COVID-19 turns blessing in disguise for 15 Meghalaya youth in the city of Chennai


FEATURE | SEPT 5, 2020:

By Laxmi Chyrmang

COVID-19 pandemic just got easier and has over time become a blessing in disguise for 15 youth hailing from Meghalaya working in Chennai since 2014. At a time when employees working in the hospitality sector are being laid off, these youth are relatively free from the fear of losing their job and other insecurities amid the pandemic, and this is what they are grateful for.

We have read quite a lot from across media platforms, and it does not surprise us to know of migrant workers losing their jobs either by being fired or because they quit as the situation right now needs everyone to be safe and close with their families.

However, this is a story about 15 youth who have had a revealing journey and found a home away from home!

The young people started their journey in 2014. While talking to them, one of the employees, Vallarie Siangshai, said finding a job in our state was difficult. We had financial commitments and problems, so we started looking for job opportunities outside our state. We are thankful to DB Tech for allowing people like us to get a proper job outside of our state.

A home away from home, Pumpkin Tales, located in the heart of Chennai, one of the top 50 restaurants and catering services in India does not give up on their employees. They were promised food, shelter and salary despite being the worst-hit industry and the last to recover in the country.

While talking to the owner of the restaurant, Chindi Vardarajulu said, "It is true that the restaurant industry is one of the worst-hit sectors because of the pandemic. No one expected the lockdown situation to go on for so long. It has forced a lot of restaurants to shut operations. In the absence of any support from the government for the industry, it forces restaurants to lay off employees or withhold their salaries with a heavy heart. That being said, we have a well-motivated team that has stuck with us during the crisis and we are more than happy to keep them with us and pay them in full for their commitment and trust that they have shown us."

She further added, "We have many people from Meghalaya. We also have many people from Darjeeling and other parts of West Bengal. We would hire from anywhere in India if anyone is interested. However, since we have been referred by a good deal of old and ex-employees for being a good employer and working with DB Tech from both Meghalaya and Darjeeling, we seem to get more candidates from these 2 states. And especially the candidates from Shillong have a good command over English and are highly motivated to come to a new place and learn."

When asked about how she handled her business during the COVID 19 crisis, she said, "We acted quickly and with foresight. So we have made some minor changes to the way we work and have transitioned well from a dine-in restaurant to a setup that is primarily sending out takeout food. This has helped us manage the situation for the time being," she said.

The rules and guidelines are simple and common. The difference is in adhering to them consistently. We make sure we follow simple guidelines like wearing masks, washing our hands, disinfecting touch points strictly and taking supplements for our immunity.

"On a personal and professional front, we have learnt great big lessons about trusting our instincts, persevering and not giving up, staying optimistic and making the best of the situation and most definitely having faith in ourselves", she added.

In conversation with the team;

"There were a lot of obstacles in the beginning but we made sure that we did not let all of that affect us. They said the fact that we come from a chilly place is quite a challenge to start with. The weather, the food and language are all different but somehow we managed and so far it has been 6 years for us in this beautiful city," the team said.

Expressing their initial apprehensions, the team added, "During the COVID-19, we faced a unique set of challenges. We didn't think it was a good idea to leave the city as we too feared catching the virus on our way home. We are glad that in this situation where people are losing their jobs; we are safe, with a job in hand and a roof over our head. We have good management that provides us with food, shelter and salary. We are very grateful to them as they always treat us as their children and we are grateful to our family also for praying for us every day."

"In this situation, everyone would like to be with their family, so do we. At first, we considered going back to our hometown. But we decided not to go since the virus is so dangerous and it scared us to leave our accommodation, even though there was a train which the government had provided. The security of food to eat and a roof over our head was all that we needed at that moment. However, our management ensured that we all were safe and also provided us with vitamins. Our mantra is 'Stay strong and positive and daily prayers to keep our loved one's safe. Work hard for our families."

The team who had an experience said that it is ok if we do not get a job in our state, just explore and as always work hard to achieve a better life. At least something is better than nothing. "You will never know when life will surprise you."

The owner also added that considering the sheer size of the industry and the number of people dependent on it, a bailout from the government will help in taking at least a small part of the load off restaurateurs, if it does come by. "The hospitality sector will revive much sooner than 5 years."

This heartwarming story is enough to restore faith in humanity, especially at a time when we all need it most.