Here’s an extraordinary pandemic story of how so many displaced people adapted, changed and survived during the past 18 months, which saw the world spinning 180 degrees. Reinvention became the name of the survival game. Without realising it, all of us were compelled to adapt and change, acquire new habits, rejig priorities and put our full force into staying on top. Grit and determination brought out the bahurupiyas in all of us. We dropped old masks and wore new ones! We looked at our newly-minted selves with wonder, and thanked our stars just to be alive.
We were mute witnesses to Covid-19 deaths on a daily basis, as day after day, we heard tragic stories of loss and helplessness. The human brain is wired for survival, so, even as graphic and painful stories of suffering and loss surrounded us, we still managed to retain our sanity and keep going. But just think of people like the trending #cylinderman, whose random photograph clicked by a passing photographer, made him an overnight social media sensation — with good reason! A 29-year-old called Sagar Jadhav from Ambernath had spent most of his adult life being mocked for his scrawny frame, till he decided to change his physical appearance and find a new life. Tushar Bhamre, a PR professional, secretly shot a picture of an unknown beefy man leaning against a gas cylinder van, and posted the pic on FB! Boom! ‘Cylinder Man’ briefly became the most talked about person, with animated conversations about the ‘muscleman’ with an intense expression, who seemed lost in his own world.
Jadhav, orphaned early in life, has been working with the agency since the age of 17. He weighed 50kgs as a youngster, and soon discovered what it takes to make more money as a gas delivery man — stamina and strength. Like he said in an interview, “The more you deliver, the more money you get. I joined a gym and now weigh 78kgs.” He delivers 60 to 70 cylinders a day. But hey! Life is about to change for Jadhav — he has been flooded with calls and compliments after the FB post. I’m guessing, Bollywood will be calling him soon — imagine the promos! ‘Sagar Jadhav in and as The Delivery Man’! Bhamre — the smart PR professional who invited Jadhav home after the post went nuts, will no doubt, guide his ‘discovery’, who has now become a poster boy of sorts. After all, pandemic or no pandemic, everybody waits for the gas delivery guy to show up on time!
Another incredible story which could easily be made into an intriguing web series or a reality show, involves a youngish, female circus artist, who found herself starving, homeless and desperate after the circus folded up the huge tent and let go of their acrobats and other performers during the national lockdown in March 2020. She decided to try her luck as house help, even though she had never done ‘ghar ka kaam’ before. She prided herself as a performing artist who was used to attention and applause in the big ring, as she deftly undertook dangerous acts, including spinning giddily from a brace around her neck, dressed in gaudy tinsel costumes, with heavy, dramatic make-up on her face. From living as a part of the travelling circus troupe, sleeping in makeshift tents with her co-performers (animals), in close proximity, our girl was not cut out for life in a fussy SoBo home, which expected her to set the table correctly, and know the difference between a fish and butter knife. Undaunted, she cheerfully sallied forth, and quickly learnt how to say, “Good morning, sir!” and keep daily hisaab-kitaab. It was obvious, she missed her old life, the taalis, the fame and much else. It was not enough to shoot nightly videos singing and gyrating to her favourite Bollywood songs, after washing the last dish, and getting into garish costumes, imagining she was back entertaining the crowds. As soon as the restrictions lifted a bit, she invented some silly excuse and quit her chi chi job.
There are umpteen stories like the two I’ve shared. Stories that make us marvel at the human spirit and its malleability. We are all proteans, capable of taking any shape and adapting to new, alien, even hostile environments. Then come the downers — the evil, inexplicable avatars of ‘regular’ people, whose monster side surfaces during calamities — like the unscrupulous doctors Manish Tripathi, Shivraj Pataria and his wife Nita, currently in custody, accused of ‘vaccinating’ hundreds of unsuspecting citizens at the Charkop based Shivam Hospital with heaven knows what! Sadly, these villains are also Mumbaikars!
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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