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Mahavir, a 50-year-old security guard.
Mahavir, a 50-year-old security guard.

Stranded by the lockdown, this guard works round the clock

Mahavir says that since the lockdown began, his family eats whatever is grown in this agricultural village

Mahavir, a 50-year-old security guard in Haryana’s Panipat, starts his day at a housing colony. Once there, he washes his hands, face and shoes at the closest tap. Mahavir had seen a forwarded WhatsApp message that the virus could stay on the soles of his footwear. The messaging app and television news channels are where he has learnt most about the disease.

He follows a similar routine at a city hotel where he works the night shift. Before the lockdown, Mahavir would do a single shift at the hotel where he has been working for four years and head back at the end of work to Samarda, his village in Panipat district 22 km away. But now, there is no bus transport and a daily bicycle commute is not feasible.

“I was on leave when the lockdown was announced. I decided to come back to do my duty because there is not much to do at home and I need the money. My children and wife think I should leave my job as they are scared I will catch the disease. I cannot risk being away at such a time, but I ensure that I take all the necessary precautions. Rest is up to god," he says.

Mahavir’s eldest daughter is married in the village neighbouring Samarda, but his son and second daughter are homebound and dependent on him. He says a job in such a scenario is a luxury as many people around have lost their jobs. Even as restrictions are imposed on the movement of people leading to a loss of employment especially in the informal sector, jobs like Mahavir’s thrive. There are reports of the police administration stopping people but he proudly says, “Apni vardi pehenta hoon, koi nahi rokta (I wear my uniform all the time, no one stops me)."

Haryana has a total of 84 cases. While the outbreak has been limited, fear has spread wider. “Back in his village, people are scared. There are no good hospitals nearby and people don’t know what they will do. Most of the people who work outside made it back to the village before the lockdown was announced. Now, people are extra careful themselves. Even before the lockdown, my family would force me to change my clothes and wash my hands as soon as I entered the house," he said.

Mahavir says that since the lockdown began, his family eats whatever is grown in this agricultural village. A shop is open for essential items, but people cannot step out for anything else.

“Corona is a threat that we will have to face but we cannot stop working. My family wants me to come back to the village but for how long can I not work? I have a job right now. If this job is not there, then we will see but for now, I will continue working. I would also like to spend time with my family but we all don’t have that luxury," he said.

With the hotel shut due to the lockdown and very few people stepping out of the housing society, he says the bright side is that his work load has reduced, and he now spends time catching up on songs and movies on his phone. “I have to guard an empty hotel now. The city is a ghost town now with no people coming in or going out," he said.

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