LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF PANDEMIC: WITNESSING THE SHADES OF GREY - The Daily Guardian
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LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF PANDEMIC: WITNESSING THE SHADES OF GREY

The way the second wave is lapping at us makes me wonder if we have faced this pandemic recently — a couple of weeks back. We’re in a health emergency despite the lurking threat for over a year. Does it even qualify to be a sudden emergency? Hadn’t we enough time for planning and preparation? If only we knew our priorities.

Suravi Sharma Kumar

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Spring in Lutyne’s Delhi is a burst of colours — the brightest bougainvillaeas covering porch tops, trellis over entrance gates, the Gulmohar trees flaunting scarlet clusters, the sensuous purples, the purest whites, and at places confetti of cotton wicks from bursting pods of a cotton tree — paint a classic picture of spring in the city. Spring arrived this year too like many more before.

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It was in January last year we all were first introduced to the term social distancing. Back then the virus had seemed, to me at least, a threat unique to China. Social distancing would make a good novel title, I joked, never imagining that Americans would be doing the same in a matter of weeks, that the phrase would soon be joining so many others — community spread, an abundance of caution, flattening the curve. 

It was around this time last year my sons’ school had moved to online learning, and shops and restaurants began to shut. My kids like all others I believe, suddenly found themselves sealed within the walls of their homes — no school, no sports, no outings. Both my sons in their early teens initially responded by immersing in the world of video games — Call of Duty, Clash of Clans, and soon started lamenting the impossibility of hanging out with friends and making new friends in what we call the old analogue style. A die-hard soccer aspirant, my elder son appeared relatively cheerful despite his suspended coaching classes. The scheduled tournaments that he had been eagerly waiting and preparing for got cancelled, one after another where there was an immense possibility for him. Slowly, I found him adapt to the circumstances and embrace the life of an ascetic, practising all by himself passing, shooting, and chipping the ball in a small park; and then running fifteen kilometres a day round and round the colony we live in.

The growing realisation that like last year this time around I,too, have no choice like my boys. This has given me panicky loneliness. During the first wave last year, as a doctor and a writer, I found solace in writing medical pieces, short stories, and gorging myself on electronic media. Those days I worried for the millions of workers who had lost their jobs, students without a computer or a smartphone of their own, and the migrant workers who lived on day-to-day earnings and how dozens of them had to stay packed into a single room in a city under lockdown. And this time, the same thoughts surfaced in me. The way this second wave is lapping at us makes me wonder if we faced this pandemic recently — a couple of weeks back. We’re in a health emergency despite the lurking threat for over a year . Does it even qualify to be a sudden emergency Hadn’t we enough time for planning and preparation? If only we knew our priorities. 

Soon started the onslaught of social media posts about all the adorable quarantine activities that seemingly everyone, including doctors with the highest super-specialisations, people with shining degrees in management and law, were undertaking with their families — making cakes, cookies, reenacting famous paintings for photography, and at times, quite frequently, virtual get-togethers and alumni meets. I preferred to avoid such meets simply because you need to wear proper clothes and make-up to sit in front of the camera, and more than in physical/real meets, here one may have to undergo closer scrutiny. Days passed by at times in a whirlpool and at times at a snail’s pace. I took perverse pleasure in newspaper articles about China’s spiking mental diseases, rising divorce rates, and increasingly desperate dispatches from parents who had failed at homeschool. 

Then, one day last year I figured out that one of my two pet dogs, Nancy was rapidly losing weight; the vet I consulted on a video call suspected intestinal lymphoma, but there was no one in the office who could administer an ultrasound. ‘I’m feeling lonely, yet too busy without the house helps and two kids to tend to!’ I wrote this to every close friend on WhatsApp text. “(((HUG))),” they would reply, which felt more comforting than you might think. Old friends sent me a selfie in their quarantine grey hairs, hairy upper-lips and overgrown beards. I told my close friend Nayna who lived abroad all about my life, my writings, cancelled literary events, and my ailing pet. She at times reached out through a WhatsApp call, and/or “weird FaceTime things.”          

Last year, in the last week of April, when a dialysis patient walked in and came positive on RT PCR in the hospital I work in, and the whole hospital was marked as a containment area. So along with a few others, I had quarantined myself for having examined his body fluids under the microscope. I had no option but to lock myself in one of the rooms at home. With that, I became ‘lonely without being busy’. As my husband and kids managed the house chores, and I sat on the bed with my laptop. But I did no constructive writing, and instead ended up signing up for a free fifteen-day trial of NatureGlow and started watching YouTube stuff like how to wear your hair to bed, how to grow your lashes longer, and developed a costly impulsive online shopping habit. Every day, by the time the sun had sunk beneath the treetops as I could see through the window, I would struggle to do some yoga practice. By seven in the evening, I had caught up with the latest news alerts — “Italy surpasses China’s death toll, becoming world’s highest”; “New York tells nonessential workers to stay home.”

 Those days, one old acquaintance surfaced on WhatsApp chat who I barely knew. He reached out every day or so, sending me his art and poetry to praise. I responded occasionally with a ‘nice’ and thumbs-up emoji. I didn’t block him until the day I came across quotes like, “If you treat your first wife well, God blesses you with a second one.” This man I heard was doing well as a lawyer and was almost out of work due to the pandemic. His unsolicited texts I thought was his response to the virus skewed toward obsession or madness.

My husband who works in the government had his workload go up as the pandemic soared. His texts (we had to communicate through phone as I quarantining in a room), were around why the media wasn’t reporting on the bleakest epidemiological models, why a freight train’s worth of tanks was heading up the Himalayas to the Indo-China border when the country is battling to hold its rickety healthcare system. I would sip my coffee (had a coffee maker installed in my room) and text back in encouragement and validation.

On the last day of the Lockdown 1.0, the government extended it by another couple of weeks, and that stirred my fantasies of a doomsday tryst. That night Abha, a friend living in the UK sent me a crying cat emoji — I called up. Her husband was Covid positive with mild symptoms though, and she had been worrying for her parents with co-morbidities who were away from her across continents and whose neighbour was positives with severe breathlessness. I pacified her and spoke to her husband too whose plan was to drink his way through the isolation period. “Perhaps a little mind adjustment and drinks could get your mood elevated,” he advised his wife too. 

One evening after the lockdown in India was over and I was on an evening walk, my friend from nursery school, Nayna in NYC had been complaining of a sore throat, was admitted to a New York City hospital as she couldn’t breathe. When I heard this, I remember the sudden cold that passed through my body. It was the first time I had been able to conceive of the disease that had been obsessing me for weeks now, and the first time, too, that I realised that we would — every single one of us — be intimately touched by it in one way or another. I tried for a moment to imagine a world in which Nayna no longer existed, in which I could no longer call her up to say hello, in which her son grew up without a mother, and then I tried to multiply that desolation by 13,700, which was the global death toll, though of course, I failed the calculation — our minds aren’t built for such vast numbers.

On a Sunday, after sitting with my elder child with his Civics and History books for about three hours, I went to the grocery store for the first time in six weeks, staring at the bottles of disinfectant in the vestibule, at the cashiers wearing masks and plastic gloves. After having spent that morning reading through the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Indian history, the Civil War, and the Great Depression, it was startling to recognise in that supermarket scene an approximation of the black-and-white images that decorated my son’s textbook. I had never felt so much a part of history before, nor understood so acutely how little there was to separate us from the men and women of the past, how we had always just been people. 

Now in 2021 spring, the virus began its exponential climb as we all feared, in fact quite expected actually. My phone buzzed with a WhatsApp video call from Nayna who survived Covid-19 in NYC in 2020. I sat on the sofa as I spoke to her, my sick pet Nancy now lying on the floor resting her head on my feet. Nayna was lying on her couch and was still suffering from post-Covid symptoms – neurological manifestations of pain, and tingling.  

Abha and her husband were again under lockdown in 2021 and she told me that they had been spending their isolation microdosing some psychedelic stuff that was legally allowed in her country, and tidying up their home and garden. She texted me that she was getting rid of contact numbers and gifts of friends from those she lost contact with and was burning any gifts or stuff like that from her ex-lovers so that she is all neat and sorted from within for the new lease of life after the pandemic. This last one filled me with a sense of deja –vu or something — I could still picture how she had looked at 15, filling notebook after notebook with her scripts—and yet she was adamant when she had said that she and her then-boyfriend Ravi had already built a pyre in an open field as they planned on performing an elaborate burning ceremony of her diary where she wrote every detail of their relationship; that would rid them of the past and pave the way for new beginnings as they decided to part ways. 

Now the TV screen right in front of me was filled with burning pyres in a certain crematorium in Delhi. Bodies burning in rows of pyres. Ambulances brought bodies and one sole man appeared in PPEs in the crematorium with a task of burning bodies placed on dozens of wooden pyres.

The days continued to pass, and it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between them. Friends would call, and we couldn’t remember whether we had spoken two hours, or two weeks ago. The virus now coloured everything, giving birth to alien emotions, blurring boundaries between the real, and the imagined. I felt blind fury when I see people in election rallies walking with political party flags especially youngsters on two-wheelers joining the rallies uttering slogans, stabs of anxiety when the characters in the movie walked into a crowded room, and the worst of anguish at the sight of a film heroine flaunting her pouted lips, a nose-pin. 

My sons (and their friends) were sleeping till noon and burst in annoyance when I asked if they completed their share of daily exercise, or had finished fifteen pages of The Alchemist, or To Kill a Mocking Bird. My mother had started penning daily emails that doubled as absurdist literature — had I heard that the stray dogs were getting quite exhausted and behaving unpredictably, and found recipes of beer bread that she had never baked before. “Why,” asked my friend Abha, “is everyone on the internet baking bread these days?”

Yesterday I drove Nancy to a vet. Pet mothers were no longer allowed inside the clinic; instead, you had to call from the parking lot and a technician wearing a face mask and plastic gloves would retrieve your animal from the passenger seat. While I waited, I received about eight calls out of that three from my two sons expressing their apprehension about Nancy’s diagnosis as they desperately wanted to accompany but I couldn’t allow them considering the situation. By the time I was on the eighth call, Nancy was returned to me trembling, her belly shorn. That day, I spent the rest of the day trying to make a list of reasons why it would be all right if she had cancer or any other equally grave condition.

Early that evening when my sons and I sat in front of the TV, my husband arrived. Soon he joined us with wine in coffee cups (that’s to trick the kids into thinking that it was coffee in the cup). He had been taking a life-must-go-on approach to the virus and was doing good and getting engrossed in his work. We discussed his work and then mine and then we ordered pizza, coke, and then retired to our rooms. 

One by one, all my/our plans have been cancelled of buying a home, sending the elder son for exclusive football coaching, and younger son to join tennis classes etc. I find myself in a kind of continuous present, with the distinction that this time around almost all the world’s people are in the same boat. Every day or so I end up texting or talking to friends across the globe, listening to their tales of quarantine in this wave or the previous one — the virus has invaded human life the way it does the human body, it seems, latching on and wreaking havoc. There is a friend Betsy, a single mother who fears she is becoming abusive to her children —“No, really,” she says when I protest, “they run away from me when I so much as look at them.” There is a good friend from college Pinaki, who is married to another friend Lana and both living in London, whose lifeline was the pub and just doubled his dosage of antidepressants. And Veena, a dermatologist who is learning for the first time how to intubate a patient. It will be interesting to see, Nayna and I agreed when we last spoke, she in her Manhattan pigeon-hole apartment, me in a New Delhi home, how this contagion will bring us together and rip us apart. “Just think,” said my now-single-again friend Lana as we looked for silver linings, “of all the new depressions, abuses and divorces that will soon be flooding the market.” Lana was the one who for the first time shared with me samples of sexts that she had sent or received in her now interrupted search for true love or the perfect partner. She told me how the sale of sex toys was skyrocketing when the pandemic was raging in NYC and also in London.

Now many weeks through a deadlier pandemic in Delhi, I’ve kind of gone numb. I stopped calling friends and neither have I received as many calls as before. It has been weeks since I last heard from Nayna or Lana, or from Abha or Pinaki — perhaps, like me, they realised after our initial flurry of communication that it is lonelier to grasp at some simulacrum of intimacy than it is to try and make peace with one’s solitude. Journey inwards is the panacea of all ills for our generation. 

The writer is a medical doctor (pathologist) and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London. The views expressed are personal.

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When Vikram Bhatt called me for Sanak, I was taken aback: Rohit Bose Roy

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Actor Rohit Bose Roy recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List . As part of the interview, Rohit opened up about his latest series Sanak-Ek Junoon, what attracted him to the character, to the show and much more.

Speaking about the new series, which is now streaming on MX Player, Rohit said, “Quite honestly, the major attraction was Vikram Bhatt and his writing. I’ve been a longstanding fan of the way he writes, the kind of content that he creates. I’ve just done a show with him before this called ‘Memories’, which was one of the most anticipated shows. Unfortunately, at that time, it was another OTT. So, not many people got to see it but that’s where I got addicted to Vikram Bhatt. I’ve been addicted to him since Holland but I love the way he writes. He is a dear friend and when he calls, I don’t ask him what I’m doing. When he called me for Sanak, I was actually taken aback because it is not the kind of show that you would associate with me. It is not the kind of character that you would associate with me. If I’m going back to what I’ve done, I’ve never really did a character who is like this. It is not really about greys. I have played grey characters. He is a character who believes that there’s nothing wrong in what he is doing. Greys are decided by various people. What is right for me might not be right for you, which is what actually eventually drew me to the role.”

“Ajay, as a character, believes that there are certain compromises to be made and they are absolutely fair to make those compromises in life, if you want to move ahead . When we reach a a cross road, we have to decide whether I am going to make a compromise with my morals to get ahead to the next stage or should I trudge along till I need the next stage without compromising my morals. In real life, Rohit Bose Roy would never compromise on his morals to reach ahead in life or in his career. I’d rather work hard and keep at it, which is why it took me to be 25 years to get here,” he continued. “I would have been in a different space otherwise. Ajay doesn’t think there is anything wrong and you can’t fault him for that. You can’t sit on judgment and say what Ajay is doing is wrong. That was the challenge for me as an actor to take up Sanak because when people watch it, you realise that you can’t say does anyone do like this ? You will actually be in a conundrum whether to call him white or black.”

When asked does he as a viewer also like thrillers, he responded, “I love thrillers. I have two point of views here. Unfortunately right now, there is an overkill of thrillers on OTT. I feel there should be a little bit of everything. There should be comedy, there should be human interest drama, there should be romance. I miss romance on OTTs. Having said that, I love thrillers. That’s my major consumption, whether it’s on television or film or OTT worldwide. Thriller is a genre, which I am never tired of because there’s always constantly something happening. When I’m tired, I’d like to watch thrillers because it ups my BMR and my blood starts flowing. Vikram makes all those kind of shows. Even making the same genre, his writing is so different in all the shows. What I did earlier was memories, it was different. Sanak is totally different as far as my character is concerned and the show is concerned.”

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We were the first ones to take a chance with OTT: Vidyut Jammwal

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Actor Vidyut Jammwal recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. As part of the interview, Vidyut opened up about his latest film Sanak, taking a chance with the OTT last year and much more. Read excerpts:

Speaking about the shift to the OTT space, Vidyut said, “It is quite good. I have a lot of people, who are working now. I have had friends, who really had the talent, but never got the work. I think OTT is doing a great job with a lot of talent, to start with. We were the first ones to take a chance with OTT last year and what chance we took. It just changed everything for good.”

“We are working on Khuda Haafiz 2. We are aiming for a theatrical release now. Sanak was made for the theatres. Everything was ready and we could not just hold the movie. We do lose a lot of money at the movies. We decided why not just get the best out of it. I’ve grown up watching Jackie Chan films and I believe that this is the time for everybody to go on the platform Disney plus Hotstar, press the pause button, slow it down, see what I’ve done, how I have I’ve done it, the way I’ve always done from Jackie Chan and just try to do it,” he added.

Giving more insights about his latest film Sanak, Vidyut shared, “It has been different because Kanishk Verma, the director of the film, is a friend of mine. I have always believed in him. He was a director. He’s a friend of mine. Every time he sat and I used to look at him, like wow look at this idea! I love the way you think about music and then I got a chance in life where I thought I could get to work with people who I believe in. Kanishk was one of them. I made him meet Vipul and they just enjoyed each other’s company. That’s how the journey started. We came up with an idea and we thought it was phenomenal.”

When asked if he enjoyed the action in the film, he responded, “I enjoyed it. I had to surpass everything that I have done in the past. Today, I was watching the news by these international action critiques and I was very proud of myself being an Indian. They loved what they saw. I have enjoyed everything I put in the effort. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to use every things in my movie because he’s not a trained fighter. He’s just a martial artist and how he could depend on his wife and the whole everybody in the hospital. I have to be creative with ideas and people have enjoyed it.”

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Remote work has been our culture from day one: Vipul Amler, Founder, Saeloun

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Vipul Amler, Founder, Saeloun recently joined us for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. Before diving deeper into his company Saeloun, Vipul introduced himself as saying, “I am a software developer, who works on web and mobile applications. We primarily use technology called Ruby On Rails and React JS, which are used by major companies like Facebook, Flipkart, Instagram and so forth. I have been in this industry for the last decade or so. At the same time, I also have written books on the same. Other than that, recently I have also been doing small angel investments.”

Talking about Saeloun and his journey to start the company, Vipul shared, “This is my second company in the last couple of years. Saeloun was started as a way for being a company, which is employee owned as well as having a very open transparent culture. We started off with that so that employees have more input in the growth and so forth. Saeloun specialises in the same thing- Ruby On Rails and React.Js and we help a bunch of different clients in various fields from e-commerce, healthcare and so forth. That was the primary purpose of starting Saeloun. “

When asked about the services they offer and their primary clientele, he responded, “Many clients, which are established clients, they contact us and reach out to us for our expertise on Ruby On Rails and React.Js, which I use for building applications. Like you might have seen Airbnb or Amazon or Flipkart. We help them to build the web applications. We also have expertise in helping them build mobile applications that you use. For example, if you are using PayTm or Google Pay, these kind of applications. We help our clients spread out. At the same time, when the clients were growing a lot, they come to us for helping them to scale or a bunch of different things.”

“There has been a huge growth since the last year. A lot of people last year, after the pandemic started coming up online, which for us has been a very busy time,” he added. 

Speaking about the founding principles on the basis of which he started Saeloun and what sets apart Saeloun from others in the market, Vipul said, “Profit sharing was one part of the thing. This is before the pandemic. Last year, everyone started to do work from home or remote work but we have doing or I have been doing remote work since 2011 or 2012. That was the same principle as well, which sets Saeloun apart. We have been doing remote work and remote work has been our culture from day one since we started in 2019. In terms of profit sharing, we are a services company so we provide consulting with various different companies. For employees to have more ownership in the company, that was one of the ways. Whatever profits we have, we actually announce them publicly as well and share the financial data with everyone, so that they are aware of how we are doing and also equitably distribute 25% of all of our profits with our employees.”

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ELVISA COSMETICS LAUNCHED TO PROVIDE PERSONALISED BEAUTY EXPERIENCE

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Renowned International model Elvisa has recently launched her new venture Elvisa cosmetics. Elvisa revealed she’s been working on the brand for the past few years and that her friends and family have been testing out the products. Amongst its many firsts, the Elvisa Cosmetics offers an innovative range of different makeup products including different shades of foundations, lipsticks, primer, and other beauty essentials where you can mix and match to create your desired signature shade in trendy tones. Besides personalised skincare consultations from beauty advisors, the brand also offers mini makeovers and makeup tutorials by Elvisa that consist of diamond lips, smokey eyes, charcoal glitter lids, golden glam eye shadow, sculpt and contour, tips to get perfect eyebrows and iconic eyeliner looks. The various categories of products have been divided into convenient sections enabling shoppers to pick their favourites with ease. Commenting on the launch, Elvisa, CEO, Elvisa Cosmetics said, “We are thrilled to launch our first-ever cosmetic range for the most diverse women across the world. We are extremely delighted with the response we are getting for our unique products. With this launch we are also unlocking the potential of our online store to create an endless aisle shopping experience for our loyal customers and deepen our bond with them.” Currently, she has an online family of 721K followers on her Instagram page. She loves to experiment with her clothes, it’s colour shades. She loves to travel and keeps her social media handle regularly updates about her whereabouts. She loves pink, black and brown colours and we can see her trying on different attires of these particular shades. The latter has earlier been seen on various fashion runways and shows flaunting her unique clothing style and walk. She started her journey on Instagram, a photo and video sharing online app which has given a breakthrough to numerous fashion icons. “I wanted to start my own cosmetics line because I want to build my own unique brand and leave a legacy behind. My goal wasn’t to always wear brands, it was to become one.”

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Marks & Spencer showcases India Festive Fusion collection

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Celebrating the festive season in style, the iconic British brand Marks & Spencer presented their latest collection, India special occasion wear in a fashion show in New Delhi. Bollywood celebrity Neha Dhupia was seen on the ramp as the showstopper, who looked stunning as ever. The new mom was mesmerising in a deep green embroidered round neck dress with contrast colour paisley print. Accompanying her on the ramp was her handsome actor husband Angad Bedi, looking dapper in velvet teal peak label blazer, black shirt and versatile dark trousers from the new occasion wear collection. Neha, who delivered a baby boy earlier this month, looked tres chic in the India Festive Fusion collection. The actor, being the popular body positive advocate, chose a relaxed fit dress and walked the ramp with no qualms about her post-partum body. Commenting on the newly launched collections, James Munson, MD, Marks & Spencer India said, “Designed in response to an increasing desire among customers for chic outfits that can work hard in their wardrobes, the latest collections can be dressed up for an occasion or paired down for daily wear. Neha looks absolutely fantastic in the collection, especially after recently welcoming her new arrival. It’s great to have her and Angad join M&S this evening,” he further added about the show and showstoppers. Talking about her association with the brand, Neha was ecstatic as she shared, “Marks & Spencer has been a constant in my wardrobe for over a decade now. From my early days, M&S was my go-to for must-haves and fashion staples, and now I am wearing their India special occasion wear. I also love the evening wear for men, like what Angad is wearing. The brand never fails to surprise and delight, and I am glad to be a part of M&S event once again.” Angad added “Evening wear for Indian men from M&S is a sartorial treat. Some pieces like the Bandgala and Bandi jackets are a great addition to their existing product range. This collection helps make dressing up for any occasion easy.” The fashion show tossed up must-have pieces like elevated flowing dresses, chic pant suits, beautiful tops on female models. Male models wore opulent velvet bandh galas, dinner jackets, waistcoats, premium shirts in rich sateen and ornate prints, exquisitely tailored trousers and top-notch polo t-shirts. The presentation also showcased a combination of smart autumn-winter, loungewear and festive fare, as a part of this special celebratory fashion repertoire.

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Drone Spraying in Sangli Sugarcane Cultivation, entrepreneur introduces new trends in MH Agriculture

Social impact entrepreneur Prateek Patil has implemented a line of drone technology for spraying fertilisers which has already covered 3,200 acres of sugarcane area benefiting over 2,000 farmers in Walwa, Sangli.

Sangli District has been grounds for pioneering agriculture and irrigation works in Western Maharashtra. From the cooperative movement to drip irrigation, innovation has been a sign of the cultivation in the region. The drone spraying technology introduced by Prateek and adopted by the Rajarambapu Sugar Factory in Sangli in 2020-2021 has not only reduced time and efforts of the farmers but also increasedprofitability. To launch this initiative, Prateek conducted 22 ‘Shetkari Parisamvads’ where he met over 4,900 farmers to incept the idea and talk about the benefits of this technology. According to him, “acceptance to new methods is often the most difficult step in the Indian agricultural landscape, and to get their willingness to try new schemes is one of the challenging parts.”

Prateek has been involved with agro-innovation and has conducted several initiatives to aid and propagate drip irrigation. These meetings across Sangli propelled the conversation and attracted many farmers to come and test out the drone technology.

SAVING TIME, MONEY AND WATER

Conventionally the farmer sprays his crops physically. Even with hired manual labour, this is a costly and time-consuming affair. In the manual spraying method, for one-acre sugarcane, a farmer would spend around Rs 1000 on spraying labour charges along with 200 L water and a higher quantity of chemicals.

To address these problems, coupled with the lack of labourers during Covid-19, Prateek decided to introduce this technique. He took it upon himself to test the technology and setup a partnership with a regional manufacturing company. The drones are given out on rent at very affordable rates saving almost 40% of total costs. It utilises only 10 L water, saving almost 150 L. Also, now it takes only 5-10 mins to spray fertilisers and permitted pesticides on one acre of sugarcane as opposed to 4-5 hours earlier. Crops at any height can be effectively reached and 4 nozzles guarantee a comprehensive and equal distribution of fertilisers and pesticides.

It is flexible across climate conditions and allows for uniform spraying of entire fields. A reduction of 25-50% in the quantity of fertilisers and pesticides used has been observed after adapting drone spraying and the quality of yield of crops has been found to increase by 20-30%, which has resulted in more income.

GENERATING EMPLOYMENT

Use of this drone technology also has an additional advantage of generating employment for the local youth in manufacturing and operations. The Sugar Factory has partnered with a company called Chatak Innovations for assembling and operating drones. Labour force hiring for the drone operation facility like Drone Pilots & Co-Pilots, Cars & Drivers for the drone’s transport and the supervision team is facilitated under the leadership of Prateek. Employment numbers for assembling and operating is expected to increase as more farmers adopt drone technology.

Currently, the factory uses a 10 L Octocopter drone. After conducting an initial pilot, this technology is being introduced on a greater scale to farmers of the region. Till date, over 3,200 acres of area have been covered by drone spraying benefiting over 2000 farmers of the region. Each drone is currently covering 9 to 12 acres in a day and this is a first-of-its-kind exercise conducted by a sugar factory in Maharashtra, stated Vikas Deshmukh, Director, Vasantdada Sugar Institute.

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Social impact entrepreneur Prateek Patil has implemented a line of drone technology for spraying fertilisers which has already covered 3,200 acres of sugarcane area benefiting over 2,000 farmers in Walwa, Sangli.

Sangli District has been grounds for pioneering agriculture and irrigation works in Western Maharashtra. From the cooperative movement to drip irrigation, innovation has been a sign of the cultivation in the region. The drone spraying technology introduced by Prateek and adopted by the Rajarambapu Sugar Factory in Sangli in 2020-2021 has not only reduced time and efforts of the farmers but also increasedprofitability. To launch this initiative, Prateek conducted 22 ‘Shetkari Parisamvads’ where he met over 4,900 farmers to incept the idea and talk about the benefits of this technology. According to him, “acceptance to new methods is often the most difficult step in the Indian agricultural landscape, and to get their willingness to try new schemes is one of the challenging parts.”

Prateek has been involved with agro-innovation and has conducted several initiatives to aid and propagate drip irrigation. These meetings across Sangli propelled the conversation and attracted many farmers to come and test out the drone technology.

SAVING TIME, MONEY AND WATER

Conventionally the farmer sprays his crops physically. Even with hired manual labour, this is a costly and time-consuming affair. In the manual spraying method, for one-acre sugarcane, a farmer would spend around Rs 1000 on spraying labour charges along with 200 L water and a higher quantity of chemicals.

To address these problems, coupled with the lack of labourers during Covid-19, Prateek decided to introduce this technique. He took it upon himself to test the technology and setup a partnership with a regional manufacturing company. The drones are given out on rent at very affordable rates saving almost 40% of total costs. It utilises only 10 L water, saving almost 150 L. Also, now it takes only 5-10 mins to spray fertilisers and permitted pesticides on one acre of sugarcane as opposed to 4-5 hours earlier. Crops at any height can be effectively reached and 4 nozzles guarantee a comprehensive and equal distribution of fertilisers and pesticides.

It is flexible across climate conditions and allows for uniform spraying of entire fields. A reduction of 25-50% in the quantity of fertilisers and pesticides used has been observed after adapting drone spraying and the quality of yield of crops has been found to increase by 20-30%, which has resulted in more income.

GENERATING EMPLOYMENT

Use of this drone technology also has an additional advantage of generating employment for the local youth in manufacturing and operations. The Sugar Factory has partnered with a company called Chatak Innovations for assembling and operating drones. Labour force hiring for the drone operation facility like Drone Pilots & Co-Pilots, Cars & Drivers for the drone’s transport and the supervision team is facilitated under the leadership of Prateek. Employment numbers for assembling and operating is expected to increase as more farmers adopt drone technology.

Currently, the factory uses a 10 L Octocopter drone. After conducting an initial pilot, this technology is being introduced on a greater scale to farmers of the region. Till date, over 3,200 acres of area have been covered by drone spraying benefiting over 2000 farmers of the region. Each drone is currently covering 9 to 12 acres in a day and this is a first-of-its-kind exercise conducted by a sugar factory in Maharashtra, stated Vikas Deshmukh, Director, Vasantdada Sugar Institute.

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