TIRUCHY: While we all sit at home during the lockdown, there are a few who do not have that luxury. In fact, it is only because they report for duty that we are able to relax at home. They are the people who guard our homes, apartments, offices and commercial establishments - the watchmen or guards.
Muthuraman (70) works at an apartment in Thennur. He has a 24-hour shift and no holidays, all for a paltry sum of `6,000 per month. The day after the lockdown, his reliever did not turn up as he had been stopped by police. This watchman had to work for 48 hours straight.
For many like Muthuraman, staying at home is not an option. They walk or cycle to work and are often stopped by police. It is a harrowing journey for them, but they do it because it is their duty. Palanisamy (66) works as a guard outside a building in Thillai Nagar. He had to do extra duty during the lockdown as his reliever, too, could not come.
He had to rely on food given by well-wishers for his eight hours’ extra duty. “I am not afraid of the virus. My family is, but I have to work. It is my duty. Who will protect the people of this building? My good work will ensure I am safe,” said Palanisamy.
Most watchmen are senior citizens, as they are willing to work for a meagre salary. Families of these guards are worried sick, but know they do not have an option. “My wife and kids tell me not to come to work. But who will provide for the family? Poor people do not have the option of being scared. Even worrying is a luxury of the rich,” laughs Raja, a guard who works at an ATM.
Many of these men are now doing extra jobs at the places they work, as maids have not been coming. Muthuraman has to sweep, mop and clean the buttons in the lift every hour, clean the railings and a whole host of other work, as the temperature rises.Are they taking enough care of themselves? That is a question that most of them seem to be taking lightly.