When Kishori Pednekar, the mayor of Mumbai, arrived at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run B.Y.L. Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central on April 27 at around 11 am, everyone thought it was a ‘routine’ official visit. That was until she stepped out of her official car. In a departure from her usual sari-clad self, Pednekar, 58, was dressed in a nurse’s white uniform, complete with red belt and shoulder lapels. It had been 28 years since Pednekar had last donned the uniform, when she used to work as a nurse at a private hospital before entering politics.
On her arrival, Pednekar went directly to the conference hall where around a hundred girl students in the second and third year of their nursing course were assembled. In the next one hour, Pednekar turned teacher, telling the young students how noble a profession they had chosen and how they had to rise to the challenge posed by the coronavirus crisis. She also gave them tips on how to handle patients and their relatives, especially when they were in distress.
Since Nair Hospital is a dedicated COVID-19 centre, the staff and visitors are not allowed without masks. The hospital administration has deputed second- and third-year nursing students in COVID-19 wards for two reasons—to help out existing staff and to earn practical experience of working in an epidemic.
This was Pednekar’s first public appearance in a week since she went into self-quarantine after she had come into contact with some journalists who tested positive for COVID-19 on April 22. She stepped out only after both her swab samples tested negative. “Being the mayor of the city, I could have monitored the situation sitting in my bungalow,” she says. “But I decided to motivate the students and boost their morale.” She believes students should be prepared to fulfill their “vrat” (vow) as nurses. “They are facing their first challenge in the form of COVID-19. They won’t be scared of facing a challenge of any magnitude in the future if they have the experience of handling this situation.”
After visiting the hospital, Pednekar went to her official residence in Byculla. Back in a sari, she went to the BMC headquarters to resume duties. On a normal day, Pednekar begins work at 8 am, when she reviews the situation in different parts of the city. She then visits a ward to look into locals’ complaints. Being a people’s representative, she says, she cannot sit idle at home when Mumbai needs her. Two weeks ago, she had visited the Bhabha Hospital in Vile-Parle where the nurses had launched a flash protest demanding Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits after a positive patient died.
A third-time councillor, Pednekar had come under fire in 2018 when she protested against RJ Malishka for the song ‘Sonu Tula Bharosa Nahi Ka’ on the potholes of Mumbai. She has since learnt the art of being politically correct. Appointed mayor of the city in November 2019, she says, “My party chief has given me a responsibility. I am only trying to discharge my duty.”
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