As you tuck into your hot, home-delivered meal, ever wondered what it's like for the delivery boy who brought it to you?

Invisible heroes Food delivery boys and their hunger for a better lifeImage for representation only: Flickr/Emran Kassim
Features Human Interest Saturday, October 08, 2016 - 17:46

This story is the first of TNM's 'Invisible Heroes' series. The series aims to give voice to the people who perform some of the most thankless jobs in our society.

It’s 12pm on a Sunday and you suddenly crave for Italian food. With the plethora of food delivery options available today, the only difficult decision you have to make is, which one to choose. Soon, a delivery boy brings the food to your doorstep and while you tuck in to soothe a growling stomach, he immediately leaves to deliver delicious food to other households, come rain, sunshine or traffic.


That is his job for the next four hours. But ever wondered when he finds the time to satiate his own gnawing hunger pangs?


Murthy has been a food-delivery boy for about three months now. His day begins at 10 am and continues till past 11 in the night. “I have lunch at 5pm and dinner around midnight. I feel hungry around the usual lunch time, but can’t do anything about it. We just cannot afford to take such risks during peak hours,” he says matter-of-factly.


This is the story of most food-delivery boys. They travel all over the city with a bag carrying an assortment of dishes for others to eat, but are themselves unable to eat at the usual meal hours.


Murthy hails from Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. The 24-year-old has completed schooling till Class X, but was unable to study further due to ‘money’ constraints. He landed in Bengaluru five years ago to do his bit to ease his family out of the financial crisis.


He previously worked as a shop assistant at the Forum Mall in Koramangala, but feels that delivering food pays him better. He makes around Rs 18,000 a month and is able to send home at least Rs 4000-5000. “I do miss home sometimes. We have some land which my parents cultivate. I would have loved to help them in the fields, if I did not have to come here to make money. I plan to go back after four months or so for good,” Murthy says, while speaking to The News Minute.


For Dhanashekar, homesickness is not something that bothers him. It is not finding time to spend with his wife and seven-year-old son. Born and brought up in Bengaluru, he works as a waiter at a restaurant on St. Marks Road and also delivers food.


He has tried his hand at odd jobs like painting and working as an office boy, but for the last two and a half years, he has stuck to being a waiter and food-delivery boy. “It’s nice here. We (waiters and waitresses at his place of work) hang out together and even though it’s hard to find time to eat, we frequent small eateries on Cunningham Road or in Shivaji Nagar to have lunch, once peak hours are over,” he tells.


Given that the restaurant does roaring business on weekends, his off-days never match with that of his wife who works as a domestic help. His wife leaves home at 6am everyday, while he wakes up around 10am. He returns home only by midnight which is now his usual dinner-time too.  But by then, his son is already fast asleep.


Usually, he gets Mondays off and uses the day to spend time with his family: “My wife tries to come home by afternoon that day and after my son comes back from school, we  spend time together or go visit my mother at Sarjapura,” he shares.


His eyes light up in delight when he talks about how he loves to play with his son whenever he gets time. “We have a plastic bat and a sponge ball. So it’s either that, or him playing Temple Run on my phone,” Dhanashekar laughs.


Dhanashekhar makes around 13,500 rupees in a month, just enough to see them through each passing day. He however hopes to save enough to buy a car, so that he can next be a cab driver. “My friends tell me the money is better, and that we are entitled to take two days off in a week. That way, I will be able to spend more time with my family, and even take them on long trips,” he sounds optimistic.


Veerbhadra who has been working as a food-delivery boy for eight months, views his job as just a means to raise funds to start his own business, although he’s unsure about what exactly he would like to dabble in. “I like this job, but I don’t want to be in it forever,” he says.


Hailing from Ramnagar village near Bengaluru, Veerbhadra has a vocational training diploma, but could not pursue further studies because of financial issues at home. He goes home to visit his parents once a month. They do not know that he is a food-delivery boy. “They are uneducated, so a concept like food-delivery is alien to them. They just know I work in a company,” Veerbhadra clarifies.


Job Hassles

What bothers the 23-year-old in his present job is the countless traffic jams he daily finds himself in, and the pollution he is inevitably subjected to. “Sometimes they will cancel the order when we’re almost halfway, citing late delivery,” Veerbhadra rues.


In Murthy’s case, it is when the customers yell at him: “'Where is the food? We are hungry,' they shout at me. All I can do is mutter a ‘sorry’ and assure them that I’ll be there as soon as I can. Often, I am caught in a traffic jam or in the rain. So obviously, I run late. But we cannot offer that as an excuse to the customer.”


While Murthy and Dhanashekar do not mind not being able to afford the kind of food they deliver to customers, it does bother Veerbhadra at times. “I do wish sometimes at least, that I too could be at a social level where I could afford such food. But then I tell myself that it’s okay… at the end of the day, it’s just another job that I must do out of sheer necessity,” he remarks.


Also read: Invisible heroes: Bearing the stench to eke out a living, men who keep public toilets clean

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