While many people across the world are confined to their homes, Zoheb Ali Qureshi hasn’t seen his family for more than a month. Since the nationwide lockdown was announced in March to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Qureshi, the executive chef of Cross Border Kitchens, an Internet-driven food and beverage company, has been spending his days cooking for customers at the south Delhi kitchen with the help of a skeletal staff.
“Our shifts are long. Of our staff of 30, only about nine are coming because they live in the neighbourhood. I have been bunking with relatives in the area, because I cannot go home every day," says Qureshi, 30, adding that the number of orders has decreased.
He is among many for whom work-from-home doesn’t apply, and longer hours don’t translate into more income. With the food and beverage industry among the worst hit by the lockdown, employees are working for more hours but for lower returns.
The day starts early for Qureshi, who works from a kitchen in Chattarpur in south Delhi. Before starting work, everyone at the kitchen has to do daily temperature checks and sanitize themselves and their work area. “We wash hands every few minutes," says the chef.
He admits there has been a drop in orders, and majority of those that come are for vegetarian food. “I guess people still assume that meat causes covid, which has already been proved untrue," says Qureshi, who, along with his team, distributes food packets to the needy in the area. To ensure safety, he looks after the packaging of every order before giving it to the rider. Handling the riders in such situations is important, believes Qureshi.
“The first few times many of the riders were stopped from entering societies or delivering food," he says. The company had to then make curfew passes for the riders that allowed them to move around easily. “Naturally, anxiety levels are high. One of my staff members had a breakdown. I spoke to him and explained that this is only temporary. Their future will be fine. But I do understand their stress. They are working far from their homes, some are from Nepal."
Qureshi, too, is stressed and misses his family. His wedding has been postponed because his fiancé is stuck in Dubai. “I connect with them few times in a day. I miss them, but work is work," says Qureshi.
On the work front, his biggest concern is the low supply of raw materials. “While some ingredients I have been able to buy through online retailers, for most fresh produce and meats I do a daily supply run every morning. Before the staff comes in at 11am, I have already sanitized everything, cleaned and cut the meats and I’m ready for the work to begin. It is all in a day’s work for us. I am sure it will only get better from here, but we have to wait it out."
Lockdown Diary documents how the lockdown is affecting the daily life of people.