Meet Radha. She lives in Gurgaon and is a masseur (maalishwali). Her life has gone upside down since the outbreak of COVID-19 in India. First, her landlord raised an alarm, then came the coronavirus cases, and what followed was a lockdown. For a family of five, where the parents collectively made nearly 50,000 rupees a month, here they are scrambling for five thousand. And this is directly linked to the standstill the lockdown has caused.

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Radha came to Gurgaon eight years ago. She was childless. Then came the children, one by one. She has five of which the first four are daughters. The family wouldn’t listen to her, they wanted a son. Now with five kids to feed, and the couple themselves, they are finding these current circumstances very hard to survive. As part of SheThePeople’s series ‘How Coronavirus Changed My Life’ we spoke to Radha. Her conversation in Hindi has been translated in English below:

“I used to service a lot of big societies in Gurgaon. I even travelled to many sectors to provide services. My first blow was when my landlord said there was an ‘imported’ disease in India and was spreading in mostly the high-rise buildings where people who frequently travel overseas stay. He insisted I stop attending to those clients. He wanted me to not step out and even threatened to ask us to vacate. What changed for the worse was that customers also started fearing the virus and did not want to meet people who visited many homes or came from an area that they were not familiar with. Suddenly, from being someone who frequented homes three to four times a day, I went to none. I was earning 400 rupees a home. Now I have almost zilch.

I was earning 400 rupees a home. Now I have almost zilch.

With the government lockdown, it’s triggered a spiral. I have paid the rent, not thinking we would have this lockdown. I thought I would make up for the earnings in the following week but nothing could happen. We have hardly got any money to buy groceries and almost none for milk. The milkman, I owe 2000 rupees. You know we work like this, on a bit of credit everywhere. Now he has stopped giving us milk because we owe him money. Many of the didis, I work for, are trying to help but that can’t be my only solution. My life post the lockdown is unlikely to lift very quickly. I might be in for a long period of low business or no business because people are not only scared and want to continue with social distancing measures, I will also have a lot of debt to repay. My landlords ‘tanas’ will be another issue I have to deal with. My husband is an auto driver, who mostly spends his money on his drinking. My kids and I are down to one meal a day.

My life post the lockdown is unlikely to lift very quickly. I might be in for a long period of low business or no business because people are not only scared and want to continue with social distancing measures, I will also have a lot of debt to repay. My landlords ‘tanas’ will be another issue I have to deal with.

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From being a family that had a lot sorted out, a good flow of income and these secure jobs, now I am in a position of weakness. Having an abusive husband is no good either. While I earn, I am the one running the house. When I am not, I lose my own confidence. I do hope things come back for the better and soon. For how many people even know how we all are surviving. How we all are dealing with domestic violence. And how we all are seeing our children manage this lockdown in partial hunger.”

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