For stomach aches, a sprain in the late hours of the night, the first call for help is often to a 24-hour pharmacy. On the other end of the line would be a chemist, much like 46-year-old Prakash Vaishnav, who works for Noble Plus pharmacy at Cuffe Parade.
Pulling off a 12-hour shift — from 9pm to 9am — attending ill, worried or even drunk customers is part of Vaishnav’s job description. On a day when the night shift is assigned to him, Vaishnav, a resident of Bhayandar, has to start from his house at 7 pm. “I sleep all morning and after completing my shift, try to sleep in the train on my way back,” he says.
While keeping a watchful eye on the entrance, Vaishnav explains that the night shift is assigned on the basis of availability of staff. “Sometimes, some staff members are on leave and the manager asks me to do the night shift after the regular shift. So I have to work all day since the pharmacy has to be open at all times.”
Even on such days, anything less than pleasant behaviour at all times is not an option, he says. “Often, people who come here are drunk and behave rudely. We, however, have to be polite with them no matter what and deal with the situation calmly,” he says with a smile.
Vaishnav says most night-time customers are those looking for water bottles, cold drinks or snacks. While the job can be monotonous at times, he also has experiences of dealing with medical emergencies.
“Some time ago, a person was experiencing chest pain and called to ask for medications. We ensured medicines were delivered to him within 15 minutes. In such cases, it feels good to have helped somebody in need,” he says.
With 20 years of experience in the field, Vaishnav takes pride in being a chemist. “It’s an important job as it involves emergency medical service. Since this pharmacy also offers delivery service, we get a lot of calls in the night and every call has to be dealt with,” he says.
Vaishnav hails from Rajasthan and his cousins and friends introduced him to this profession. He has worked in many pharmacies, the last one being opposite Bombay Hospital. He lives with his wife and three children.