by Sadaf Aijaz
A brave lineman who gave his life on duty while serving us.
Over the past few months, the focus has shifted to fight the Novel coronavirus, which has now become part of our lives. This has led us to deal with the deaths due to the virus, the prospect of a lockdown and new rules such as social distancing. As the Coronavirus pandemic spread rapidly, everyone is working hard and playing their role sincerely. Frontline workers like doctors, paramedics, nurses, philanthropists, SMC workers, are getting recognition and tribute at some stage for their relentless work. But there are people from many other departments who despite serving the people during such dangerous times are never recognized. One such category includes those who work in Power Development Department (PDD), particularly the Linemen, who put their lives in danger to lighten our homes.
Linemen do a dangerous job and we too often take for granted the service they provide. You might have seen whenever there is an electrical emergency; they are out doing their work, be it chilling winters, harsh summers, or heavy rains, these people are always out on duty, no matter what.
During this pandemic, while we are safe in our homes, these men are out there risking their lives to serve us. If they, one day, do not go out for duty, our life will be a literal mess. We would be sitting in the dark or bearing the unbearable hot weather, we won’t be able to watch TV and imagine your phone battery dying out amidst the blackout – how will you charge your phone?
Imagine, when during a thunderstorm, when everything goes black, the lineman is working to get those hot wires back.
Today, I will be sharing a heart wrenching incident – the story of an unsung hero, who I used to see often as he dropped the electricity bills to our homes, or repairing the transformer in our locality, and more than a few times climbing on the poles to repair the damaged wires. I always wondered how he was able to manage all this, how he had no fear of death; I always wanted to talk to him and get my questions answered and fortunately, I got a chance once, but did not know it would be the last.
It was the month of January and it was snowing heavily. I was in my car with my father as it was too cold outside, due to the Chila kalan (Forty-day period of harsh winter starting from 21st December to 30th January). My father had put the car heater on, so that I might not feel cold. As we reached our lane, I saw a man in his fifties repairing our transformer bare handed. I looked at him and to my surprise recognized him as the same person who repairs the electric wires in our locality.
We reached home and it had been two hours since light went out. I was shivering with cold and kept waiting for the electricity. It was nearly after an hour that the light came up and the first think I did was to put the heater on, and plug on the charger of my mobile phone. I called my mother and thanked God that my father is not a Lineman, while narrating how the lineman works tirelessly in our locality even in harsh cold when even the soil is on the land is frozen. I wondered how his family coped and must be worried about him, not knowing when the uncertainty touched their feet. I was lost in my thoughts and wanted to know more about his profession.
Months Passed and in April I finally got a chance to meet him. This time he came to our home with electricity bill in his hand, and as he dropped the bill I shouted from my window, “Sir, will you please stop”. To my surprise he looked back and smiled.
I went and greeted him, while he replied back and said “Are you Khan Sahab’s daughter (He used to call my father Khan Sahab), tell me what the matter is?”
I answered in affirmative and told him that I want to talk to him and know something about your profession , can you give me your few minutes ? He was very humble at replying. He said not today as I am having a lot of work to do and he started walking away I said please for the sake of Khan Sahab, He stopped and said ok what do you want to know?
The very first question I posed him was, aren’t you afraid of death? As your job is too risky?
He replied” I know our job is dangerous but I never feel like anyone owes us anything for it. I take pride in my job, I like the feeling I get when we get the lights back and everyone is happy, so I am satisfied with my work at least it brings smiles to many faces.
To know more I asked, don’t you think by climbing countless poles come with risk and what does his family think about it?
He smiled and said “I travel for one hour every day from my home to office and have no time to think what if I fall from the poll or what if I die while repairing the lines. All I care about is reaching the spot on time. If there is an electrical emergency in this area, I rush the spot and try to fix that problem. The issue is people sometimes don’t consider us as humans. They think we are machines, sometimes if we do not reach places on time, people get angry with us and more often what hurts more is they keep on saying that to us.”
“Have you ever thought of quitting this job?” I asked.
“ To be frank, I will tell you when you see your family worrying about you every time and the most importantly when you see your colleagues losing their lives every day while repairing wires on poles, that is quite painful and heart wrenching and if I leave this job what will I do? I am doing all this just to earn for my family and give my kids better education and a good life,” he added.
I was numb to hear all this in detail, while he took his leave promising me that he will talk about it in detail soon. Days passed and I often saw him doing his duty. One day, I saw an ambulance in our locality and I was peeping from my window curious as to what has happened. I saw an elderly from our locality making a way to the ambulance. I was very curious to know what was going on.
I called my neighbour asking them what was wrong, and he replied, “The Lineman of our area is no more.”
He just left us; I mumbled mostly to myself, to which he narrated that, “He was repairing a wire on an electric pole when accidentally he came in contact with a live wire. He received a shock, due to which he fell down on the ground and succumbed to his injuries soon after.”
I could not believe my ears and kept on thinking and was having numerous thoughts. I was thinking about his family – who will look after them now? Or will he be given compensation, who will look after his elderly parents, what about his dreams?
I was rewinding our conversation in which he had said that “People sit at home and if suddenly the light is out they sometimes curse us our families saying why don’t we do our job. People don’t care whether it is dark outside or raining. All they care about is us fixing their problems, nobody cares about us.”
To conclude, I would only say that every month you see umpteen numbers of Linemen die on duty. This happened while they are serving us. However, it ends up only becoming a story in papers and nothing else. We take them forgranted, but they too have families that worry about them and the work they do. Are they compensated if something happens to them, like what happened with our lineman? Is there any organisation who looks after their family? Does the PDD Department do anything about the safety and security of these people, Department that has hire these men ensure the safety and security for them? Are they provided with any sort of equipment’s to ease their work especially during dangerous times like rain and snow?
About the Author:
Sadaf Aijaz is a freelance journalist hailing from Kashmir.