Meet the essential workers in Chennai who are silently helping you get through the lockdown

Heroes on wheels

Every morning at 7.30 am when K Bharanidharan leaves for work, his mother goes over the whole rigmarole of social distancing while his father reminds him not to remove his mask and gloves during pickup and delivery. The 38-year-old Dunzo delivery professional says that being an essential worker during this lockdown makes him feel “cool like a hero”.

He is refreshingly nonchalant about being out and about in the face of a pandemic. “People need essentials. We don’t want them to roam around and risk anything. We are here to get them what they require. Also, it is good to get used to online orders and transactions for the future,” says Bharanidharan, a resident of Meenambakkam, who travels as far as Nungambakkam, Neelankarai and Sowcarpet with deliveries.

Though Bharanidharan’s work involves a lot of running around and waiting, it’s not all mundane. He gets to learn new things on the job. Today, he’s thrilled about discovering avocado. “It’s also known as butter fruit,” he says, enthusiastically explaining what it looks like. “It’s ₹540 per kilogram... Once, in a store in Neelankarai, a fresh stock of avocado got sold out within two hours,” he says.

Bharanidharan’s morning deliveries are usually milk, vegetables, fruits and medicines. “In the beginning, we used to go to Koyambedu to source fresh produce. But since last month, all Koyambedu pick-ups have stopped,” he says. So, is he a good judge of what he picks up for his clients? “I choose what is fresh. For example if it’s ladies finger or drumstick, I press and examine them before adding to the basket,” he says and adds, “I have been buying vegetables for my family for a while now, so that’s been good practice.”

If anything, he believes, the pandemic has proved to be a time-saver. “Earlier, we used to go up to the client’s door, no matter which floor, sometimes without a lift, and deliver things. Now, with buildings not allowing outsiders in, we drop off everything with the security and that saves at least five to 10 minutes,” says Bharanidharan, who earns around ₹1,000 per day with about 10-15 deliveries. Before the pandemic, he used to earn up to ₹1,500 a day with up to 20 deliveries. On the brighter side, he has made new friends, with other delivery boys, as they wait to pick up orders. “We maintain enough distance as we chat. On lean days, we call and check on each other,” he says. Simple perks of the job also include delivering parcels to celebrities. “I recently dropped off something at Arun Vijay’s house and at the residence of actor Vikram’s daughter. But I did not get to meet them,” he says.

His work — hours are what they choose themselves — ends by 10.30 pm. Lunch is packed from home on most days, often under the shade of a tree. He makes sure he is home for dinner. “Because no matter how late it is, my mother is always waiting for me.”

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 1:52:53 AM |

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