Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
Siliguri's first woman toto (e-rickshaw) driver has been offering free rides to the coronavirus infected patients and also delivering medicines, groceries and other essentials to the patients under home quarantine.
48-year-old Munmun Sarkar who smashed the gender stereotype with getting behind the wheels has once again crossed the 'stigma' boundaries to help the people in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Most drivers refuse to carry COVID patients out of fear of catching the infection. Even ambulances charge huge amounts. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 and have tested negative also find it difficult to arrange transport to go home," Munmun said, reported The Telegraph.
Munmun has ferried over 100 patients till now and she explained the reason behind the decision of not-charging the customers.
She said that she decided against charging them since the patients are already going through a rough time with expenses and possibly would not be in a position to pay her.
She later explained the precautions she has to take while offering the rides. She wears a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kit, carries a thermal testing gun in her toto, and sanitises her vehicle twice a day. Also, before getting any passenger on board her vehicle, she gets him or her sanitised.
This has not only affected her income but also made her vulnerable to the stigma attached to COVID. However, Munmun has remained undeterred by the circumstances. Her earnings went down from ₹8,000 to ₹6,000 a month. Besides, bearing the additional sanitisation expenses of ₹3,000.
"People used to tease and shout at me but this did not stop me," she said.
Sarkar's greatest support comes from her husband, Ananda, 56. He works in the construction business with a modest earning of ₹15,000 a month.
"We stay in different rooms after I started ferrying COVID-19 patients as a precaution," she said.
She also delivers essentials to those under home isolation. "I understand their mental state. They're ill and many people are scared to help them. At a time like this, if I can bring them their essentials, they get some respite," she added.
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