Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.
You could be in the backdrop at the battlefield but still playing a critical role in trying to defeat the enemy. That is the role of 49-year-old Kiran Shridhar Narvankar, the engineering- and maintenance-in-charge at the multi-specialty, tertiary care P. D. Hinduja National Hospital in Mumbai—every day, non-stop, during the lockdown and while SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread in the country’s financial capital. Being a premier medical emergency facility in the heart of Mumbai, which is reeling under the pressure of surging coronavirus cases each day, Hinduja Hospital’s role in dealing with the pandemic and other regular medical emergencies becomes crucial. Narvankar has to ensure that there are no hiccups in the engineering department at the entire hospital complex—this includes managing electrical, mechanical supplies, building repairs, water and air-conditioning. His morning starts at 10 am, with a look at the day’s line-up of activity, and discussing reports of breakdown of equipment or power in the hospital. This is followed by calls with top management to discuss future planning and updates of projects for the next fortnight. On-field monitoring and maintenance of machines is carried out post-lunch. As the pandemic spreads, the hospital’s top management, in consultation with the civic authorities Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), made significant infrastructural changes. It built special isolation wards and ICUs for Covid19 patients, in a separate hospital building (Lalita Girdhar), where two floors were reserved—so that reverse isolation was maintained to safeguard patients recovering from the deadly virus. Initially, in March, 20 beds were reserved in this wing for Covid-19 patients, which has reportedly now gone up multi-fold. The specific norms to protect oneself—maintaining social distancing, wearing the protective masks and PPE, constantly washing hands and strict sterilization, as recommended by the hospital’s infection control team, are being strictly adhered to. “At first, some of my team members were a bit hesitant to enter that building. The nature of our work is technical, where equipment or parts needed to be checked or monitored. I used to go along with the technicians, wearing PPE, to give them the confidence to carry out the checks where required,” Narvankar tells Forbes India. He leads a team of around 100 people, which includes managers, shifts-in-charge, technicians and apprentices/ trainees. His biggest challenge came as India moved into a nationwide lockdown in March-end. “In the first ten days of the lockdown, nearly 40 percent of my team was unable to come to work.” Narvankar and two managers were constantly at work during this period. Attendance has now been nearly normalised, at 80-90 percent now, he says. The tough task was to tie up any loose-ends while setting up the isolation wards—meeting police authorities for necessary permissions, coordinating with vendors for material and equipment and warehouse monitoring. Narvankar is used to dealing with tough situations, having worked in the healthcare industry since 2008, initially at Fortis Healthcare till 2011 and then Global Hospitals for another year, before joining Hinduja. “The only thing my family tells me is to “take rest and maintain my health.” Narvankar practices the necessary precautions every day when he returns from work, at about 8 pm. “I took absolute care when my aged parents (from Ratnagiri, Maharashtra), were staying with us at home, in February-March.” He laughs off the fact that he—like the staff at the hospital—was at work while several city dwellers took a breather from work when the lockdown was first imposed. “The nature of my work means I have to be constantly available and alert wherever services need to be maintained or monitored,” he says. The Covid-19 experience is “a war” he says. “If you don’t follow instructions or are not disciplined, you will lose [the battle]. But if you stay calm, composed at all times and unafraid, you will win. This situation will pass too. ” Narvankar said. Rational words in these testing times. This is part of a daily series on how Covid-19 has upended the lives of essential workers across the country.