This article originally appeared on VICE AU.
COVID-19 isn't just a virus; it's a psychological litmus test, revealing our neighbours for who they really are. And they are people who leave the elderly and vulnerable for dust, preferring to price-gouge loo rolls on Facebook.
That's crushing. You always suspected this of humanity, and you were right.
But then Rakesh pops up with an ad on Marketplace, offering toilet paper for the needy. "Don't fight or panic!!" he writes. "Think of your neighbours."
But who is Rakesh?
He is an ordinary Melbourne citizen offering to deliver toilet paper, for free, to people who can't access it since the Great Hoard of 2020 began. Rakesh will give you, whoever you are, two rolls. Because, as he rightly says, "there is no shortage just some stupid people cause problems for others."
Why would one person do good for absolutely no personal gain whatsoever? Is this what human decency looks like? We couldn't remember, so we visited him at home to see, and to discuss his new gig as a one-man toilet paper charity.
It turns out that Rakesh is 40 years old, self-employed (construction), and lives with his "beautiful wife" and kids. He wouldn't let us put his face in the article, which is why you're looking at a nice bunch of flowers instead of his head.
"I went to the supermarket for shopping and saw some elderly people struggling to buy toilet rolls," Rakesh explains. "So I decided to help elderly and sick and people who [are] in urgent need. The idea behind it was to inspire more people to come forward and help community. I just want people to stop panicking around me and to stop this stupidity. It's not the Australian way."
Rakesh has received a steady stream of people via Facebook Messenger who need toilet paper. More than 1,000 messages. He shows us some and their gratitude is overwhelming. They were all "looking needy and offering me money as well," he says.
"But I refused, as my main idea behind this is to stop the panicking".
Rakesh's dad taught him "always to help people who in real need. My vision is a world where everyone is contributing selflessly with their full potential to help [the] community".
"Now I'm also running out of toilet roll," he adds. With a smiley emoji.
Later, another free loo-roll ad pops up. It has the exact same copy as Rakesh's. His name is Pushkar and he says he saw "some other guy's ad—I found it impressive" and borrowed the words. He just gave some toilet paper to a desperate pregnant woman. More messages are pouring in.
Thanks Rakesh. That's all.