Umesh Munda worked at a pharmaceutical factory in Hyderabad before the lockdown was announced. When asked about his background, he said that he had been working since a very young age. His father passed away when he was in class 6 and his brother was in class 10.
He asked his older brother to continue his studies and he himself left. “I knew that I had the ability to do something with my life even without studying, so I asked my older brother and younger sister to continue studying and I became the primary breadwinner at the age of 13. My mother would work on other people’s fields as a labourer and I started looking for a job outside the village.” He found a job as a helper to a driver in Bokaro, about 50 kilometres away from his village.
“The driver would often fall sick, so I learnt how to drive and I would do it when he fell sick. I was helping him and at the same time it was a useful skill for me to learn.” A few years later he became the driver and his salary increased. He was now in a better position to support his family; his brother had completed his education. When his sister got married he took a big loan and the job in Bokaro wasn’t enough to pay it back. He then moved to Hyderabad and started working where he is now. With a salary of 12,000 rupees he learnt on the job and made his way up. He is now the supervisor in the factory with a salary of 17,000 rupees.”
“He said “another company was offering me a position for 20,000 rupees and I needed the money so I thought a lot about it. But the company I am currently working for taught me all I know. They hired me and paid me at a time when I knew nothing, so I couldn’t just abandon them.”
Umesh has a very strong sense of responsibility since a very young age and this has helped him support his family at a time of extreme need. But his sense of duty and responsibility is not limited to his family, he feels the same for all those around him; he is loyal towards his employers.
He inspires me because, in spite of the hardships he has gone through, he is not bitter about anything; he has embraced the challenges thrown at him and dealt with them the best he could. But one thing he refused to let go was his treatment at the quarantine centre when he returned to his village.
He was quarantined at a government facility near his village, he said “the facility was not hygienic, it wasn’t clean. I asked them to give at least one broom per four people but they said they didn’t have the funds.” He was well aware of the threats posed by Covid-19, he added: “it was my right to be given a hygienic place to quarantine and I wasn’t given that.”