His heart skips a beat when the phone rings

Electrician Chellaiah.

Electrician Chellaiah.   | Photo Credit: NahlaNainar

For AC mechanic V. Chellian, the lockdown’s traffic regulations have been the hardest to manage

These days, V. Chellian’s heart sinks a little when his phone rings. Even though the onset of summer is meant to be a busy time for air-conditioner (AC) technicians like him, the national lockdown to stem the spread of novel coronavirus makes him think twice before he sets out on a house call.

“During summer, I earn up to ₹1,500 per day, with around 6 to 7 AC overhaul jobs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. But this has stopped completely since the lockdown was announced,” Mr. Chellian told The Hindu.

A certified electrician, Mr. Chellian is also a handyman who can deal with domestic maintenance work related to plumbing, wiring and appliance repair. He worked for three years in Chennai before deciding to return in 2010 to his home town Tiruchi, due to financial constraints.

The lockdown’s traffic restrictions have been the hardest to manage. “I cannot avoid calls where the customers are senior citizens or people with young children needing help with malfunctioning water-purifiers or ACs in this hot weather, no matter how far away they are,” said Mr. Chellian. “But it has become risky to step out.”

When he gets an emergency summons from a customer, he hops on his bike with his tool-kit and weaves his way through the city’s by-lanes to avoid being noticed by the police patrols. “Once I got stopped by a policeman for defying the curfew; but he relented after I showed him my tools and explained why I was out. On another day, a policeman caned me with his baton. I am afraid of having my tool-kit confiscated,” he said.

Living in his ancestral home in Palakkarai has brought down Mr. Chellian’s expenses. Even so, he is his family’s sole breadwinner, supporting his aged parents, his wife and infant son, and a younger brother who assists him. “I am now dipping into the funds that I normally set aside for house tax to pay for daily expenses. Though there may be jobs waiting after the lockdown is lifted, I’m not sure I’ll be able to make up for the income lost in these past weeks,” he said.

His first response to the lockdown announcement was to stock up on spares like tube-lights, an assortment of screws, taps and fuses. “I spent around ₹1,600 on the supplies, just to be on the safe side, though every house call has its own requirements. In most cases, I try to repair the existing parts just so that they function for the lockdown’s duration. Once shops reopen, I’ll have to go back and install new ones,” Mr. Chellian said.

In a lockdown, the authorities could give daily-wage earning professionals like him an all-city travel permit, he suggested. “After all, we are also trying to provide an essential service to our customers, in extremely hot weather. Why should we be harassed for a legitimate assignment?” he questions.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 11:16:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/his-heart-skips-a-beat-when-the-phone-rings/article31270888.ece

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