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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Faces behind Figures: Farewell, dear father

The Indian Express brings to you the devastation wreaked by novel coronavirus on numerous families across Chandigarh who lost their sole breadwinner, leaving their children to fend for themselves.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh |
Updated: June 7, 2021 1:01:32 pm
Faces behind Figures: Farewell, dear fatherUmesh, the sole bread-earner, used to work as a senior assistant at DAV School, Sector 8, Chandigarh. (Express photo)

They meant the world to their families. Fathers, mothers, the virus did not spare anyone. The Indian Express brings to you the devastation wreaked by novel coronavirus on numerous families across the tricity who lost their sole breadwinner, leaving their children to fend for themselves.

A family at the mercy of others

Varinder Sharma, 45

Leaves behind: Wife, a daughter (17) and a son (10)
Passed away on April 17, 2021

Life shattered into a million pieces for Seema Sharma when she lost her husband Varinder Sharma to COVID-19 in April.

Life shattered into a million pieces for Seema Sharma when she lost her husband Varinder Sharma to COVID-19 in April. Left with two children, a 17-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, who still can’t fathom how their happy home has turned into a place of grief, she is struggling to stay afloat amidst a mountain of responsibilities.

Varinder had mortgaged his house in Pinjore and gold ornaments to invest in a startup with two others. With Varinder no more, the company is on the verge of closure. And Seema has no source of income.

Right now, an uncle’s group of colleagues and friends are contributing a bit every month so that the family can make ends meet for the next six months until Seema finds a job.

Varinder’s brother Sandeep Singh, says, “There are so many expenses such as the school fees… for the time being I have requested my friends to contribute so that we can help the family meet the bare expenses until we look for some job for Seema.”

Varinder passed away at Sector 6 civil hospital, Panchkula, after he developed lung infection. The family says he had gone to Delhi thrice to take pending payment from where they suspect he contracted COVID-19.

All about survival now

UMESH KUMAR, 52
Leaves behind: Wife, a son and a daughter
Passed away on April 9, 2021

They lived in a small rented house at Dhanas but they were a happy family. Umesh, the sole bread-earner, used to work as a senior assistant at DAV School, Sector 8, Chandigarh, and was satisfied with his life.

Less than two months after his death, Rajni, his widow, is wondering whether she should ask her elder son, 17, to look for a job. “I am ready to do any work. We don’t know how long our savings will last. Both the kids are studying and the house is also on rent. I am frantically looking for a job, and I think it makes sense for my son to get some work as well. Even the rent of the house is Rs 8000 per month,” says Rajni.

Umesh got his test done at PGIMER after the school asked him to and he was found positive. A health team gave him a COVID kit and Umesh continued to remain at home under observation. It was after his oxygen level fell to 91 that doctors hospitalised him with the promise to bring him back when his oxygen level stabilised. Little did the family know that it would be Umesh’s last day at home.

On April 6, Umesh was taken to Government Multi Specialty Hospital, Sector 16, where his oxygen level continued to fall. The family requested that he be referred to Government Medical College and Hospital Sector 32. On the evening of April 8, he was shifted and on April 9 morning, the family got a call around 5 am that he was critical. “At 8 am, they said he had passed away,” sobs Rajni.

A school-going son hunts for work

BAHADUR SINGH, 48, BUS DRIVER

Leaves behind: Wife and two sons
Passed away on April 4, 2021

Everyone remembers Bahadur Singh, driver of a school bus, as a happy-go-lucky man, with a ready laugh. Novel coronavirus that took away this lively man has also robbed his family of all joy. Today his wife and sons have just one worry: how to get by in life.
His elder son Gilman, a student of Class XII, says, “Papa used to say I will do the hard work, you kids study and make a good life for yourself…He used to earn around Rs 11,000 a month but we were content. Now, we don’t have a paisa left.’’
With a younger brother in Class VIII and mother a homemaker, the youngster is looking for a job.
“I want to pursue higher studies but right now I must earn to keep a roof over our head and food on the table.’’

Bahadur Singh was suffering from liver problem and was admitted to PGI with COVID-19 where he passed away.

Death of a guard

RAJESH KUMAR, 53

Leaves behind: His wife, a son and daughter.

Passed away on April 27, 2021

Rajesh Kumar was working as a security guard with Hotel Mount View Hotel in Sector 10, Chandigarh, when on April 8 he was admitted to GMSH- 16 with COVID-19.

Rajesh Kumar was working as a security guard with Hotel Mount View Hotel in Sector 10, Chandigarh, when on April 8 he was admitted to GMSH- 16 with COVID-19. Mukul, his elder son who was in BA-II, has decided to leave his college so that he can make ends meet.

“We have to continue with our life, regardless of the circumstances. Mother knows a bit of stitching, we hope she will be able to earn a bit through that. I am interested in DJing, so I will try to get some work once the curbs are relaxed,’’ says Mukul, who wants his sister to continue her education. “She is good at studies, papa wanted her to study and become something in life,” he adds.

Rajesh Kumar was admitted to GMSH-16 after he contracted novel coronavirus. Mukul says he needed an ICU bed but there wasn’t any available.

“We still can’t believe he is gone. Every day, I wake up, thinking he will walk in any moment.’’

Present tense, future uncertain

VISHNU LAL, 43

Leaves behind: Two sons and wife
Passed away on September 19, 2020

It has been almost eight months that Vishnu Lal, a resident of Sector 25 who used to work at Allen coaching Institute, passed away because of COVID-19, but the family is yet to find its mooring.

Kusum says she is grateful that “I am grateful that the institute where my husband was working is giving me a pension of Rs 2800 and 700 each for both my sons who are studying, it’s just not enough to make ends meet. So I have started sewing work.’’

What worries her the most is the education of her sons. While the younger is in Class IX, the elder, who is 18, is pursuing an Electronics engineering diploma from indo-swiss training centre sector 30 Chandigarh . “With lockdown, work is scarce, I fear that if I don’t start earning a steady sum in near future, I will have to pull them out of school.’’

It was on August 19 last year that the family was diagnosed with COVID.

Kusum’s biggest regret is that she and the kids couldn’t see Vishnu for one last time. “We were quarantined. Vishnu was admitted in a hospital for over a month. On September 19, a doctor called up to say that he had developed complications and was unable to breathe. A few minutes later, we got a call saying that he was no more. One call and our world came crashing down,” she sobs.

Dreams cut short

INDERPAL SINGH, RETD NAIB TEHSILDAR

Leaves behind: Wife and four children

Passed away on April 1, 2021

Inder Pal Singh, 58, who retired as Naib Tehsildar with Chandigarh administration was preparing for an interview for re-employment with the Municipal Corporation.

Inder Pal Singh, 58, who retired as Naib Tehsildar with Chandigarh administration was preparing for an interview for re-employment with the Municipal Corporation. Little did he know that he would pass away before the interview day on May 10.

Singh, a resident of Khuda Ali Sher, leaves behind his wife and four children. While his two elder daughters are married, the younger daughter is in Class X and youngest son in Class VII.

Last year, on August 31, the family had celebrated when Singh hung his boots. His wife says he had promised to focus on his two younger kids. But that was not to be. Today, she has other concerns. For one, she is yet to get family pension even though it’s been over two months since Singh passed away.

Manpreet, one of his married daughters who is here from Ludhiana, sobs, “Dad was a kidney patient on dialysis. Then he got COVID and we lost him. He had thought of renovating our house after retirement because it is 30 years old. He had high hopes for my brother, wanted to make him an IAS officer but all his dreams remain unfulfilled.”

A wife struggles to step into her husband’s shoes

DHARAMDEV, 45

Leaves behind: Wife and two sons

Passed away on May 12, 2021

Dharam Dev with his family

‘‘Haunsla nahi reh gaya ab to,’’ says Rekha as she sits at a small kiryana shop which her husband Dharamdev used to run. She is in mourning, struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of her husband. They are residents of Mullanpur.

“One day he fainted at home. When we rushed him to the Government Multi Specialty Hospital, they said he has passed away. Later, he tested positive for COVID-19. I couldn’t believe how this could be possible. Our life was shattered,” she said.

Rekha says since last week, she has reopened the shop her husband used to run. “I can still feel him talking to customers…it is hard. I am not cut out for this work. I don’t want to be here, but I have to fend for my two sons who are in Class X,” she adds.

Bread-winner gone, family leaves for Uttarakhand

SHASHI KUMAR, 35

Leaves behind: Wife and three kids

Passed away on May 14, 2021

Shashi Kumar used to work as a tailor at Sarangpur

Shashi Kumar, who used to work as a tailor at Sarangpur, had dreamt of a bright future for his children, studying in Class IV, VI and VIII, in Chandigarh. After COVID-19 cut short his life last month, his family has returned to their native village in Uttarakhand.

“How can I return when I don’t have any job?’’ asks his wife Anju on phone. She says they used to stay at a rented accommodation at Sarangpur. “Recently, they increased the rent from Rs 3000 to Rs 5000. It is due for two months and I don’t know from where I will pay this sum.’’

At home with her family, Anju is relying on them for financial support. “Whatever savings I had, I spent on my husband’s treatment,” she adds.

Shashi had developed fever while in Chandigarh. When he felt a little better, the family headed for their native place near Haridwar for a visit. The moment he reached, he started having trouble breathing. He was admitted to hospital for two days and died hours after his discharge.

Father gone, daughter’s dreams at stake

ROSHAN LAL CHANNALIA, 62

Leaves behind: Wife, a daughter and son

Passed away on April 30, 2021

Roshan passed away at Alchemist hospital after struggling for days at GMSH-16.

Roshan Lal, a former Income Tax officer, was known for his wacky sense of humour. His wife Kanta says he had a gift for keeping everyone around him in high spirits.

Kanta, who has retired from the UT Secretariat, says Roshan’s death has come as a shock for the family. “My eldest son is mentally and physically disabled while my daughter is in Class XII. It’s been almost a month since Roshan passed away, but they find it hard to believe that he is no more.’’

Roshan passed away at Alchemist hospital after struggling for days at GMSH-16. “He had some problem in the liver and that’s how things worsened,’’ says Kanta.

Kanta says, “I am retired and my pension I earn goes into day-to-day expenses,” says Kanta, who is now worried about her daughter Khushi.

“My husband wanted her to take the UPSC exam. He was very particular about her studies. Now I am more worried about our daily expenses.’’

A ques mark on the studies of two bright kids

JASBIR SINGH, 45

Leaves behind: Wife, a son and a daughter

Passed away on August 29, 2020

Jasbir Singh had succumbed to COVID-19 in August last year.

Jasvir Singh worked as a mechanic with a reputed automobile company and his sole aim was to see his children shine bright in studies. His efforts had started bearing fruit when his son got admission in Computer Science in Punjab Engineering College. His younger daughter who is in Class X in a Chandigarh school is also said to be one of the brightest students in the class.

Everything was going well in the family until the black day of August 29 when COVID snuffed out Singh’s life.

“He was admitted in GMSH-16 and the doctors said he was facing some problem of breathlessness. By the time we reached, he had passed away. He had problems of blood pressure and diabetes too,” says Singh’s brother Karnail.

His elder son Nirmal, appeared for JEE Advanced, just a fortnight after his father’s death. “He couldn’t get a better rank because he was so devastated. He had prepared a lot and then this happened,’’ rues his uncle Karnail.

He also added that the money that was received from Life Insurance was spent on Nirmal’s semester- around Rs 96000. “Now, we don’t know how we will pay for their studies in future,” Karnail wrings his hands.

The family is adrift. Their monthly income has stopped but expenses remain the same. Their biggest worry: education of two promising kids. As his wife Neelam puts it, “Things have changed, I don’t know how I will pay for my children’s education.’’

DEEPAK SOLANKI, 55

Leaves behind: Wife and a seven-year-old son

Passed away on September 23, 2020

Deepak Solanki with his wife and son.

Even a stone cold heart would melt on seeing the grief of Solanki family in Sector 22, Chandigarh. A small family with one child was shattered in minutes after the father succumbed to COVID-19. Deepak Solanki was working as a bike cab driver when he contracted coronavirus in Vadodara, and passed on soon afterwards.

Heartbroken after Deepak’s death, his wife Monika moved to her parents’ house in Sector 22. Her son, a student of Class 3, is admitted in a government school in Chandigarh.

“I just can’t tell you how terrible it feels to lose the head of the family. I used to feel so wretched wondering what will I do if my son falls ill, so I moved back with my parents,” Monika told The Indian Express.

Soon afterwards, she found a job with a private company for around Rs 6000 a month. “I didn’t want to become a burden on my 76-year-old father,” says Monika. Her mission in life: to bring up her son as best as she can.

A Class XII student takes the place of his dad

RAVINDER PRAKASH, 41

Leaves behind: Wife and three sons

Passed away on September 12, 2020

Ravinder Prakash was working as an LIC agent.

Ravinder Prakash, the sole bread-earner of his family, was working as an LIC agent when corona struck. His eldest son is now looking for a part-time job to sustain his family.

The family is a resident of small flats Maloya. His eldest son Adarsh, 18, a student of Class XII, told The Indian Express, “Papa was the only one who used to earn and that’s how we used to meet our expenses. My mother is a housewife and has never stepped out for work. Now I am thinking of working as a delivery boy even though I know they are paid poorly. But with two brothers studying in Class X and VI, I have no choice.’’

Ravinder was admitted in Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, with COVID-19, and passed away on September 12, 2020. “Papa developed pneumonia in both lungs and couldn’t survive,’’ says Adarsh.

The youngster says he is determined to both study and earn. “My father was a pillar of strength, I want to be like him.’’

Father gone, back to UP for family

JATINDER GUPTA, 41

Leaves behind: Wife and two sons

Passed away on July 10, 2020

Jatinder Gupta with his family.

A resident of Sector 52, Gupta used to sell vegetables and earn a living for a family of four. His sons, one 11 and the other 6 are still unable to understand why they haven’t been able to see their dad for almost a year now.

His wife Kanchan Gupta says she returned to her family’s place in Uttar Pradesh as she doesn’t know how to manage her kids alone.

“I do want them to study but I don’t know how. It is going to be almost a year but I don’t have any job. I came to UP because there was no one to care about us in Chandigarh, we felt abandoned. My elder son was studying in a government school, at least someone should have come forward to help us.”

Kanchan said she tried but couldn’t sell vegetables. “He is gone, we have been left at the mercy of others now.’’

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