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The March of the forgotten millions.

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The sun is scorching. This is the hottest day I encountered in my journey so far. As I thought about it, I wiped the sweat off my face. I unloaded the bag off my back; I kept it as close as I could through my entire journey. And why would I not, it contain all my savings, at least what I could manage to get away with, in all that hurry.

I moved to the side of the road to catch a breath. I looked at my feet wound which was still fresh and caused by walking bare feet. Looks like the highways are not that ‘smooth’ as government say. My chappal (Slippers) broke down a few days ago and since then it’s just, my sheer will to reach my family which I am walking on nowadays. I couldn’t delay the journey for long. My wife has informed me that our younger son is very ill. He is suffering from T.B., from two years he was getting treatment from a government hospital, but these days he is worse than ever. My wife keep crying over the phone and I can’t see her like this, so I have to reach them as early as possible; even if it means walking with wounds. Because let’s face some truth, what’s a man without his family, poor and rich alike.

I came to the city to earn enough to see my family happy, but the irony is I can’t even see them now.

I looked at the sun, still radiating enough on this earth to burn someone skin but it’s fine for me now, I got a habit of it or I should say got enough sunburns for a lifetime.

I looked at my phone; it was 2:32 P.M. Time for lunch, but for that I must find some shade. After a few minutes, I find a tree big enough to get some shade. I sat down and opened my bag to take out some biscuits, namkeen and water. Yeah, it’s not some five start delicacy which I cannot afford, anyway. It’s just that I don’t have any means to cook in the middle of the road. But I have decided that when I’ll reach home, I’ll have a full meal with my family. Until then, biscuit and water is my ultimate delight. I guess that my family is also not eating full mouth these days, as my wife savings is on the verge of an end. I tried to transfer through a bank account so that someone from my village can take it out and give it to my wife, but in reality no matter what the government said, bank stopped receiving people as soon as lockdown begun.

After lunch, I reached out to check the most precious thing in my bag, my 4700 rupees savings. 5 weeks before, my employer gave me 6000 rupees and told me he has to let me go because he cannot afford to pay me. I asked to pay me a little more because these are difficult times, I remember he replied this is the best he can do because he has to pay 5 more guys. So at one instant I lost my job, my only source of livelihood. I don’t blame my malik (employer). Our dhaba is close for more than a month now. There is no business at all. I guess these are gruelling times for everybody. Mumbai is a wonderful city. It gave me a job when I most needed it, but it also took it away when I required the same.

I listened to the radio after the lunch. I keep learning unfamiliar things these days, Modi Ji keeps telling about some ‘social distancing’. I always thought we have to come together to solve a problem, but now it seems like it’s better to stay apart.

I saw a video on WhatsApp in which a film star was kind of instructing us to stay in home and calling people stupid who were out. I just want to say that it’s easy to say all this if you are sitting in a house worth more than my entire life earning.

But how is it possible to maintain social distancing in the room where I was living in Mumbai. There were 5 people in a compact room.

I want to follow what modi Ji says, but what should I do in unavoidable circumstances.

There was a friend of mine living with me. He was a street vendor. He kept saying if I don’t go sell my products, I’ll have no money to pay the rent or to send it back to my village. He kept risking his health because it was not the point of money. It was about the survival of him and his family. There were hundreds of people I knew alone, including me, that were going through this. It was either they suffer from coronavirus or they suffer from starvation.

That film star said, “that we will come together to save economy”. I just want to say that I don’t even know what economy even means. If my parents could afford me to teach all that stuff, I wouldn’t even be here. Me and crores of people in the country just care about our families and that they don’t have to sleep hungry at nights.

But apart from all of this, I also saw some magnificent things. Like when I was crossing one city, I saw people beating their thalis; I did it too. One time, an entire city got lighted like it was Diwali in April.

I even saw some people shouting ‘Go Corona Go‘. I didn’t know shouting at a disease like this can make it go, If that’s true I would even tell my wife to shout like this to make our chintu T.B. go.

When I started my journey, I never knew this will be so tough. I even lost the way many times during my journey but thanks to some strangers, Co-travellers just like me and even some kind policeman who after making me do few squats, apologizing and lathis used to tell me the way. I stopped counting the number of lathis after some time. Now, I just know that if a policeman is kind, you will get away with squats but if not get ready to have some lathis as a complementary. Sometimes, I have to sleep on roadsides, bridges, parks and even on the railways tracks because its give an elevation from wild animals and insects. And it’s the story of every city I crossed.

Before going to relax for a bit, I locked my bag with a lock because these days there are a lot of robberies going on with the travellers like us. One more thing to deal for us in these unruly times.

Few days ago, I met a woman roughly 53 who was robbed of all her belonging while she was sleeping on the side of the road. She was travelling from Mumbai to Allahabad to her son and his wife. When she approached a policeman, he said, “Nikalana hi kyu tha” (why did you even went out).

She replied boldly, “vaha kuch kaam nhi tha, agar rukti to bhook ke maare vaha marr jati (I got no job back there, If I would have stayed, I would have died of hunger).

I mean so bold of her to tell the story of everyone around her in a single sentence.

She told me how her son abandoned her in this city. And now this city has abandoned her. Sadly, she couldn’t make it, one of the unfortunate hundreds.

After I woke from the nap, I prepared to continue my journey. I took to the streets. And then suddenly, one bus passed beside me. Bus was swarmed with people. I remember it; they were charging 5000 rupees per person to get on this. I couldn’t afford that and those who even did, barely managed it.

We all are different but everybody who was suddenly forced to move on with their lives lost more than their jobs and homes, we have lost hope.

And as I embarked on my journey once again. I saw a sign stating Jabalpur: 150 KM, lengthy journey ahead.

The End.

Written by:archit