In the scorching heat of April in Dharampur, Ramesh bhai (name changed) is busy sewing bags in his small tin shed house. Beads of sweat slide off his tired body. He curses himself for not being able to pay the electricity bills over the last few months. But what can he do? He hasn’t earned enough since January 2020, he was hoping to make some money during the festive season. The nationwide lockdown swept away all his plans. Now he is stuck in his rented house with no money to pay bills or rent. His wife’s savings from her house-help work is barely enough to cover two meals a day.
Ramesh bhai moved to Dharampur with his wife and two daughters, from a small village in Madhya Pradesh, around five years ago. He thought this move would do his family some good, giving them a safe environment and better livelihood options.
Engrossed in his sewing work, he hears a faint knock on the door. Scared it might be the landlord, he resists opening the door. But the knocking continues. He finally relents and opens it to see two masked people inquiring about the family size. Confused, he asked them if they were conducting a government survey. The older man says they are distributing ration kits to families in distress. Someone told them about his family and since they didn’t have a phone, they decided to directly come to his house to deliver the kit. Wiping the sweat off his forehead and still dazed, he takes the packets from the unknown men. The ration kit has wheat flour, rice, salt and oil, enough for a month. He stands in disbelief.
A few weeks later, his daughter experiences symptoms of fever, cold and cough. Worried, he rushes to the government hospital to check for the availability of a doctor. There he sees a large crowd gathered outside waiting for beds. He gets scared and goes back home to discuss whether to admit their daughter or not. His wife suggests that they wait. But soon her condition deteriorates and they are forced to see a private doctor. After a Covid-19 test, she is found to be Covid negative. It was just the regular flu. Within a week she recovers, but this medical expenditure eats up all his money. He realises he needs more.
Due to the lockdown, all economic activities are now closed and so he can’t find any work for himself anymore. A few days later, exactly a month from their last visit, the same two men knock on his door again to deliver ration kits. This time they give two kg rice extra with the existing kit. Ramesh bhai finds it hard to stop himself from feeling overwhelmed.
Who are these noble men?
He manages to ask them the name of the person behind these generous deeds. After learning about Rushit Masrani, he promises to do anything for his organisation, Pahel Trust. Rushit encourages him to make use of his skills and expertise to make face masks for the organisation and in return receive money for his hard work. He receives Khadi cloth, strings as well as wire for making the mask from the Trust. Within a month, he is able to generate income of Rs. 11,000 from the masks alone. As word spreads, other people also start giving him clothes to stitch. Soon, he manages to buy mobile phones for his daughters as well, enabling them to continue learning digitally.
Today, Ramesh bhai comfortably sits in his chair, working on his sewing machine, with the fans running. When his mind remembers the time he was in deep turmoil, he remembers the help that Pahel offered him and how that changed his life, his face drenched in tears.