In Focus

Colaba Market Girls Feature On 'Unsung' Cover

By Gajanan Khergamker

Unsung – The Film was a runaway success for several reasons. From the time, the documentary was released, first offline on Dussehra, 25 October 2020, till the release of its online version on 10 November 2020, the works of those who remained Unsung across India reached millions and drew the accolades they deserved.

The cover of Unsung – The Film was created to meet several objectives: The multiple colours symbolise the works of myriad communities ranging from Pathologists to Grocers, Postmen to the Police and more.

A black and white backdrop of three women standing on a terrace beating their thalis to the call of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Janta Curfew - 22 March 2020, was chosen to fit the mood of the moment.

The image was chosen out of thousands of cover proposals. The three women stood on their building terrace, unidentified, yet clearly exuberant in their participation in a ‘public curfew’. Needless to say, they were oblivious of being shot by the photographer zooming into them from Ground Zero.

Team Unsung sought out the three women photographed on 22 March 2020, days before the national lockdown was implemented across India from 25 March 2020, to record their journeys through the lockdown till date.

THALI TRIO: Usha Ramnathkar, Tejal Pawar and Shraddha (from left) in order of appearance in the original cover
COVER GIRLS IN COLOUR: Usha Ramnathkar, Tejal Pawar and Shraddha Ramnathkar (from left)
IN CONTRAST: The original cover of 'Unsung - The Film' with the trio in monochrome
Home-maker Usha Ramnathkar with her daughter Shraddha and neighbour Tejal Pawar had planned on a collective “thali-clanging session on the terrace,” of their building in Colaba Market from the moment they heard PM Narendra Modi’s announcement of the Janta Curfew.

“We simply had to support those who were fighting for us, day and night, without a care in the world then,” recalls Shraddha Ramnathkar who turned 18 in September last, during the lockdown in a rather quiet celebration.

“However, as the lockdown progressed, we realised that so many others had contributed to the welfare of the common. Right here, in the market as we witnessed, if it were not for vegetable vendors, thousands would have stayed hungry,” says Ushatai, as she is popularly known in the locality.

The third, a neighbour, Tejal Pawar – a homemaker then, partook in the thali-clanging exercise to "answer the PM’s call and participate in the event collectively." "Little did we know then that it would be such a long-drawn situation that would have affected millions across the world," adds Tejal.

During the months that followed, Shraddha’s paternal uncle, 36 years of age living nearby, contracted COVID-19 but "went on to recover after timely treatment." Yet, his "mother who too contracted the disease passed away," offers Shraddha.

Tejal’s friend and erstwhile colleague contracted COVID-19 during this period but “went on to recover…thankfully.” On a personal front, she had to fend, with her husband in tow, for her then-one-year-old baby, personal expenses and the house rent. “Finally, things seem to have gotten better. A family business has helped bring things back on track,” maintains Tejal.

The three women, in their collective thali-clanging, were symbolic of a resilient India that emerged victorious over a COVID-19 crisis that threatened to wreak havoc. They had lauded, in unison, the work of the 'Unsung' even went on to suffer personal losses along the way.

Team Unsung caught up with them, again, on their terrace. And, witnessed their indomitable spirit, despite the deaths within family and financial losses that ensued the Janta Curfew, has only grown stronger. Kudos to them!

This story is part of #TheUnsungProject series. 'Unsung - The Film' captures the selfless dedication of those Indians whose contributions during COVID-19 times, would otherwise go ... unsung. The film was created by DraftCraft Films in conjunction with The Draft. Team Unsung spread across 20 States, 5 Union Territories and over 100 Cities and Villages in India, to document stories of hope, hard work and dedication of thousands, in the time of COVID-19. Watch the film here.

(Note: Some subjects may have removed their masks only to be identified in photographs to be used with this news report. COVID-19 appropriate behaviour has been maintained at all times)