Age: 15 years
Residence: Dwarka Sector 15
Gulista misses going to school more than anything else. “It’s the only place in the world where I could be myself, no questions asked, even if it’s just for a few hours.”
Due to the novel Coronavirus epidemic, she now finds herself quarantined at home with her parents and siblings, more overworked than before and sharing the same space 24*7. Pointing to the fallacy of social distancing, Gulista says, “It is conceivable for those living in big housing societies, but for those of us living in a jhuggi, it isn’t really possible to isolate ourselves even when we are indoors. Even if we want to heed the government guidelines, we cannot.” And this inability, she claims, breeds more fear and paranoia in her community.
Gulista is aware of how the disease spreads, citing TV media and teachers at school as sources of this crucial information. But she does not possess a surgical mask to protect herself. “We have just the one, and my baby brother needs to use it.” Besides concerns for her family’s and her own health, Gulista is worried about making food runs. Her mother recently brought home some flour, from a donation drive led by housing society close to their settlement in JJ Colony (Dwarka Sector 15). But Gulista is now grasped with fears of what will happen when supplies at home run out.
Despite applying for a ration card multiple times, her parents still haven’t been issued one, which makes them ineligible for the government’s benefits package. Furthermore, Gulista does not think that feeding children in government schools is a good idea. “I had gone to check it out with my brother and my sister – it was so crowded…We could have easily contracted the virus. We haven’t gone back since.” According to her, it would have been better if the government transferred the money or distributed rations to those in need.
The toll of the quarantine is probably the greatest on Gulista’s domestic roles, social life and mental health. Describing her daily routine, she reflects on the additional work that she’s had to take on ever since the lockdown started, cooking two meals daily for the entire family. Her father, now on leave, has become an extra mouth to feed, which puts pressure on rations as well. “We all eat and sleep in the same room, so it’s becoming extremely difficult for me to breathe. It is near impossible to get some sleep in the afternoon. I am unable to get any studying done either. Now, the hours fly looking after my brother and doing the household chores. I miss going to school, I miss hanging out with my friends.”
Gulista is a part of our youth-led Kadam Badhate Chalo initiative. This report was compiled by Samiksha Jha, and translated and edited by Prarthana Mitra, Programme Officers at Martha Farrell Foundation.