‘Was happier during lockdown peak’
Under a neem tree on Cantonment road in Udaiganj, Mohammad Tahir has a makeshift bicycle repair shop. No shed, not even a tarpaulin for cover, Tahir just spreads his tools and paraphernalia on the pavement and works.
“I was the first pavement person to resume my shop when the first ‘bandi’ (lockdown) ended. Roadside bicycle shops were allowed to reopen. A policeman in the street had informed me about it. Otherwise, I was ill-informed and was scared to resume,” said Tahir, adjusting his face mask.
Interestingly, Tahir, 55, says he was happier in the second, third, and first half of the fourth lockdown. “Because, apart from the money that I earned here, the Nagar Nigam and some voluntary organisations gave us excellent, packaged food here. And they gave it in plenty. I have a family of five; I am the only bread-winner. So, both in the afternoon and evening, I collected five packs of food. I earned Rs 200 - 250 cash, and got wholesome meals for my family twice a day. From Day-1 of the second lockdown till last week, my wife cooked only breakfast.”
So, why is he not as happy as he was a week ago?
“My earnings are hardly what they used to be because a significant number of my clients were school and college-going children. They are missing. While incomes are low, the Nagar Nigam and volunteers have stopped food supply. They don’t show up anymore. So every day, while going home, I buy groceries from my day’s income,” he said. As he sat tracing a puncture in a bicycle tube, Tahir said, “In the 21-day lockdown period, I exhausted most of my cash at home that I had saved over the months. But thankfully, unlike many others, being a pavement bicycle mechanic, I could resume earlier. I started getting my daily earnings--though just half of what I used to get before this Corona-thing happened.”
“But happy or unhappy, the biggest solace is working here every day. Confined to home for over 21 days in the first lockdown was sickening and worrisome,” he said.