How to get home? A poem on how migrants workers are facing a long walk home amidst lockdown
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of Coronavirus, thousands of Indians have been forced to walk hundreds of miles just to get home. It's their story. Listen below.
You see that beeline on the highway?
Hungry, flushed faces walking on roads meant for high-speed cars?
Their dirty green shirts, stench of uncertainty and aadhar cards?
Can you though?
They linger lifelessly after reading the milestone
milestone that asks them to stay home but doesn't tell how to get there
Do they look like humans? or crowd?
Crowds don't have faces, they are just numbers, blurred
It looks like a pilgrimage, an exodus
The exodus of the otherwise great unwashed
What are they running from? Running with small, blackened faces & shining snot
You run when you see your neighbour running faster than you
You run when your contractor says he can't pay you
You run to feed that fire in your belly that is wageless indefinitely
Why are they standing so close? With their dirty handkerchiefs, ugly carrybags?
What does social distancing mean in your mother tongue?
One of them has a flute poking out of her packet
The flute reminds her of the village house
Of unwavering promise: "We'll run away one day, till then remember me by this"
She doesn't have a name though
She's just "Didi"
Or she was until Mrs Gupta told that the society needs to be disinfected and they should stop coming
Look at him. He spits the gutka out that was supposed to take him at least 20 kilometers
First hot meal in 38 hours
Are they running from the virus? On foot - these caricatures of people who hide in our collective curves?
Curve that we flatten by killing their livelihoods
Curve that we flatten by hoarding up on grains
While they break down outside railways stations
beneath bus sheds
under his majesty's ignorance
You run because you can't hide
Can't hide that cough that clings onto you at marble factories
You run because your dirty hands have become untouchable
Untouchable by a virus that you didn't bring
No one chooses spend nights at desolate highways
or get beaten up - uniformly
I've heard home makes the man
But which one is my home?
My makeshift tent at your highrise construction-site?
O the chair that you had given me to give you a sense of security?
Or my dirty shawl that looks like sweat and fear?
I have walked miles so that you don't get infected
I look like a disease, a pest, a vermin
Do you see me?
"Stay home" you order
I want to
But can you please tell me how to get there?