My husband and I, we try to live in gratitude and make a difference where we can. When COVID-19 hit us and the country went into lockdown, I reached out to my maid, cook and driver and transferred money for their needs. Assured them that they would get full pay for the duration of lockdown. As I avidly followed the news, I was heartbroken to read about the plight of daily wage earners. Being a pet parent, I wept at the plight of stray animals which usually lived off leftovers from hotels and local resident largesse. Milap, Ketto, NGOs, direct adoption of families, directly feeding strays, supporting NGOs that feed strays, we did it all. Nothing seemed enough, but at least it felt that we were doing something.
One day, a conversation in my residential WhatsApp group gave me a jolt. While many of us were vociferous in stating that we must give full salary to all our staff, we were stumped when someone asked, “What about the Istry wala?”
Here I was feeling happy I was doing what I could when in fact, I had missed a whole set of people. The ‘istry wala’, the gardener who comes by once a week to manage my kitchen garden, the ‘nariyal pani’ vendor, the newspaper boy and the flower man who gives us a small Rs 10 packet of flowers daily for the house puja. I called up Sanju the Istry wala, who said that they were struggling to buy provisions and groceries without income. It was a similar story with the gardener. I helped them in my own small way but even as I write this blog, the other vendors have not been reachable.
This narration is not about what I have done. It is insignificant. This is about how, despite living in compassion, I have been oblivious to the suffering of a whole category of people.
As I reflected on this, I realized that people in my life can be divided into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary layers. Primary are family, friends, colleagues, clients and neighbors, people who are visible in my life. Secondary are the occasional help, friends and family I may have lost touch with. Tertiary is the rest of the world. Tertiary seems like such a difficult-to-reach subset but this virus has shown how interconnected we all are. Primary Layer is first taken care of. Tertiary support happens through crowd funding and donations. But the Secondary layer slips through the cracks because there is no visibility.
Now I ask you. Who constitutes the Secondary layer in your life? As a corporate leader, how conscious and inclusive is your leadership? At a time like this, how do you ensure the well-being of the Secondary layer in your organization and your life?
COVID-19 has brought many lessons home to me, not least of all, the importance of the Secondary Layer in my life. How about you?