Garbage collection is easy, the commuting to work site is not

Pius Mathai collecting garbage from households in Elamakkara.  

Pius Mathai, a 47-year-old from Chellanam, can barely stand when he returns home from work around noon every second day in a week.

Dazed, he takes a shower and is almost asleep even before hitting the bed. Having skipped lunch out of exhaustion, he wakes up hungry late in the evening.

Even before the pandemic and the lockdowns, life was not very kind to Pius. For almost two years now, his nights are spend collecting waste from over a hundred households in Elamakkara.

30 km on cycle

The work is perhaps the easiest part compared to the struggle turning up for it. He leaves his rundown house surrounded by water on all three sides at Muthukel in the afternoon on a country boat. Across the river, he mounts a rickety cycle and pedals the 30-km stretch to his workplace for two-and-a-half hours in sweltering heat.

“Before starting work, I change clothes in a room an apartment complex has allowed me at Elamakkara. The work will be over by 10 p.m. Then, I help a friend collect waste till midnight so as to supplement my income,” said Pius.

Enjoyment too

A few hours of sleep and he will be up around 5 a.m to segregate the waste to and load it to a lorry. Then he heads back home, on the same arduous route. Despite the struggle, he professes to be content. From someone who used to cover his nose at the hint of an odour, Pius has now reached a point where the work brings in enjoyment. He did not miss out on the work even amidst lockdowns.

What gives him more satisfaction is providing for his widowed youngest sister. He takes only a part of his income and the rest goes to her family. In fact, the work was originally done by her husband who died in an accident two years back. That was when Pius, a construction labourer, picked it up.

“Someone had to do it or else the job would have been lost. My sister is in Irinjalakkuda and cannot do a night job,” says Pius. All Pius longs for is a two-wheeler, even an old one, so that he is spared the rigours of pedalling.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 12:13:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/garbage-collection-is-easy-the-commuting-to-work-site-is-not/article34795535.ece

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