COVID-19 lockdown takes the shine out of goldsmith’s life

By Khadeeja Abrar

PERIYA (INDIA) – The current COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting lockdown, and the global economy’s near-shutdown have resulted in significant unemployment in many countries. Unemployment is unquestionably a financial disaster that leads to financial hardship, personal debt, poverty and economic vulnerability.

Losing a salaried career is bad enough for one’s mental health; losing one’s own business is much worse.

It has become difficult for most businesses to keep their financial wheels spinning during the lockdown period due to less revenue and the general uncertainty in the global financial environment.

The national lockdown started just before the wedding season, dashing the expectations of around two lakh goldsmiths who are already poor.

The year 2020 began on a positive note for goldsmiths, with several weddings scheduled, but their lives were turned upside down when COVID-19 broke out. Goldsmiths are often unorganised and they work in small stores producing ornaments on demand to make ends meet.

In reality, the first blow came with the arrival of corporate jewellery giants. Following demonetisation, many goldsmiths abandoned their trade and looked for alternative jobs. The lockdown has had a significant effect on their livelihoods now, and there are considerable concerns about their ability to recover even if the restrictions are lifted.

Subhash, a goldsmith at Periya (India), is forced to turn a fish seller after the COVID-19 outbreak affected his livelihood. He decided to opt for the job of a fish seller when he experienced the bitterness of poverty.

Subhash worked for most of the famous jewellery shops in the district. He was engaged in making ornaments for jewellery shops.

But with the lockdown over COVID-19 outbreak, Subhash became jobless. He tried many jobs as he didn’t get work from any jewellery shops.

Losing a job is an unpleasant feeling; however, you need to move on as well. Difficult times demand tough decisions. It is how pragmatically we deal with them that decides how quickly we can emerge out of it.

For some period, he worked by selling lottery. With this experience, he decided to try his luck as a fish seller.

At first, he purchased a box of fish and reached Ayyampara for sale. He continued the fish sale in this manner for many months.

One day, his old colleague Jins gifted a goods carrier rickshaw to him.

Jins did not collect money from Subash for the vehicle. He purchased the vehicle for Subhash realising his struggle to look after his family including three children.

At present, Subash is selling fish in this vehicle. He starts his job at 5.30 every morning.

He has been purchasing fish from Pallikkara market. If the load gets sold out by noon, he reaches the market again for taking fresh load.

Subhash, a native of Perumbavoor, reached Kanhangad in search of a job about 32 years ago.

“I only knew jewellery making to earn a livelihood. I have worked in various jewellery shops over 18 years. Struggling to meet the expenditure on education of my three children and daily life, I decided to become a fish seller,” said Subhash.

Subhash’s family includes wife Sandhya, two daughters -Sethulakshmi, a student at ITI, Sreelakshmi, a 9th standard student and son Sreehari, a 7th standard student.

“Working on gold just doesn’t make us richer,” Subash added.

The key question from the public here is: “When will we see a complete reopening across this country?”. And the reply will be “We simply cannot predict that, especially in light of the fact that we have not gained control of the spread of the disease.”

Like all difficult situations, this too shall pass! ***

(This article is written as part of the individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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