A month into the lockdown after his business took a hit, a 36-year-old man otherwise running a successful business moved from his rented three-bedroom house in to his brother’s house. In an attempt to spread over his savings across the coming months, he also decided to home tutor his 7-year-old son.
Now as their savings dwindle, the family attempts to begin coaching classes at home, but after a month’s struggle have only found one student.
Pankaj Aggarwal, originally from Kairana, a small village in Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, had shifted to Panchkula at the age of 25. It took him several menial jobs to pay for his MSc and computer classes while also saving some money and launch his own business of designing ID cards for schools and offices, visiting cards, and logos for small start-ups.
However, amid the lockdown, as schools and colleges start new batches in a remote set up, his hard work of more than ten year has come undone. “It took me several years to only explore the market and find an appropriate need-based business which could earn me some decent money. Back then I was young and could still bear the burden of struggle. But I do not know how to begin from the beginning now,” he said, dejected.
The lockdown was imposed just as Aggarwal and his wife were set to have a second child. Sensing a grim financial situation that may arise in the future, he made the move to his brother’s house.
“We decided on keeping our child out of the online classes as we could not pay his fees. Even the school remained least bothered and did not send us any links for online classes nor did they call to ask for fee,” said Sarita, as she worried about her son’s future. “I am home tutoring him every day which is much better than the online classes. A first standard student cannot be expected to stare at a screen and study, but the government does not understand that. What is the most that could happen? He might have to repeat another class, but we don’t have any other option at the moment,” she added.
Meanwhile, Aggarwal still frequents the schools and organisations that owe him money from last year’s work. “He keeps frequenting offices of schools and offices for which he made ID cards last year. They deny him saying they have no money amid the pandemic. But the work was done last year, they have already taken money from the parents of the children who received their ID cards. The pandemic has just become an excuse for organisations to not repay money they owe,” sighed Sarita, who is taking tuitions to support the family.
“I have a baby who is just a few months old. It gets difficult to even think of teaching children with her in my lap. Even though my husband helps out, I can only teach one student at the moment,” she added.
Fretting over the future of his business, Aggarwal has now started looking for other ideas. “I don’t think my business will be useful for even next year. All that I built over a period of several years is lost. I will have to begin again- from the very bottom.”
(Names in the story have been changed to honor the family’s request for anonymity.)
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