‘We will survive’: Stories of hope from Kerala amid the lockdown

Many have taken up alternative jobs while they wait for bad times to pass.
Preetha santhosh and Ajmal
Preetha santhosh and Ajmal
Written by:

28-year-old Ajmal from Kottayam, Kerala achieved his dream when he secured a job as chef in Costa Cruises, an Italian company. He was about to leave abroad in the month of March, but the coronavirus pandemic shattered his dreams. Ajmal now sells clams in a three-wheeler. Undeterred by the upsetting of plans for his career, he is confident that he would achieve his dream once the bad times pass.

“When I went to study for a hotel management course, my aim was to secure a job in a ship. Some of my friends got jobs in cruise ships, but I was rejected all the time. Then I started working at a star hotel in Kottayam for a few years. Finally, at the end of 2019 I cleared the interview for Costa. So I resigned from my job and was getting ready to join the firm. After the final interview, I reached back home from Hyderabad and got an email from them explaining the current situation. They informed me that I will have to wait at least a year. Some days I spent in depression, but later I thought that I cannot do that,” Ajmal says.

His mother and two brothers encouraged him to do any work that can keep him busy. Initially, he started a vegetable business, but that was not profitable. “Then I started the business of selling clams. I buy fresh clams from Vaikom and sell them by driving to residential areas. My friends stood by me always. Moreover, I am very much hopeful in life. Dreams will come true one day,” Ajmal says, adding that he is ready to do any job without hesitation as every job has its own dignity.

Preethi Santhosh, a woman from Kozhikode, has been running ladies hostels for a living. She was the sole breadwinner of her four-member family as her husband had met with an accident. For five years, she successfully ran hostels with more than 90 inmates. But suddenly, when it had to close down, she did not know what to do initially. She was not ready to give up. She started an organic vegetable shop in front of her house, which turned out to be a great success.

“Earlier, for a few years, I had worked with an organic farmers society in Wayanad. When some of them came to Kozhikode, they brought me some organic vegetables and I could feel the difference from market bought ones. So with their help,I started an outlet here. They supplied me some vegetables and I also collect from people who cultivate at their compounds and rooftops. I don't charge high prices though they are organic. So I started getting good business,” she says.

She also started door delivery services and provided jobs to four others in her business. “When people are struggling to get a job, I am happy that along with me, few others also have jobs," she said.

“We will survive this. Even more difficult times may come. But together, we can face and overcome it,” she says with confidence.

Karim is from Kasaragod district. He had a small cafeteria in Dubai in partnership with his friend. He started it in the beginning of 2019 and he had started getting good business. But he had to return in the month of January as his mother was not well and couldn't go back yet. Now he sells fish in a two-wheeler.

“My friend was taking care of the cafe when I came. But later, he had to close it down. I had invested a good amount in it. But I have a hope that I can go back and restart once these bad times are over,” he says.

“My uncle had this fish selling business so I joined him initially and later started my own. This is just temporary, to survive. There will be more opportunities, so I have no worries now. Until we have health to work, why should we worry?” Karim asks.

Krishna Das, a resident of Panniyankara in Kozhikode, makes at least 500 papads a day for his living. He sells them mainly in his neighborhood. He was an auto driver for eight years and had to stop running the vehicle as couldn't make ends meet.

“When lockdown rules relaxed I started running the auto, but there were no passengers. I hardly earned Rs 100 a day. So I stopped it and started making papads. This business also has huge competition and I will have to find some other means to live,” he says.

Another survival story is from Kuttiady, Kozhikode where a group of bus workers started home delivery of biriyani. A group of conductors, drivers and cleaners of a few private buses started the business with the help of a local restaurant owner, who provided them with the vessels he had.

“We are eight, including drivers, conductors and cleaners, we started this last week. Now we get an order of around 350 biriyanis a day. After the rules were relaxed, we had started working in buses, but there were no passengers and the income was nil. So the owners asked to stop the service. We had to find an alternative option to move forward,” Ajesh, one of the former bus employees, says.

They sell biriyanis at Rs 60 per plate, which makes them popular.

“In the future, we would like to continue this business along with a regular job. We are hopeful,” says Ajesh.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute