Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Covid-19 warriors: A window to the world for residents in containment

Security guard Ramashankar Dubey says that with no visitors, his physical load has decreased, but he is constantly fielding questions and collecting and delivering parcels for building residents, who are holed in with two positive Covid-19 cases in the building

Published: Jun 27, 2020 09:00:00 AM IST
Updated: Jun 27, 2020 12:05:18 PM IST

Covid-19 warriors: A window to the world for residents in containment

Dubey says that 12 hours of fielding calls and remaining alert is exhausting. Image: Ujjal Routh

Six years ago, 49-year-old Ramashankar Dubey travelled 1,200 kms from Satna to Mumbai in search of a job, leaving behind a family of seven—a wife, five daughters and a son.

Today ‘Dubeyji’, as he is popularly known, is an employee of Aawaz Security Services and is serving as a guard at a cooperative housing society in Powai, Mumbai, drawing a salary of Rs10,000. He remits Rs6,000 to his family through money order each month.

Owing to the pandemic, his routine has changed considerably, as the 14-storeyed building with 55 flats has close to no visitors—all the more so because two Covid-19 cases were reported in the building last week, causing a complete restriction of movement imposed by the BMC. Also, many flats lie vacant as several residents left for their hometowns as soon as the lockdown was eased.

Before the coronavirus took hold of our lives, Dubey was responsible for making an entry in his register of every visitor who entered the building (ranging from a domestic helper, plumber, electrician, to a courier delivery person). When the managing committee switched to using an app-based service to alert the residents every time a visitor arrived at Dubey’s desk, Dubey would diligently record every detail of the visitor, in addition to taking a photograph before sending out the alert to their mobile phones. 

Those were hectic times. Apart from operating the water pump and monitoring the electricity meter room he would also be required to keep an eye on the four-camera CCTV, recording any movement inside the elevators, and the entry and exit points. Occasionally he would also run errands for the chairman and the secretary at the society office, such as photocopying documents, getting signatures on a cheque etc.

Dubey, who has been appointed for the morning shift, reports to work at 7:55am to take over charge from the night guard. With most residents holed up indoors, Dubey has become a window to the outside world. Throughout the day, he fields calls from curious residents on the intercom, and answers all their queries. “Dubeyji, sabziwala aaya hai kya?” “Dubeyji, kitchen mein paani kab aayega?” “Dubeyji, hamara parcel aya hai. Lift mein rakhkar floor number daba dijiye, hum collect kar lenge,” and the list is endless. 

Last week, when the building went into containment, Dubey helped the family of the patient by delivering all the orders placed by the patient’s wife to her doorstep. He assures this writer that he uses the sanitiser frequently and practices social distancing. The society has recently purchased a sanitiser spray, and his new task involves spraying every lobby and the door of every flat in the 14-storeyed building.

When the day ends at 8pm, Dubey returns home to a space he shares with three guards in a 64-sq ft guardroom within Narayan Plaza in Chandivali. Since the other two guards are on night duty, he has the room all to himself after a tiring 12-hour duty. He claims even though his work is not strenuous at the moment and does not involve physical labour, 12 hours of sitting on a chair, answering calls and remaining alert all the time is exhausting. Staying away from his family is not easy either. “Majboori hai, karna padta hai [There’s no choice, I have to do it]”, he says with a sigh. But he sounds happy to declare that he has managed to get two daughters married, and now only three remain.

This is part of a daily series on how Covid-19 has upended the lives of essential workers across the country. Read more here