This family believes that kindness is what will save the world
The pandemic has reaffirmed Ankita Dasgupta’s faith in the power of compassion. The Dasgupta household has braved storms in the past as well. Adversity plants the seeds of kindness and you become your best version, they say.
“We were a regular middle-class family. We were hit with financial trouble when my dad was diagnosed with cancer I was just 11. The treatment took a toll on us,” she says. Her father picked up whatever work he could and her mother also took up a teaching job at a nursery school. In her late teens, Ankita started giving tuitions to kids in the neighbourhood. “My parents and teachers always taught me that no job is small,” she says. Keeping tenants also helped ease the situation, but it wasn’t enough.
Once her younger sister completed her education and her parents settled in their relatively relaxed roles, the 31-year old PR professional moved to Mumbai to work last year. “I got an apartment and enrolled for dance classes as dance is something that really makes me happy. But that was till the pandemic hit. I came back in March thinking this will all be under control in a month or two,” she says. Her first reaction was to wait and gauge the situation as no one knew what was to ensue. It was her boss who encouraged her to leave well in time as the possibility of a curfew in Mumbai was very high. “En route to the airport, I heard on the cab radio that curfew has been imposed. I was lucky to have my changed my plans on time,” she says. Her parents were relieved upon seeing her reach home safely. But soon, even they caved under the mass hysteria. “My father started worrying about the smallest of things. A task as simple as going to the bank became a war drill for us,” she recalls.
Ankita continued working from home, but after about two months, as expenses kept rising, she contemplated going back to Mumbai and wrapping up her apartment. “It is crazy because 3/4th of my salary goes in paying rent for an apartment I don’t live in. I’m also paying my maid in Mumbai.” Her house-help, whom everyone calls Aaji, is a senior citizen with no steady income. “Initially, Aaji was in denial about the pandemic and told me not to worry about her salary. These are self-respecting people who wouldn’t take money for work they have not done. I insisted and kept paying, and would continue doing so till this pandemic ends,” she says.
Ankita and her sister also used to feed and take care of stray dogs near Maitreyi College, where her sister used to study. They also have a pet at home. “My sister and I have been feeding strays for about five years. What used to be a minimal amount to feed a few dogs has gone up astronomically because the dhaba that used to give them roti is shut due to the pandemic and we have to figure out dog food for them. The rotis would cost about ₹3,500 but the dog food comes down to about ₹12,000,” she says.
All these costs, plus the cost of running her household, have taken a toll on her. “It is nobody’s fault that the pandemic has hit. These are trying times, but will end soon. Kindness for all is the only way to get through this,” she says. “There are very limited options for alternative sources of income; Cutting down is the best way forward,” she concludes.
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