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Helping a staff during Covid-19 pandemic backfired

This is going to be a long one so please be prepared. I have to narrate the entire story that happened in two months here. I am writing this blog about my journey to financial freedom. But this post is important as it has changed a part of me. And I want you to know why.

As you all might know by now that I am an entrepreneur. One is called an entrepreneur only when he/she has at least one employee who is paid. I have five employees. The COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdown got intensified here in India during March 2020. Just a few weeks before that I had planned on a fully company-paid trip to Shimla and Manali. Nope, I do not consider this as a help and this did not backfire on me.

As lockdown began slowly, the shops started closing. I also had to close shop because my staff were unable to come to the Makerspace from their home. But there was one staff named Sanjay who stayed at the Makerspace itself. I made a small room for him where he can keep his bags and bed. The workshop is no place to cook food so I had paid a mess to feed him three times a day. So Sanjay was paid a stay, food and salary in exchange for his service as an assistant to my painter.

First stage of lockdown

As the lockdown got serious all shops including restaurants were asked to close. Only essential services and shops like medical and grocery shops were allowed to open. This was the first stage of lockdown. Sanjay who was totally dependant on the mess for his food has nowhere to go. He did not come to me asking for a solution. But proactively I had asked him to come to home every day to eat lunch and pack his dinner. He will come in the morning and help my wife in the kitchen by cutting vegetables. Then later in the afternoon eat lunch and pack his dinner too. This went on for a while until the second stage of lockdown.

Second stage of lockdown

At this stage, even my society got very serious with lockdown. The police had issued a notice asking not to allow vehicles outside the society. The society also started screening everyone who were coming into the apartment. They had asked Sanjay to either stay outside or be inside. When he called me and told me about this without thinking for a second I had asked him to pack his bags and come stay at my home. Again I would like to point out here that I did not wait for him to ask me for help. So by the beginning of April 2020, he started living with us.

While Sanjay was staying with us he had no restrictions. He had access to the same plates, food, bed and toilets. He even watched Netflix and all the other OTT services. It is worth to mention that this transition wasn’t easy for us. Being a young couple we would like our privacy but tough times call for even tougher measures. So we were happy to help.

Making adjustments so all could be happy.

As we were prepared to make adjustments Sanjay wasn’t in the mindset. I believe that since he got all these privileges without asking for he started taking things for granted. Few things that he used to do like leaving the plate in place after eating food, not cleaning the leftovers, eating directly from our fridge and so on made us frown.

It got me thinking that I did not signup for this when I wanted to help him. When he was asked to make tea sometime he would use the total half litre milk to make the tea. He would have a mug full of tea while he would give a small cup for us. After repeatedly and softly informing him that the quantity was too much we got to hear the bold answer from Sanjay. “But sir this is how much I always like to have. So I made it for myself”. I think I should have taken some action back then. But I did not.

Another problem we noticed was with the toilets. He would spend more than 25 to 30 minutes inside the toilet every time he goes in. What he does inside is something I don’t want to imagine. But when he comes out all the places around the basin used to be wet, the commode was wet and unusable for a few hours after he comes out. This wasn’t the only time he accessed the restroom. Every time a task was given on an urgent basis he would first lockup himself in the loo for more than 15minutes and then get to work. By which time we would have finished the work.

The increasing trouble

The above things never troubled me as much as the fact that he wasn’t trying to get back home. This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. But as days went by he was getting more comfortable. I started asking him what his plans were. He used to say that he wanted to go but don’t know how. So when the government released the phone numbers of Tehsildar and Police control room I shared the same with him. I told him that these numbers were given so he could ask for arrangement.

To my surprise, he would call just once and tell me the number isn’t working or was busy. Shouldn’t a person who desperately wants to go back home keep trying those numbers. From our side, we even sent emails asking for permission for him to travel. But from his side, there were no efforts apart from an occasional phone call. There was a police station nearby where all the migrant workers were filling up the form. But he wouldn’t go saying its far.

This is Sanju during Diwali 2020. Because he couldn’t go home we made sure he feels comfortable. Be bought him crackers and took him to a restaurant too.

Time for him to leave

After seeing this attitude for one and half months I gave him an ultimatum for him to leave for his village. I paid him for his travel and food and asked him to leave on 4th May 2020. Till that day he did not even pack his bags. On 4th morning I asked him when he was leaving. That’s when he says he has to go to Makerspace one more time to get remaining cloths. This showed only one thing to me. His unwillingness to leave. Nevertheless, I asked to do that and leave immediately.

I also had asked my staff Avinash to take him to the nearest Tehsildar office so he can fill-up the form and leave. On the way, police had stopped Avinash and confiscated his vehicle for going out during a lockdown. While Avinash was pleading to the policemen, Sanjay stood there chatting with his friends on phone. He did not have even a percent of guilt that in the process of helping him his colleague is suffering the consequences. Avinash had to wait the whole day at the police station only to have a case booked in his name. They took a fine amount too before releasing his vehicle.

He had no intention to leave

All through that day, Sanjay would call me saying “No one here sir where I should go”. I pointed him to check the railway station and bus depot from where transportation is available to other districts. After the long day, he called me at 10 pm saying that he couldn’t find any transport and he wanted to stay at the Makerspace once again. This time I told him that he has to take care of his food and he could stay temporarily.

The next two days went on – without him making any calls to me or my colleagues. He was spending the money on liquor and was glad that he had a place to sleep. I started to lose my cool. I informed Sanjay that Friday the 8th May 2020 will be his last day here. Again the same process began.

Time to leave – again

Till 8th May morning, he did not plan on leaving. When my staff came there to evacuate him he said he will not vacate. Sanjay then demanded that his salary be paid for the lockdown period of two months and only then he would leave. Sanjay has taken the Makerspace keys, my Tata Intra V10 tempo keys and started blackmailing that salary be paid or he won’t vacate. I was pissed, but I also knew that showing that would only make the situation worse. So I began to reason with him.

I called Sanjay’s parents to inform them about his son’s behaviour. And as I expected they took his side. They went on to say that I had defaulted on paying him for more than four months. Luckily I never paid by cash so I had all the accounts ready if needed to prove. I asked Sanjay’s parents respectfully to give some good advice to his son so that he would return the keys and leave. But his father said that this wouldn’t be possible and the salary is paid. I informed them that bringing police is the last thing on my mind but Sanjay’s father said that police wouldn’t do anything.

More people to help

I was in Panvel because of a medical emergency so I couldn’t be present when all this was happening. By then I had sent my friend Sumit to handle the situation. Sumit is a very logical fellow and he knows how to handle such situations. But much to his vain he wasn’t able to persuade Sanjay to give the keys that belonged to me.

Sanjay decided that he will go to the police station to complaint against me. When Sumit informed me about this I decided to travel back from Panvel to Pune inspite of the medical emergency. I got a call from the station informing that someone has come there to file a police complaint. I told the constable that I am on my way to the police station.

Police had to intervene

On reaching the police station I explained the entire story to the authority of the station. On hearing the fact that I had given place and food right at my home the police got very furious. They insisted that Sanjay should give me the keys immediately and leave. They also asked me to pay Sanjay some amount for him to survive a few days till he gets back to his village. Sanjay had no choice but to give the keys then and there. He eyes were red. He wasn’t able to believe that we were the good guys. I did not want it to end this way. I got my keys back after an entire day being wasted in calls and travel. Being hurt so much I did not feel like talking to Sanjay. I asked Sumit to transfer him some amount and left from there quickly with my team.

I don’t know if Sanjay had learnt his lesson. Even if he did not at least I learnt something. My wife and I went through so much trauma during this entire episode bringing the climax to 8th May 2020. Travelling 2hrs to and from Panvel, going to the police station, disturbing my friends was something I did not wanted to do. Sanjay forced me as my workshop was at stake.

I wouldn’t say helping is bad. That would be generalising it just because I had one bad experience. But some key take ways here are never help unless someone asks for it, keep your boundaries while helping and know who you are helping. That is very important. If it was family and they behaved like this it was still worth it. But for an unknown person and to not be appreciated this one was painful.

One thought on “Helping a staff during Covid-19 pandemic backfired

  1. Raj is not a person who can really use bad words or trash somebody or get angry for small reasons. He is one of the most polite,calm, sensitive,logical person and doesn’t take everything to his heart. But this incident has really impacted him alot. He has understood doing good is not always good for us. He will definitely think twice for his good actions . Big learning for both of us really.

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