Ashish Anand had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. The former flight attendant borrowed from relatives and poured his $5,000 life savings into opening a clothing shop outside New Delhi selling custom-designed suits, shirts and pants.
That was in February 2020, just weeks before the coronavirus struck India and the government enacted one of the world’s toughest nationwide lockdowns.
Unable to pay the rent, Mr. Anand closed down two months later.
As a second coronavirus wave strikes India, which reported a new daily high of more than 216,000 cases on Friday, the pandemic is undoing decades of progress for a country that has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Already, deep structural problems and the sometimes impetuous nature of the government’s policies had hindered growth. A shrinking middle class would deal lasting damage.
Now Mr. Anand and his wife and his two children are among millions of Indians in danger of sliding out of the middle class and into poverty. They depend on handouts from his in-laws, and khichdi — watery lentils cooked with rice — has replaced eggs and chicken at the dinner table.
Sometimes, he said, the children go to bed hungry.
“I have nothing left in my pocket,” he said.