Film Zwigato Made Me Ashamed Of Our Lack Of Empathy For Delivery Persons

The movie Zwigato essays our collective insensitivity and inability to empathise as the customers, with those who make our lives better.

(Note: This is not a movie review; rather an expression of my emotions as they emerged on watching this heart-wrenching movie about the lives of the underprivileged food delivery men in our country.)

What is the film Zwigato about?

The movie is a touching depiction of the trials and tribulations faced a delivery man, Manas Mahto, a migrant from Jharkhand, (played by comedian Kapil Sharma in an inspired casting decision) who works in Bhubaneswar, Orissa for the food delivery app Zwigato (a creative melding of the real-world food delivery apps – Swiggy and Zomato).

Through the empathetic lens of Nandita Das, the acclaimed filmmaker, we get to see how the tips from customers like me, our ratings, compassion or lack of them impact the lives of food delivery men. We also get a glimpse into the apathetic managers and the one-sided system they have to deal with.

How we behave with delivery men

We don’t interact with these helpful people much in our daily lives- barely even look at them, let alone be well-versed with their lives. But this fictionalised look at their lives took me on a journey where I felt their heart-ache. Their frustration on being stuck in a hopeless situation of low income and a lack of opportunities to earn more, is palpable throughout the movie.

I’ve read many comments of delivery men under the trailer of the movie on YouTube, that convince me that this story is less fiction and more fact.

They makes our lives easier, yet…

I remember feeling very heavy and emotional as I left the movie theatre. I just had to empty my thoughts down in order to feel lighter.

These are the hard-working members of society who brave the heat, winds and rains to ride their scooter, bicycle or bike and carefully reach food to my doorstep so that I don’t have to. To toddler-moms like me who have a lot of tough days, the food delivery men and boys are nothing short of heaven-sent angels. Anyone who has a child knows how tough it is to leave your home for anything (with or without your child), least of all to run errands or buy food items, especially if it involves any waiting around.

Yet do we notice or acknowledge them?

The movie shows us how much of a delivery man’s life involves waiting- for someone to place an order, to collect the parcel, to collect the payment – to name a few instances. Owing to their efforts I get some spare time away from meal prepping, cooking and planning, in the weekend and sometimes mid-week as well, helping a lot in reducing my anxiety.

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Since I usually prepay my orders, I barely spend any time interacting with them. I just collect the parcel, say thank you (without fail) and close the door. And yet in the few seconds that I had spent looking at their faces, I recollect now that I barely ever caught them smiling. They usually have sombre faces and after watching Zwigato, I know why.

The discriminating effects of the gig economy

Customers like me, restaurant owners, food delivery app founders and investors are the only ones benefitting from the apps. Those on the other side, doing all the heavy lifting (I was so sad to know that they get paltry sums per trip even if they have to lug 20 pizzas up the stairs in one trip!) only feel frustrated and helpless every day.

One would think that any system that is heavily skewed will correct itself. And that the apps would not be able to get a steady supply of people to deliver if they continue to exploit their delivery team members. But the system is broken and will remain skewed forever. The reason? Manas, played by Kapil Sharma addresses it in the movie –

The helplessness driving them…

India’s over population and job creation not matching the population growth rate has resulted in mass unemployment. The line from the movie, “Majdoor Hain tabhi majboor hain, ya phir majboor hain tabhi majboor hain,” (I’m doing this work because I’m helpless, or I’m helpless because I am doing this job!) explains it all. People are forced to swallow egos, take up jobs below their qualifications and circumstances prevent them from letting go of these jobs even though they know they are being exploited.

Every time the class divide was depicted in the movie it triggered me. How can the privileged ill-treat anyone who helps us? It’s bizarre how some humans consider themselves superior and are ungrateful merely because they can pay for a service.

…and the hopelessness of it all

Manas’s family faces several challenges throughout the movie, which ends with a message that ‘Even if you are running a race that you are bound to lose, there are always small joys to be had.’ It’s an important life lesson for sure. But it made me leave the theatre feeling more hopeless than before.

When you suddenly see Manas played by the superb Kapil Sharma laugh and grin while experiencing child-like exhilaration for the very first time in the final scene of the film, I realised that I never saw him smile throughout the movie. I wanted to share those moments of elation with Manas and his wife (played brilliantly by Shahana Goswami). But I couldn’t help but feel that facing reality after those mere seconds of happiness must have been even more excruciating.

A call for empathy

As a customer all I can do is express my gratitude to every delivery man at my door with a smile, give them five-star ratings, offer them cold water during summers, include tips in the payment and give small tokens of gratitude during festivals like Diwali. I do wish I could do more though.

The movie Zwigato has finally given voice to those whose plight has gone unnoticed so far. Let’s ensure that these voices do not get muffled again. Let’s empathise with those who are not as privileged as us and be thankful for any service we receive, even if we pay for them. It’s the least we can do as humans living together in a society.

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About the Author

Ashwini S Menon

Like any other writer, I am always on the lookout for those golden words that can touch people's hearts. But more often than not, I just write so that my soul can speak. Either read more...

14 Posts | 38,775 Views

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