It’s Monday evening at Bandra’s Globus mall and a sparse line of shoppers is streaming in through the entrance.
As they enter, the women place their purses on the security counter and wait for the guard to rifle through them. As usual, the customers barely notice the shy, welcoming smile on Geeta Maurya’s face as she wishes them a good evening, hurrying inside impatiently as soon as their bags are cleared.
But for 22-year-old Maurya, a petite Commerce student from Dharavi who has worked as a security guard for three years, each one of them is a blessing.
“For me, the customer is God, because they help me earn,” she says.
Born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, to a homemaker and a wholesale paan leaf vendor, Maurya was raised in the one-room chawl home in Dharavi where she still lives with her parents and younger brother. Her father managed to send her to a private Hindi-medium school in Sion, but then could not afford college fees.
With his debts piling up, Maurya decided to enrol in a correspondence course and spend her days working to help support her family.
“My neighbour’s daughter had just begun working as a guard at Phoenix Mills, so I decided to sign up too,” she says. After two years at the Lower Parel mall, Maurya moved to Globus because it is closer to her home.
She now makes Rs 8,000 a month, working eight-hour shifts and four hours of overtime every day.
Her life has slipped into a routine of housework, office work and precious family time, she says. In between, Maurya find scraps of study time for her first-year Commerce degree course, usually studying into the wee hours.
Maurya’s day begins at 8 am, with a quick bath, after which she and her mother hurriedly cook breakfast, feed her brother, sweep the house, make lunch and wash the vessels and the family’s clothes. At 9 am, Maurya packs her tiffin, throws on a salwar-kameez and sets off for work.
Buses to Bandra are too crowded, so Maurya prefers to take a train from Sion to Dadar, then switch to the Western line so she can clock in by 9.45 am. “I try not to be late, but sometimes I can’t help it,” she says, frowning.
At work, she changes into her uniform of black pants and blue shirt. “Initially it was awkward to wear men’s clothes, but now I like it. It gives me a feeling of authority,” she says.
For the next 11 hours, Maurya greets customers and examine bags, in an endless stream of greetings and ‘thank you, maam’s.
“At least 100 shoppers enter the mall every hour. Most of them cooperate without a fuss, but some are rude and impatient,” admits Maurya, who is proud of her ability to remain composed and polite even during an altercation. “If things start to get out of hand, we just call the manager.”
Standing in one place is tiresome, she admits, so Maurya and her colleagues exchange positions every two hours.
At 2 or 2.30 pm, she takes a half-hour lunch-break and joins the other guards as they all share home-packed tiffins of roti and sabzi.
She tries to set aside 10 or 15 minutes for her books during this break.
The only other break in her day is a 10-minute breather at 4 pm, for tea.
At 9.45 pm, her work day done, Maurya changes back into her salwar-kameez and begins her journey home.
“On weekends, closing time extends to 10.30 pm, but in the evenings the manager brings us snacks and cold drinks, so it’s fun,” says Maurya, who usually gets home at 11 pm.
Her family always waits for her to join them for dinner, after which they watch some TV, then turn in for the night. For Maurya, though, bedtime is still a long way away.
“The commerce course is in English and I find it very difficult. I have to study for at least an hour,” she says.
As for a future career, Maurya says she hasn’t given it much thought. “Right now, I just want to help my father pay off his loans,” she says. “But I have put my brother in an English school, because I want him to become everything that I couldn’t… Maybe someday he’ll be a manager like the one in my mall.”
(This weekly feature explores the lives of those unseen Mumbaiites essential to your day)