Official is on COVID-19 duty within weeks after losing his daughter

On Sunday morning, Nelpettai and its surroundings were busy like any other day. Thousands of people descended on the market, shopping for vegetables, mutton and fish.

After dispersing crowds from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. , Assistant Executive Engineer S. Sharbutheen sits down to take a break. “Usually, this is the time when my daughter and I meet for lunch,” he says.

“I chose a specific spot for my break every day. Outside an ice cream shop on East Marret Street, because it brings me closer to all that I have lost. On March 8, my 19-year-old daughter passed away due to Stevens-Johnsons syndrome, a rare skin disorder,” he says. Ten days later, he was back on the field to work against COVID-19 pandemic. “My daughter would not have wanted it any other way,” he says.

“All my attention is focused on the present job of ensuring physical distancing. By keeping myself busy, I have given myself little time to grieve over my loss,” he says.

Two days back, he helped in setting up a mobile market for sale of vegetables between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. by earmarking spaces for shoppers to maintain social distancing. “By doing something for the common good, I am overcoming my grief, ” he says. Through tears, he shows photos and videos of her, a college student.

“She was like a friend. I loved her so much as she was the youngest of three children. She won’t see the deserted streets and closed houses of a COVID-19 world. However, I will try to ensure that other children get back on the streets, play and have all the joy in the world,” Mr. Sharbutheen says.

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