In Focus

A rare 'friendship' blossoms in lockdown

By Priyanka Anil

The five months of 'isolation' during the national lockdown changed relationships for many. The lockdown might have been a bane for most, for several others it was a blessing in disguise. Some got a chance to revive old friendships, others strengthen existing ones and a few managed to strike 'unique' ones too. This year, Friendship Day is special and memorable for a few!

IN TUNE: Rashida Amir (centre) with female members of her staff (File Picture)
Among the more uncommon friendships that developed during the lockdown is the one developed by Colaba’s Bharat Gas distribution agency owner and entrepreneur Rashida Amir with her 40-odd employees. Rashida has been handling the agency for three decades and the domestic subscriptions have, over time, soared to over 10,000 per month.

As an essential service provider, Rashida's responsibilities escalated overnight during the lockdown. "I had to ensure deliveries were made on time despite the sudden spike in demand," she says. And, all this, while ensuring the staff reported on time, ensured ‘laid-down’ precautions and stayed safe too. 

FAMILY FARE: Colaba's Bharat Gas Distribution Agency staff are one big family (File Picture)
"During the lockdown, we stood together as one. The friendship that I developed with my staff in these five months is there to stay. Not even once throughout the lockdown, did anyone tell me s/he didn’t want or couldn’t report to work," says a proud Rashida. And this, when many of her staff members come from far-flung suburbs like Thane, Dahisar, etc.

With her staff commuting from far and food options being limited during the lockdown, Rashida had to keep their morale high. "They need to know they are being cared for." So, during the lockdown, on a few occasions I cooked for all of them even brought meals over. Who doesn't love palak paneer, dal rice and raita? On another occasion, I got vada-pav and chutney as they missed that a lot. I realised that food is a great way to bond," she says.

ALL SMILES: The lockdown brought the staff even closer (File Picture)
Emphasising on the importance of eating together, Rashida says, "Earlier, I would often order food for my staff on birthdays and special occasions. An occasional biryani was always welcome." Her staff reciprocates by bringing home-cooked dishes that she likes. "Some days back, a colleague Meera Bendre brought prawn masala for me. Other times, they bring chicken curry and other home-cooked food, they know I like."

At her office, Rashida has four female employees who have now become "thick friends for life," especially after the lockdown experience. "They share all kinds of issues with me...about their children's health, their education, school fees, family problems, etc. And, we all take care of each other in good times and worse."

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