In Focus

Ensuring homes ran sans hitches during lockdown

By Manu Shrivastava

“It was in the middle of the summers and the lockdown that my refrigerator just stopped working. I didn’t know what to do, who to call. Had it not been for my old repairman, I would have been left high and dry during the lockdown,” recalls Colaba resident and septuagenarian Abha Deshpande. In what was an unprecedented crisis that gripped the country, the elderly, particularly those living alone in cities, who faced the most difficulties during the national lockdown. It were specialists like Kishor Dewasi and Inder Solanki, who offered services 'essential' to many during the pandemic and saved the day.

TROUBLESHOOTING DUO: Inder Solanki (left) and Kishor Dewasi helped several families during the lockdown

The small kitchenware repair shop tucked away in Colaba Market has visitors throughout the day. “After all, no one can do without essential kitchen items such as mixers, refrigerators, cookers, microwaves, etc.,” explains a jovial Kishor Dewasi. The shop he opened 20 years back with brother-in-law Inder Solanki is frequented by customers, regular and new, throughout the day. 

But, the lockdown left all shut except for essential services. Kishore and Inder had shut their shop too as it didn't come under ‘essential service’. “But for someone whose fridges or fans stopped working during this period, especially during the summers of 2020, they tell you how badly they needed someone to repair it immediately. Things got worse for those who had children or elderly at home,” maintains Kishor. And, rightly so, for such households, a repairman was as essential service worker who could alleviate their woes during the lockdown.

FIX ALL: Kishor at his shop in Colaba Market

“Because of the lockdown restrictions, I could not step out of the house. Also, many neighbourhood shops had shut and I’d have to venture far to get milk, vegetables, groceries, etc. And, I also had to ensure food and milk lasted longer so the refrigerator was a necessity, especially in the summer during the lockdown,” explains Abha who availed the duo’s services during the lockdown.

“We had shut the shop in the lockdown but were getting calls everyday from customers who needed something or the other repaired. It mainly included requests to fix mixers, cookers, fans, etc.,” says Inder.

So, the duo would ride their bikes in the risky conditions to attend to needy customers. “We got many calls from old people living alone, also from households who had small children, elderly or a patient at home,” maintains Kishor.

For the ordinary man, men like Kishor and Inder were no less that COVID warriors who risked their well-being to offer their services to the needy. These were the unsung COVID warriors.

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)