City Life – Security Guard Shailesh Singh’s “Sansar”, Gurgaon
Call of duty.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Shobha Devi pleaded, cajoled and finally started crying, asking him not to leave the house. She also reminded her husband that “Modiji”, the prime minister himself, had asked the citizens not to step out of the “Lakshman Rekha” of home during the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Shailesh Singh, 35, understood his wife’s anxieties but left nevertheless, with a heavy heart, to perform his duty. A security officer in a Gurgaon apartment complex in the Greater Delhi Region, “I could not sit at home and let my colleagues on their own… I have several guards working under me… where would they find motivation if I stayed home?”
One early morning, Mr Singh is talking on WhatsApp from the grounds of the said apartment complex—the picture is taken through the phone screen that connects him to The Delhi Walla. In a smoothly flowing Hindi, the soft-spoken man explains that he, along with other security staff, is stationed 24/7 in the apartment complex. “We guards cook our meals together.” He adds that the housing complex’s resident welfare association is “providing our rations and the caring board members are looking after us like their own children.”
Though his family is staying only a few miles away, in a house they rent in Sainik Khera village, Mr Singh isn’t going to meet them for the time being “just in case I have the virus — I don’t want to pass it on to them.”
This has been a sensitive time at work. “We don’t let anyone without a mask and we are taking the temperature of everyone entering or leaving the complex.”
Mr Singh admits he feels scared of catching the infection himself. “The nature of the job is such that you have to come into close contact with so many people… and though we are taking all precautions, there is always a risk of the virus getting to you in a way or another.”
He however takes pains not to discuss such insecurities with his wife, with whom he exchanges phone calls at least a few times a day “for I don’t want to add to her tensions.” Before he left the house on the eve of the lockdown, Mr Singh bought Shobha Devi several weeks worth of ration, while “she manages to buy fresh vegetables daily.”
His face covered behind a mask, the security guard explains it is the first time he has been away from his wife since their marriage in 2006. “My sons are missing me too.” Aman, 12, often calls him on the mobile and Aryan, 9, says, “Papa, ghar aa jao (come home).”
Then there are also worried phone calls from his home town, Gaya, in Bihar. “Bhayya and bhabhi want me to return with the family. I can’t. But we will visit for a holiday, after the lockdown ends.”
Duty comes first, Mr Singh repeats. He is not romantic about bravery though, he clarifies. “I’m a human being and I greatly fear for my personal safety.” He also realises the comparative value of a man’s worth. “For people living in the apartment complex, I’m just a part of the security, but for my family I’m the sansar (world).
A minute after this chat, he WhatsApps a picture of his “sansar”—wife Shobha Devi and sons.
Mr Singh’s world