Wednesday 1 April 2020

Lesson Learnt In A Vegetable Market

Today, after ten days I went out to the vegetable market. We managed all these days with the reserve we had. Life is good - Simple, disciplined, organized and a predictable routine – Absolutely no complaints. I and my mother spent a considerable time watching the News channels, both Hindi (to know about COVID19 statistics in India and the world) and Bengali (to know about the figures in West Bengal).

I personally kept track of the numbers being affected, cured and expired from all the credible sources online. I even launched a YouTube channel just to call out citizens who are still slaves of old habits and thinking patterns, and risking other’s lives.

It is only yesterday I learnt – it was an abnormal behavior to remain glued to media channels. We both snapped out.

Yes, we also watched the TV channels flooding the news of migrant workers – homeless, hungry, tired, desperate to reach their families, rinsed with disinfectants as if they were non-living things and later fed, screened and sheltered.

We cannot even imagine how they are struggling with their fears of being affected, concerns about well-being and safety of their families who are worried about them in their native places and survival issues without income and too many uncertainties.

Just today, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has published about psychosocial issues among migrants during COVID-19 and how their mental well-being is equally important during this crisis:

Treat everyone migrant worker with dignity, respect, empathy and compassion
Listen to their concerns patiently and understand their problems
Recognise specific and varied needs for each person/family. There is no generalization.
Help them to acknowledge that this is an unusual situation of uncertainty and reassure them that the situation is transient and not going to last long. Normal life is going to resume soon.
Be prepared with all the information about possible sources of help. Inform them about the support being extended by Central Government, State Governments/ NGOs/ health care systems etc.
Emphasize on the importance of their staying in their present location and how mass movement could greatly and adversely affect all efforts to contain the virus.
Make them realize their importance in the community and appreciate their contributions for the society.
Remind them that they have made their place with their own efforts, acquired the trust of their employer, sent remittances to their families and therefor deserve all respect.
Reassure that even if their employer fails them, local administration and charitable institutions would extend all possible help.
Out of desperation, many may react in a manner which may appear insulting. Try to understand their issues and be patient.
If somebody is afraid of getting affected, tell them that the condition is curable, and that most recover from it.
Remind them that it is safer for their families if they themselves stay away from them.
Instead of reflecting any mercy, seek their support in the spirit of winning over the situation together.

Most of us are adapting to new life styles, prioritizing our choices, reflecting on earning models, soul searching to squash our own bloated egoes . I am hoping even the migrant workers will emerge stronger, emotionally resilient and fight back this crisis with all their might.

Now back to the vegetable market where I get the fodder for this blog.

The local market has chicken, fish, vegetable in abundance and sold through temporary make shift stalls on either side of the road. 

I picked two cabbages for Rs 12 each, for which the vendor initially demanded Rs 15, bitter guard Rs 10, Cucumber Rs 10, drumsticks Rs 10, Tomato Rs 10. Brinjal Rs 10 What I noticed was he was using a manual weighing balance and was not quite able to manage it. If he holds it the wrong way, it is my loss.

Initially I just bought the cabbage. When I asked for the drumsticks which is usually sold by count, he put them also in the weighing machine. Something about the way he catered to this whole thing was not routine or normal.

He kept saying that he brought them fresh from the farms. As he continued to struggle with the balance, I asked him to hold it right to which he responded - I am basically a caterer and everything is shut during lock down. I am doing this for the past three days. 

Paradigm shift. I had little patience for his fumbling with the machine. Now I had respect.

He is faster than most of us are. He may have learning difficulties with new equipment or probably a sales pitch (the only pitch he knew was that he had brought them from the farms) however he has no mental inertia to respond to a crisis and switch over to an altogether different line of business.

To encourage him I told, this is a better avenue than catering which is seasonal (Typical me) - He agreed however sitting whole day to get everything sold bothered him.

I hope the migrant workers and many more contractors (both physical and knowledge) can build, not just their physical immunity but their mental ability to secure their future by focusing on their overall potential instead of just their current productivity.

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