Introducing the COVID Poor
Anjali S
May , 2021 No Comments

Location: Delhi


While the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic was difficult on everyone, it hit some harder than others. The devastation while common was still felt differently by some. Some could choose to cut their loss and move on, while the others could never. What was just a spot of bad luck for some was devastation for others.

Mira fell in the latter category.

When the pandemic hit in the March of 2020, she would have never imagined how much it would cost her. How much it would set her back, how it would cause years and years of hard work and toil to crumble like a stack of cards. And how it would weigh her down not just for now but for the future.

Her savings were the first to be plundered. The first wave and the subsequent surprise lockdown during March meant she had no choice but to rely on her meager savings. Between running her new shop and supporting the family of 5 as a single earning member, she had managed to save up just a bit for the rainy day, which proved to be a relief during that time. It was this that helped them stay afloat.

Next were the precious few jewels which she still had from her marriage. No amount of tragedies and hard times before had caused her to part from her precious baubles. Not even for her pride and joy, the clothes shop. She found another way, always. Her reasoning for it was the two children who needed education or elderly parents who may need it for healthcare or other emergencies. She never thought it would so soon. What little pain was to her pride for taking off her beautiful earrings were squashed promptly by relief. At least they would not starve. Hunger was the priority over bills and taxes.

It was a new phase, she realized that she was looking at poverty knocking at her doorstep, not something that we believe will happen to us in our lifetimes, but she could see poverty at her doorstep. Perhaps, in better days she too was donating to the poor, rallying for a cause by NGOs by eradicating poverty and giving their warm clothes to the grief stricken and poor kids on traffic signals, she realized, that pretty soon she would be the one at the receiving end as the tide had turned, she had slowly, but steadily started slipping into the world of the COVID poor.

Misfortune breeds more misfortune. It was shortly thereafter that things took a turn for the worse. The illness caught up to them. It came first for the elderly, then for Mira and the children. In a situation of borderline anarchy, where chaos ruled and “some” gained monopoly while leaving others to fend for themselves, where there were clear “Haves” and “ Have nots”, Mira was one of those who were powerless. Even when her extended family came together to help, pitching in however they can despite being on the same boat, she still suffered the loss of a parent.

The struggle to keep them all alive during the illness had further depleted the reserves which left them with nothing, when the pandemic, or rather the first wave came to an end. Mira gladly reopened her small shop. Tried to make a profit, weaseled extensions to pay her dues, and even had small successes for a few months only to be hit by the same fate again.

People were too eager to return to normal. With no one left to control them and even those at the highest going against the guidelines in place, instead of enforcing them, it was only a question of when.

What had weakened the system had now returned to absolutely demolish it. Mira, who was just returning to a semblance of normalcy after the first wave had been devastated by the beginning of the second wave. The family of four was struggling for even a single meal. The daily visits to mandir’s or the local charity camps where they gave aid in form of food were the only source of help. But the help came at a cost to their pride. Mira’s family had never been those who needed charity, they always coasted on the edge of the middle class. Staying reasonably comfortable despite all other hardships. But now faced with hunger and helplessness, the choice was clear.

Pandemic and relief, Celebrations and promises, high hopes and loss play a game of change around her like the colorful clothes once displayed in her little tailor shop, hunger, obligations, and bills stay the same. The consequences are severe. Mira may lose the shop due to falling behind on rent. The piled-up bills of bare minimum necessities, electricity, and water, would lead her deeper into an irrecoverable pit of poverty. With nothing to look forward to and no one to ask for help, Mira lives her life one moment at a time, without hope.

We at HRhelpdesk Trust spent a considerable amount of time trying to identify such families. After all, these are not families who will openly want to be seen standing in lines for taking free foods, if nothing remains, there is still a little bit of self respect that they carry, and standing in line for basic necessities, breaks the self respect, which is so critical for standing up.

After having identified such families, we got them together for distribution of food and daily essentials in a not so common place, with close to 13 KGs worth of food, soaps, oils, dry ration, we gave them a months hope. As the distribution began, we could see reluctant families coming in single groups to try and hope that no one else can recognize that they are here.

We really hope that they never have to stand in such lines, but if they do, we need the support of our donors to ensure that a dignified life can be provided to them, till they stand up.