‘The doctors are doing so much for us, can’t we do something for them?’

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As we emerge from the pandemic and everything around us opens up, we speak to people across the country to hear their stories and their struggles

Shobha Dilip Kushwha, 39
Worker at IAttire, Pune, Maharashtra

When I used to make clothes on my sewing machine at home in Nagpur and, then, Pune, I never thought that, one day, I would be tailoring PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits. I work for a company called IAttire in Pune, manufacturers of corporate uniforms. I was in the Shirts division. My earnings helped at home, especially with the education of our two children.

The lockdown brought a halt to regular production, but IAttire got the government’s approval to make PPE kits, one of the few companies in India to be certified. We started working on PPEs, where we had to be careful about every stitch so that no virus could get inside the body. Special machines had been imported and kept in “clean rooms”. Unlike shirts, PPE was a one-piece garment that covered the entire body, including the head. I learnt the new design in half a day.

In our minds, there was a constant fear of the disease but our sewing machines never slowed down. Doctors hamare liye itna kar rahe the toh apun unke liye kuchh kyun nahin kar sakte (The doctors were doing so much for us, can’t we do something for them?). I would make 50 PPEs in a day, a few others could do 100. We also won a contract to make PPEs for Indigo airlines and realised that our work was helping in bringing back normalcy. We worked on PPEs until October-November 2021, when the government and the aviation ministry announced that the PPEs wouldn’t be required any more.

During the pandemic, I came to know of women who had lost their jobs. I brought about 60 of them to the factory and they were taken in to make PPEs. They still work at the factory. The lockdown was a time of great difficulty in many homes. A lot of companies had shut down, and people wondered how to put food on the plate. My husband, a driver, had also lost his job but my company hired him. He would transport the special fabric for PPEs from Mumbai to our factory in Pune. We were aware of the risks, but it helped to know that our work was keeping a lot of people safe.

What I want to leave behind from the past two years?

I hope those dreaded days of fear are now behind us. Let us never see another such time. The horror of companies shutting and people left jobless should be a thing of the past

What I am looking forward to in 2023?

I am looking for dreams coming true — my daughter entering an air-hostess academy; everybody having rozi roti and children going to school rather than studying online

— As told to Dipanita Nath





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