“This lockdown has broken my back. Nowadays, I hardly earn 100–150 rupees. I have five children. You tell me how can I feed them? I can drive for a few hours and the police wouldn’t let me go very far. Today, I dropped my first passenger at Regal Chowk and was happy that I earned 50 Rupees. But on the way back, I had a flat tire. I brought my rickshaw to the tire shop and the owner charged me 80 Rupees. I asked him, ‘why are you charging me 80 when the rate is 70?’ He replied, ‘special price for lockdown!’ I haven’t paid rent this month which is 3500 Rupees. How can I? I can’t even buy food!” Javed said while trying to fix the spare tire behind his rickshaw which couldn’t be in the worse shape. The seat cushions were worn out, the lights and indicators, gone, and metals frame joints were held together with cloth strips. It looked like an abandoned vehicle.
“Come to Akhuwat office in NJV school tomorrow? They are helping people,” I told him.
“Everyone talks but no one helps. I gave my ID card number to the government program but haven’t received any help.” He showed me a worn-out B&W photocopy of his ID card which stated the birth year mid-1971. He looked way older than 48.
“Come tomorrow. I will personally forward your case. Call me in the morning before you come, okay? Do you have a phone?”
“Yes, but I cannot call you.”
“I don’t have balance!”
“Ok, give me your number, I will call you tomorrow!”
I said goodbye to Javed and started walking when I heard his voice again, “do you know how long this will go on? I mean, the lockdown?”
“Maybe, another month or two?”
There was a long silence between us after that.
I met Javed today when I was strolling in Sadar, Karachi trying to get a picture of how the lockdown has affected daily wage workers. I heard numerous stories, this is just one of them. It was very emotionally exhausting to see so many people going through misery.
Whereas the Coronavirus quarantine is creating eating disorders for some, let’s not forget some people are left with nothing to eat. Staying at home doesn’t mean isolating ourselves from the most vulnerable segment of society. Your little support can go a long way for people like Javed who are earning less than one dollar a day.
Support VIGA.Org —A Project of Akhuwat Global in serving humanity. I am personally involved in it. www.viga.org/covid19/