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On 24th March 2020, as soon as the prime minister announced the 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, many people scrambled to get supplies at the last moment to tide them over for the next couple of weeks. I, too, stepped out to see if I could grab some essential supplies, and to enjoy the last bit of freedom before the world plunged into what seemed like a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Every store I went to was nearly out of supplies and packed with customers, so I just moved on down the road to the next one and the next one after that before finally returning home empty handed.

Nothing out of the ordinary here, just a regular SUV interior.

And fuel stations? Where I was going, I didn’t need fuel stations! Well, I was going nowhere, but that’s besides the point. MG dropped off the ZS EV right before the lockdown, and it’s been a boon in these times when lines at fuel stations extended well into the street. I’ll be honest, I was pretty skeptical about using an electric car over a long period of time. I’ve driven a couple of Teslas and figured if Elon Musk’s opus hasn’t changed my mind, there was little chance this MG would. It came to me with 85 per cent charge, which translated to a little over 290 km of range. To my surprise, though, the car held its charge very well, barely dropping a percentage point over the two weeks it 
was parked.

A battery meter replaces the fuel gauge.

I have a bad case of range anxiety, I’ll admit. I was only driving it in a 2-km radius from my house, and the car was showing upwards of 250 km of range, but that didn’t stop me from worrying every time I grabbed its keys. I came to really enjoy the ZS as I kept driving it, though. It had its idiosyncrasies, like greeting me with a prayer everytime I started it (apparently you can program a custom start-up phrase in the ZS), and the auto-hold having a mind of its own.

Nice and bright, but touch response could be better.

Anyway, driving a car that’s not reliant on other businesses prompted me to think about all the people out there providing essential services through the lockdown. So, on one of my runs to grab essential supplies, I came across a few essential workers who have been hard at work even as the nation as a whole came to a grinding halt. Here are their stories:

KERS switch makes you feel like an F1 driver.

 

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Alladin Ansari, delivery driver

Q. What precautions are you taking to stay safe while working during 
the lockdown?
A. We’ve been doing no-contact deliveries for the most part, where I leave the food outside for the customers to pick up. Sanitising has become a big part of my day now. Every delivery I make starts and ends with sanitising myself and my bike.

Q. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced these last 
few weeks?
A. Some of the housing societies I deliver to have become hostile towards any outsiders coming near. Even with all the precautions, I am usually not allowed to go beyond the front gate at most places.

Q. How has your family reacted to you continuing to work?
A. I have to reassure them everyday that I’m only doing no-contact delivery. My family has been seeing on the news all that is happening and are very worried for my health. It also feels like the entire neighbourhood knows when I leave and come back, they all stare at me. No one has said anything, but it’s not a comfortable feeling.

The badge lights up when the car’s charging.

Q. What do you plan to do once the lockdown ends?
A. It’s really nice riding all over the city with no traffic, it will be back to the usual traffic once the lockdown ends, but there’s comfort in that too.

 

Kamesh Pawar, bus conductor

Q. What precautions are you taking to stay safe while working during 
the lockdown?
A. We’ve limited the number of people on the bus at a given time, and are ensuring strict distance between passengers. I’ve been using sanitiser as frequently as possible, especially after handling money. Of course, people 
are only allowed on the bus if they 
wear a mask.

Q. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced these last 
few weeks?
A. Having to tell people the bus is full even when half the seats are empty. With the frequency of buses going down, it’s already getting crowded at bus stops, but we have no option. Most people understand, but some are very insistent. We sometimes skip bus stops entirely, because people insist that one extra passenger won’t be a problem.

Q. How has your family reacted to you continuing to work?
A. They’re very worried, but because of the lockdown, our family income has gone down. They’re glad I am still able to work and provide for them. I make sure to take a bath before interacting with anyone else at home and keep a distance to be safe.

Q. What do you plan to do once the lockdown ends?
A. Keep working, but I hope that we can continue to run buses with fewer passengers even after the lockdown. It’s been less hectic than working with a fully loaded bus.

 

Sandeep Jadav, police constable

Q. What precautions are you taking to stay safe while working during the lockdown?
A. Ever since the lockdown was announced, we’ve been working extra to keep all the check-posts manned. Other than the usual mask, gloves and sanitiser, we’ve also been keeping our distance from each other. Usually, when verifying a traveller’s documents, we have to be in close quarters with them, but it’s 
only momentary and I make sure to sanitise afterwards.

Q. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced these last few weeks?
A. Other than staying out in the blistering heat, it’s hard seeing so many people on the roads despite the lockdown. There are plenty of people with genuine reasons, but we’ve also come across a few cases of people taking joyrides and roaming about without any reason.

Q. How has your family reacted to you continuing to work?
A. The last few times when it flooded in my area, I was out working. When there have been risky operations, I’ve worked through it. I think my family is used to the risky nature of my job now, but for the first time, I worry that I might bring something with me that might endanger my family. I have elderly parents at home and it’s always on the back of my mind when I’m out on the roads.

Q. What do you plan to do once the lockdown ends?
A. Once things go back to normal, I hope to take a break and spend some time with my family.