[Stories of hope] Despite the pandemic, this housekeeping staff at BKC Mumbai comes to work every day without fail

Despite the many lockdowns, Wilma Anand Swami comes to work at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai every day. As a single mother, she says she has no choice but to do so.
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While the second wave of the COVID pandemic has brought a sense of gloom and doom across the country, it’s also imperative to tell stories of hope and resilience of ordinary citizens during the crisis.

With several states announcing complete curfews and lockdowns, normal life has been paralysed. Jobs have been hit and a large number of people are facing many challenges to make a living.

One diligent and enterprising woman is braving the alarming COVID situation in Mumbai to reach her place of work every day without fail. Wilma Anand Swami, a 37-year-old contractual worker employed at the Raheja corporate office at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), works nine hours diligently as part of her housekeeping duties. Employed through the Compass Agency, she shows up for work every morning with a smile on her face, say her colleagues.

“I do not have a choice. I can earn an income only if I come to work. If I choose to stay at home, my family will go hungry,” Wilma tells HerStory over a phone call from Mumbai.

She admits it’s challenging to go to work every day, which she does partly by bus and partly on foot. But the biggest advantage is that she stays in Bandra itself and therefore does not have to travel far to BKC.

Six years ago, Wilma’s husband died by suicide. Following the loss, she started helping her mother sell candles near the Mahim church. But once the pandemic set in, she lost that source of income too. She says she had to literally beg for money from different sources to keep her family afloat during these trying times.

Luckily, she managed to get a job as a housekeeping staff at the BKC and she managed to hold onto it despite the lockdowns and the spread of the virus in Mumbai.

“I make sure that I mask up properly, wear gloves, and sanitise well. Once I get home, I make sure I have a bath and then only begin my household work. I will get myself vaccinated as soon as it opens up for my age group,” she says.

Wilma has two sons, and she is concerned about their future. The elder one, who is 20, discontinued his studies after Grade XII, and now sits at home doing nothing. She is afraid he will fall into bad company without much to do. The younger one is still in school and is attending online classes.

These may be the woes of a single mother, but they are genuine and exacerbated by the severity of the pandemic in a city like Mumbai. But Wilma is optimistic.

“I have very good people around me. The staff where I work is very helpful and has often pooled in to help me out whenever I faced any rough situation. The kindness of strangers is what keeps me going,” she says.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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