It's been almost three months since the coronavirus lockdown triggered an economic chain reaction that left thousands without work and almost just as long since a family of seven in Northeast Delhi's Seelampur has had a full square meal to eat.
"We were barely making our ends meet since my elder brother lost his job at a merchandise store during the lockdown," said 20-year-old Chand Mohammad, whose family has been surviving on ration provided by neighbours and whatever little his brother could earn doing odd jobs.
With many mouths to feed, an ailing mother and school fee to be paid, class 12 student Chand Mohammad, who wants to study medicine, recently accepted work as a sweeper at Delhi's Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital - where he lifts and helps transport bodies of coronavirus patients to crematoriums.
"I took the job after I exhausted all my options. This is dangerous and I am at very high risk of contracting the infection, but I needed the money," said Chand Mohammad, who works from noon to 8 pm and handles about two to three bodies in a day along with another worker.
Though his work is stressful, what worries him most is the lack of insurance in high-risk jobs like his.
"This is the most dangerous job in the world right now but it pays around Rs. 17,000 per month...We put bodies inside the ambulance, take it to the crematorium and put it on a stretcher while wearing a heavy and suffocating personal protection suit (PPE) in this heat," he said.
Talking about his work conditions, Chand Mohammad described how he had to handle a month-old unclaimed body that had allegedly not been wrapped properly.
"When I tried taking it down from the ambulance, the cover came off and some liquid spilled on my thighs," he said, adding that he has faith in God and he takes all COVID prevention measures necessary.
There is a possibility that we may survive the virus, but we cannot escape hunger, he said.
Asked what would happen to his aspirations of studying medicine, Chand Mohammean said, "You need money to study."
His school fee and that of his three sisters is yet to be paid, but Chand Mohammad hopes that his first salary will set things right to a certain extent.
(Inputs from PTI)