IN MANY WAYS the life of Salil Tripathi has told the story of an entire nation’s workforce, its moorings lost wave after wave of a relentless pandemic. And in many ways, his death summed up the tragedy.
Originally from UP Ayodhya, Tripathi worked in several star hotels before rising through the ranks to become a restaurant manager in the heart of Delhi. He was leading a comfortable life at age 36, according to his family, moving to a bustling suburb of the nation’s capital with his wife and son – and much more.
Until the dawn of 2020, and the first lockdown has arrived. Tripathi lost his job in the first wave, his father in the second. And within a year, this hotel management graduate had become a delivery executive at Zomato.
On Saturday night, the coup de grace came in the form of an SUV driven by a police officer. The vehicle, police said, knocked him over. The driver, according to eyewitnesses, was drunk. Tripathi died instantly, leaving behind his wife and 10-year-old son, as well as their home in Budh Vihar in Rohini.
When Tripathi was hit, he was waiting for an order for food.
“There was a time when Salil earned well and led a comfortable life. He also sent us money. After the first confinement, everything changed. We were struggling to make ends meet. Now we have lost it. We don’t know how we’re going to run the house now. I am a farmer and I don’t have much savings, ”said Tripathi’s older brother Manoj, who lives in Ayodhya.
According to his family, Tripathi completed his studies in Delhi before joining the JP Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology in Meerut. He started working in 2003 and has held positions at City Park Hotel, Suryaa Hotel, Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts, and Rico’s Restaurant.
“Salil was the manager of the Hudson Lane restaurant, but was removed from his post after it closed in the first wave. He stayed home for a few months and used up all his savings. We believed the lockdown was temporary and Salil would either return to his job or find another well-paying job soon. He found one in a cafe but also lost it in 2021 because the owners suffered losses from Covid. Since then, he has only had this job as a delivery man, ”said Manoj, the brother.
Tripathi’s wife Sucheta says her father, a former mechanical engineer in a printing house, died of Covid last April. “It wasn’t easy for us… Salil’s employers didn’t even give him his salary. He had to join Zomato to help pay for tuition and other expenses. He worked day and night… the work was exhausting and he didn’t earn that much. I was always worried about him, ”she said.
According to DCP (Rohini) Pranav Tayal, the officer involved in Saturday’s crash, identified as Zile Singh, was arrested the same night. Police are also investigating eyewitness allegations that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time. “We have taken a blood alcohol test and are awaiting the medical report,” said a senior officer.
But all of this is of little consolation to the family. “What am I doing now? I lost him forever. My son keeps asking questions,” Sucheta said, adding that they may move on to Ayodhya soon.
According to the family, Tripathi worked 7 to 8 hours a day delivering food and earned Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month depending on the number of orders and the workload. Before Covid, he earned Rs 40,000 to 50,000 per month in restaurants.
His friend, Sameer, said: “We worked in the same restaurant, but a lot of staff were made redundant in the first wave. I knew he was struggling, but he was strong. He was an honest man and a great friend. He loved his family and never complained.
The family said a Zomato official came to meet them although they have yet to get financial assistance.
When contacted by Indian express, a Zomato official said: “Our team has already visited them and collected documents to ensure that financial assistance is provided with the help of our insurance partners. There could be a delay on the side of the insurance partner. We have started the process. The support team is in contact with the family.
The official also said there had been an increase in the number of delivery partners they employed since the lockdown. “Most of them are students or people who want to do temporary work for 2-3 months before they can get a better job. “