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Hindu Society honours UHMBT staff and residents with beautiful floral tribute

A touching tribute to hospital staff and people who died in the COVID-19 pandemic has been created by The Lancaster and Morecambe Hindu Society.

Nineteen families including 32 children of Hindu Society members planted a selection of plants including rose bushes, lupins and dahlias outside Medical Unit 1 at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) on Saturday 5 June. There are also plans to add memorial stones at a later date.

The family event was organised by Mrs Harsha Shukla, MBE, and was attended by members of staff from University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

Harsha said: “It takes a lot of strong heart to work in the NHS and we are very grateful for everything that the nurses, doctors and other NHS staff – right from the bottom level to the top level - have done during the pandemic. We can’t thank them enough!

“The NHS staff have put their personal needs aside and they have worked so hard, regardless of their own health. Coming home after seeing the COVID patients, puts pressure on the family as well. There is always a fear that they might catch the virus. The NHS staff put the patient first. This is a prime example of their courage and compassion.”

Harsha said the society also wanted to organise the event so that children would have a positive memory of the time.

She said: “When I was a child in Rajasthan and the war between India and Pakistan broke out, there was a black-out but I don’t remember much apart from walking with my father at night time and sitting in the garden. I also remember that I used to go with my mum to the train station when soldiers came to our city and we used to take boiled eggs and toast to them. The whole train full of soldiers used to wave bye bye to us which was a very touching and heart-felt memory for me. It has stuck in my mind for all these years.

“When you are young you are in your own world so you don’t absorb all of life’s atrocities or all of the information but some memories stay with you for your whole life. I thought, if we involve kids in planting the roses and other plants, they will remember that we did something positive together. When we are organising an event, we like to involve the kids because it gives them confidence in life.

“I’m excited that the planting has happened and it was important for the children to understand and take part. As they grow and walk past the plants, they will say: ‘I did that’. It will also be nice for anyone who is passing by to see the plants.”

Harsha, who ran a convenience store from 1989 to 2002 on Bowerham Road in Lancaster, said: “Nobody in my family has died in the pandemic but a lot of people I know have lost their lives. Everybody is affected one way or another. It is very sad so that’s why I thought it would be nice to do the planting to bring everyone together.

“A lot of people in our community have stayed in hospital and worked during the pandemic while other people looked after their kids at home. It has been very touching for me to see this.

“Losing a life is a tragic event for any family. We’re all in the world together; to do something together and appreciate one another is what I like. The whole universe is one family. I was thinking two roses and then the committee said: ‘Why not four roses and other plants as well Aunty?’”

Lancaster and Morecambe Hindu Society was established in 1976 and Harsha moved to the city in 1984. Harsha became the President of the society in 2004 and before that their events were held in church halls. The society has strong links with the Barton Community Centre in Lancaster and in non-COVID times, held many events there including Diwali ‘Festival of Lights’ celebrations and charity events.

The society currently has nearly 150 members so more recent Diwali celebrations have taken place at Lancaster Town Hall. The society is keen to share its culture and make it accessible to everyone. A number of the society’s members work in the local NHS.

Harsha added: “I came to Lancaster in 1984 and loved the local community. My husband is a psychiatrist and I was helping the committee. The society wants to show its heart-felt thanks for what NHS staff have done.

“In the Hindu tradition or religion, being a Hindu is a way of life. Gita – a 700 verse Hindu scripture - says you have to do things for other people as well as for yourself. Doing voluntary work without expecting anything back is the best deed you can do. Good deeds take you to salvation. You don’t feel haughty or say ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that’. Getting together, sharing our culture, raising awareness about different ethnicities, helps people to feel more comfortable.

“We teach our children to be part of the community and part of the journey; we share and walk together through life. Bringing everybody together is a huge part of the Hindu culture. The alternative is we all live in a micro family and we’re all individuals in a cocooned world. It’s nice to extend a helping hand to others.”

Aaron Cummins, Chief Executive of UHMBT, said: “We’re delighted that the Lancaster and Morecambe Hindu Society has created this thoughtful and kind tribute for our staff and those who have died.

“The rose bushes will brighten up our site in Lancaster for our patients, families, staff and the local community so we are extremely thankful to the children for planting them. The creation of the memorial area means we will never forget the sacrifices and the courage shown by our brilliant NHS colleagues. It also means we will always remember those we have lost.”

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