Heroes in the neighbourhood

#my2020hero is an initiative by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation (CPB) to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of real-life heroes by sharing their stories.

Vanchha's 2020 Hero is Tai ji, the sanitation worker (2020-11-23) by Vanchha Dixit#COVIDHeroes

Tai ji, Sanitation Worker, Hardoi

Fondly called ‘Tai ji’, an old lady who works as a sanitation worker in Vanchha’s village is her 2020 hero. Tai ji is more than an employee to Vanchha’s family — she’s been a constant fixture in her life since her childhood, her work continuing to help the lives of numerous families over decades.

"I salute and respect her for her work,” says Vanchha, entreating readers to help Tai ji maneuver life during the pandemic as she continues to work despite the threat of the virus.

Subhash's 2020 Hero is the delivery person (2020-11-19) by Subhash Purohit#COVIDHeroes

Delivery Woman, Kolhapur

“This image shows a woman carrying a big load of daily supply on her back to deliver to the needy,” says Subhash, struck by the sight of a delivery worker carrying a heavy burden to someone’s doorstep.

In the aftermath of the economic and financial upheaval that followed the lockdown, workers such as this delivery woman were often hard-pressed to put their own lives and health at risk to make ends meet.

Awed by her unflinching effort, Subhash says, "this shows that women are as capable as men of working hard to help ease tough situations." 

He has since witnessed several more remarkable women going above and beyond to help those in need during the pandemic.

Amitava's 2020 Hero is Sakil, the water delivery person (2020-11-29) by Amitava Chandra#COVIDHeroes

Sakil, Kolkata

"While most residential societies had shut doors to poor communities instead of providing them with daily provisions, Sakil took no pain in supplying drinking water to the slums and shanties of the street people,” says Amitava, lauding the selflessness of his 2020 hero.

“Every day, he used to restore the liquid lifeline twice for the poorest section uninterruptedly, without there being any tangible benefits for himself. He deserves to be my Hero of 2020."

Amitava's 2020 Hero is Shanti di, his house help (2020-11-29) by Amitava Chandra#COVIDHeroes

Shanti di, Househelp, Kolkata

“Shanti di was very serious about her only son’s education,” says Amitava, marveling at his household help’s readiness to spend time on her son’s studies despite having to toil on chores for the rest of the day.

“Her unstinted zeal to prioritize education led to him being selected as a medical student, who completed his internship in early 2019,” he continues, acknowledging Shanti’s holistic involvement in educating her son, who now serves as a doctor for commoners and continues to provide tremendous medical support with local authorities.

Suraj's 2020 Hero is Deepak, the housekeeping staff (2020-11-21) by Suraj Katra#COVIDHeroes

Housekeeping staff, Mumbai

"I spent the lockdown in one of the high-rise building complexes in South Mumbai,” says Suraj, describing the way he came across the housekeeping staff of the building living on the premises.

“They stayed back not only to remain employed, but also to minimise the risk of spreading the virus,” Suraj continues, adding, "their salaries and tasks might seem menial, and very few residents might even know them by name, but their choice to work during this period allowed residents like me to 'heal' and feel 'safe'.”

"In this image is Deepak, who works eight-hour shifts operating the sewage treatment plant. The plant can recycle nearly 2,00,000 liters of water every day, which is re-used to a large extent for flushing and gardening."

Suraj's 2020 Hero is Santosh, the housekeeping staff (2020-11-21) by Suraj Katra#COVIDHeroes

“Santosh visits the building every week to transport our waste to the local waste collection point."

Suraj's 2020 Hero is Bhanu, the housekeeping staff (2020-11-21) by Suraj Katra#COVIDHeroes

“Bhanu, who is in charge of waste segregation and composting, stepped out for the first time in three months to attend a family wedding."

Suraj's 2020 Heroes are Roy & Deepak, the housekeeping staff (2020-11-21) by Suraj Katra#COVIDHeroes

"Roy (40) and Deepak (27) work eight-hour shifts at the Sewage Treatment Plant. They ensure that the water flow, process, and pressure are maintained and that the sewage does not overflow. The plant can recycle nearly 2,00,000 liters of water every day, which is re-used to a large extent for flushing and gardening."

Suraj's 2020 Heroes are Laxmi & Rekha, the housekeeping staff (2020-11-21) by Suraj Katra#COVIDHeroes

"Every day, Laxmi and Rekha make their way down from the 45th floor, collecting the waste left out by apartments. They’ve been working in waste management for a couple of years, and prefer this job instead of working as domestic help."

Meenakshi's 2020 Hero is E.Poornima, Sanitation worker (2020-11-21) by Meenakshi Vydianathan#COVIDHeroes

Poornima, Sanitation Worker, Chennai

“Poornima and her colleagues, who are as sanitation contract workers in Sholinganallur, are my heroes,” says Meenakshi. Hired on contract, the sanitation workers Meenakshi refers to are paid by the hour instead of being given a regular stipend, making it especially challenging for them to make ends meet.

“Poornima, having lost her husband a few years back, does her job with great happiness,” adds Meenakshi, inspired by Poornima’s resilience in the face of a strenuous day job while most of us continue to work from the comfort of our homes.

Rags' 2020 Hero is Muthu, the vegetable vendor (2020-11-21) by Rags Raghavan#COVIDHeroes

Muthu, Vegetable Vendor, Chennai

"When the intense lockdown was imposed, an impossible scenario descended upon us. Basic food became a challenge,” says Rags, thinking back to food scarcity and the trials faced in refilling empty larders during the pandemic.

“The few vegetables or fruits we had at home had all been consumed. Barely anyone wanted to risk the stampede at vegetable shops, and if they did, the stocks in the shops flew off the shelves almost instantly. One day, Muthu arrived on our doorstep like a breath of fresh air, bringing fresh fruits and vegetables,” he adds, feeling indebted to Muthu for having helped tide her family over during the pandemic by putting food on the table.

“Muthu continues doing business down our street,” continues Rags, proudly announcing his upgrade from a three-wheel push-cart to a smart minivan. “I am joined by so many families down our road who applaud and sing in praise of Muthu!"

Credits: Story

All entries are submitted by the public in response to #my2020hero open call jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation (CPB)

Exhibited entries:
Vanchha Dixit, Hardoi
Subhash Purohit, Kolhapur
Amitava Chandra, Kolkata
Suraj Katra, Chennai
Meenakshi Vydianathan, Chennai
Rags Raghavan, Chennai

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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