can, but how am I supposed to organise doctors and nurses? For that we need government’s support.
After Akshay, are you expecting that more celebs would now come forward to donate?
See, that’s a very, very conscious and a very individual decision. How you want to live your life, how you want to do it, it is up to you. And I’ve always maintained one thing that I will never, ever force anyone to come out and support. This country has given us everything, probably the most important thing — our identity, our name — it’s up to us how we want to give it back.
What more your foundation is planning to do to help those in need?
So when we started this FabiFlu distribution, we started in East Delhi first. But because the demand is so much all across Delhi, I told Akshay that once you’re on board, we’ll start distributing it pan-Delhi; whoever needs it can get a prescription, Aadhar card and can get it for free. Plus, with these additional funds, we are going to organise as many oxygen cylinders as we can. Ultimately, the supplies also so less, that you can commit anything at this moment. I told Akshay that most people are in need of oxygen, remdesivir and Fabiflu, and I’ve personally spoken to the distributor if he can keep supplying us 300 or 400 strips a day and we could distribute to people who are in need, for free.
For the last week or so that GGF has been distributing FabiFlu for free, you’ve faced a lot of flak and was even called a ‘hoarder’ for stocking medicines and not give them to the hospitals. What do you want to say on this?
At this moment, all this red-tapism or whatever you call it, should be thrown out of the window. Whoever wants to contribute, in whatever capacity, should be made open for people, so that at least lives are saved. That should be our top most priority and that’s the reason a lot of people actually blamed me that this is hoarding. If I buy 300-400 strips a day, at market price and give it for free, is that hoarding? If that’s calling hoarding, then be it. Hoarding is if I keep thousands at my home, and I’m black marketing it. For me, saving people’s life is far more important than these allegations and negativity people want to throw at me.
In fact, due to these ‘hoarding’ accusations, Akshay’s decision to donate to your foundation was also criticised by some sections of the society. Was that a fair thing to do?
I spoke to him on that as well. We discussed that. I said you might get trolled, he said, ‘I don’t care’. I said I’ve got trolled by doing the right thing. He said, ‘We’ll will keep doing the right thing’. So, we were on the same page that all we need to answer is our own conscience. If I can see myself in the mirror and you can see yourself in the mirror with the right intention, that is all that matters. And how easy it... When people don’t come out in open to support, they say, ‘Paise kamate ho, kuch desh ke liye bhi kar do.’ And when people do support, they say, ‘Why are you doing it for this person? Why are you doing it for that person?’ So, it’s a double edge sword. Karo toh gaali khao, na karo toh gaali khao.
And what about stint as a commentator at the ongoing IPL — that, too, is being widely criticised and people are calling you names for doing this amid a pandemic. Comment.
People can accuse me that I’m commentating. That’s fine. But do they even realise that if I if we feed thousands of people every day at one rupee, if we look after the education of 150 martyrs’ children and the sex workers’ children, plus if we install air purifiers, open COVID centers and distribute 50,000 ration kits, all that requires money. It doesn’t happen for free. If I don’t work, or if I don’t commentate, where am I going to get that money from? Today, Akshay has donated, he could only do so because he’s working. Tomorrow, if he stops acting or working, where is he going to donate from? Today, if I stop commentating or if I stop earning, when I want to contribute, what would I do? I have far more responsibility and I know my responsibilities are far better than people who can accuse me. I have to educate my kids as well, I have a family also to take care of. So, I work hard for 12-hours a day to get this money, and use it to help people.
How is your family coping up with this pandemic, the lockdown and all the negativity around?
It’s tough. I have got two little ones (my daughters), my wife and my parents. We are trying to take all the precautions as we can, but on and off I do go to office. Last year April-May wasn’t as bad as it is now. It was COVID, everything was in a lockdown but this time, people are dying and the amount of news we every day, hospitals begging for oxygen, shortage of everything... and when you can’t do anything in your own capacity, it’s even more negative and disheartening. So whatever you can do, try and contribute as much. That’s the only way we can come up with it otherwise, one or two individuals will never be able to do that.