Mission Delhi – Shailesh Singh, Sainikhera
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His quarantine lasted 14 days.
“It was like chaudah saal ka vanvaas,” says Shailesh Singh, comparing his ordeal to Lord Ram’s 14 years of exile.
Except that his banishment from the familiar world wasn’t in a forest, but in an apartment complex, in Gurgaon’s Sector 31 — the address in the Greater Delhi Region where he has been serving as a much-cherished security officer for a decade. Mr Singh’s brush with the coronavirus pandemic gave him a terrifying glimpse of life’s frailty, but also showed him the generosity of his immediate world, especially of the people among whom he work.
This afternoon, the fresh covid veteran is chatting from his home in Sainikhera village, a 10-minute bike ride to work, surrounded by wife, Shobha Devi, and sons, Aman and Aryan.
He was on duty when tested positive early this month. On notifying the apartment complex residents, reassuring words flowed in instantly. “Brigadier Anand Mohan (resident welfare association’s president) called me on phone saying—‘Shailesh, don’t go home, we are giving you a place to quarantine. We are with you.’”
Mr Singh was put up in a one-room flat for the next two weeks. It had a bed, AC, fridge, and a kitchenette. “Everyone (in the complex) looked after me as if I were a family member… Brigadier Sahab would send homemade meals, so would Karunesh Bhalla-ji (RWA secretary) and many others… somebody would send fruits, somebody would send nariyal paani, somebody would send breakfast…”
He also got medical care. “Doctor Anurag Singh, who lives in the same complex, would monitor my symptoms and send me medicines.”
Such care helped Mr Singh cope with the infection, but he was still alone in the flat. “I was going mad thinking of my wife and sons, of what would become of them if something awful were to happen to me.” His anxieties amplified on hearing the deaths of relatives to Covid in hometown, Gaya. The most consoling part of the day would be the phone chat with wife. In fact, Shobha Devi made him fish curry to mark his return home two days ago.
The security officer feels that his recovery, where so many others succumbed to the deadly virus, is a matter of chance. “From now on I will help people as generously as I can,” he says in a voice emotional with a naked earnestness. He plans to get back to “duty” in a few days.
[This is the 405th portrait of Mission Delhi project]