A long wait to go home
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Bijay Haridas, a migrant worker from Jharkhand. This touching telecom was filled with his tone of desperation and constant requests to let him and help him go home. Talking to him made me realise how the poor actually have no idea about the pandemic because they have not been told about it properly and they haven’t physically seen anyone sick. It also explains how a social cause can remain unfulfilled if it falls short of benefitting the people it was intended for.
AT: Hello Bijay Haridas, I am Swathi calling on behalf of a newspaper… (my introduction is interrupted by his request)
Bijay: Madamji, can you please help us go home
AT: I am not sure if I can help you to go home right now, but I can surely write about you so that many people come to know of your plight and are able to help you in some way.
Bijay: Please madamji, I want to go home.
AT: Can you tell me more about your living conditions.
Bijay: What can I say? Just let us go home.
AT: Are you having food and water?
Bijay: Some people did give us provision. But we have no way to cook it.
AT: So you mean to say that you have been given dal and chawal but don’t have means to cook, like utensils, correct?
Bijay: We neither have kerosene nor vegetables.
AT: How many people are there with you?
Bijay: We are around 100 people here. All want to go home.
AT: Where are you from?
Bijay: Gotea in Jharkhand. (he goes on explaining the significance of his village and the Shiva temple there).
AT: Have you spoken to your family?
Bijay: Of course, I keep talking to them off and on. They all want me back home. My children call me and ask when I'll be back. And everyone else asks me why I am not yet home. Please do something to send me home.
AT: Surely, as soon as any means open up, I will try for you to go home. Where have you been working till now?
Bijay: In Chennai.
AT: And currently you are at Kanathur?
Bijay: We were at Central station. From there we moved here.
AT: Since when are you over here?
Bijay: Since the 22nd.
AT: Are you having all the other facilities? Is there anything you need?
Bijay: We are fine but what is the use of all these facilities when we are unable to go home to our loved ones. We neither have work right now nor able to go home.
AT: Do you know why you are unable to go home?
Bijay: Yes, because there are no modes. All buses and trains have been stopped.
AT: But why have buses and trains been stopped?
Bijay: Because the government asked them to stop. The government will do what it likes. One fine day it said ‘No transport’ and everything stopped.
AT: Yeah, but why did the government stop all transport?
Bijay: It just wished to do so. I don’t know why. But please do something to get us back home.
AT: Sure. Have you heard of Corona Virus?
Bijay: Yes, we have heard about it, and see a lot of videos on it. They show that one person was found here and there with it and then the police do something. But we don’t find anything over here. It does not seem to exist where we are. I don’t see anyone around here with it.
AT: In case the government opens up the transport or you are offered work again, what would
you want to do?
Bijay: If I am offered a job, I may go back to work. In case the transport starts, I may go back. Anything can happen.
AT: Okie, so… (I am interrupted again by Bijay)
Bijay: Madamji, who are you?
AT: (I introduce myself again over here) I am from a patrika and want to write about you all hoping that help will pour in soon for all of you.
Bijay: Madamji, just help us get us some transport whenever possible, so we reach home soon.
AT: Definitely! I wish you all the best.
Bijay: Thank you madamji.
Only torn families can fully understand the pain of separation at times like this. While many of us are intellectually capable of putting two plus two together, the same cannot be expected of everyone. Who takes the responsibility to make them understand that they are not allowed to travel so that they and their families can be safe? While the lack of knowledge of the migrant labourers is understandable, how does one justify crowding at a fish market and the commotion created while collecting tokens at PDS shops?