Due to the COVID-19 lock-down, I went back home in March. COVID-19 outbreak came to light in December, 2019 and started from Wuhan, China; when it was declared to WHO that cluster cases of pneumonia-like disease were spreading due to unknown causes. Later, WHO declared it pandemic seeing the enormous increase in cases all over the world.
In India, the first case of COVID-19 was reported on January 30, 2020 which originated from China. When the pandemic started wreaking havoc, as a preventive measure the Government of India announced a nationwide lock-down for 21 days starting from March 24. Since then we saw four phases of lock-down and for phases of unlock as well.
When corona-virus is prevalent in society and everybody is scared and anxious because of the pandemic, when we all are fighting at our own levels; during lock-down period, there was one fight which was fought by daily wagers, low class workers, and by their mothers, sisters and wives as well as their sons, brothers or husbands who had gone to different states as migrant workers. They were anxious and worried about their family members as they didn’t know how their family members would be surviving far away from their homes when they had no jobs and money with them and no way to return as well.
Today, I am going to share the story of my house help, Rajkumari, whose three sons Kamlesh, Vimlesh and Mithilesh had gone to Gujarat for work. Two of them worked in brick factories whereas the younger one worked as road or tiles labourer. But because of the lock-down there was no work for them, hence they were not getting paid and their ration also got finished in the first week of the lock-down. All the three members stayed at different parts of Gujarat as they all work at different places.
In the first few weeks Rajkumari cried a lot and called us daily. My mother consoled her and we helped her and her sons in whatever way we could. One day she came to our house somehow, sat outside and started crying uncontrollably, we asked her what the reason was? To which she replied that her son was telling her to come home by foot and as she was listening to many accident stories, she was scared. We called her son and told him to wait for some days in the view that maybe the government thinks of helping these people so that they could also reach their safe place which is home. Firstly, he was not listening but at last we were able to persuade him to wait there and not come home by foot.
In some days his wait was over as the government relaxed the lockdown and started Shramik Train Sewa from May 7 and by God’s grace his contractor helped him to get his pass. He reached home in some days and was staying outside his home to complete the quarantine period. Rajkumari’s family members had built a makeshift hut for him. Her second son, Vimlesh also got his pass made and he also reached home after some days after going through quite an ordeal.
Vimlesh stayed with four other friends who were from the same place. Vimlesh’s contractor asked for Rs. 1000 from each of them for getting the pass made. They thought that anyhow they will reach home so they gave the money. The contractor ran away with the money and stopped picking their call. When they got totally frustrated, they texted him that if he wouldn’t get the pass made, they would go to the police. The threat worked and he received the call as soon as he saw that message. He made an excuse of his phone not working and affirmed that he would get their passes made soon and not more than two days passed, he came with the passes and with money as well. So, in a week they also started their journey.
The third son whose factory continued running in the first two months of lock-down as his contract was getting over after that so he didn’t go through any such problems. After two months, his contractor helped his pass getting made without hassle and he came home back without facing any problem.
Here Rajkumari who was happy beyond limits as her sons came back told us that she was worried sick about their sons as she was afraid whether she would be able to see her sons or not. When all of her sons returned back, she promised to herself that she wouldn’t let her sons go back. She said that even if they had less money, they would survive happily but she was not able to survive without knowing how her sons would be. She even went on to extend that even at her age she could happily feed her sons but can and will never put their lives in danger.
The problem of one Rajkumari and her sons were solved but there were many whose situations never saw a daylight as due to lack of ration, food, money and help, many of the workers set out for the journey back home on foot with the blisters on the foot, not adequate food, with their family which comprised of the women, kids and old members. They went for days walking and some even couldn’t reach home because of misshapen like train accidents, road accidents and many people passed away in the middle of the route because of walking for days in April-June heat which is really scorching heat without much water or food which led to dehydration, heat-stroke and other such health problems.
This pandemic many people lost their jobs, hopes, careers, integrity and even their lives. But this lock-down has also made us become more resilient and patient. Many of the people came on the road to help these walkers. People pooled in to help each other. The fight with COVID-19 is continuing and we all will fight it, keep each other safe and try to be happier as we all live once.