The sun was beaming down, it was probably the hottest day of the Summer but that’s how it had felt like the day before too. The temperature wasn’t receding, but in fact, it was rising up every hour. As the clock struck noon, a cement-mixer truck came to a halt on the countryside highway near a northbound unpaved road. The scorching heat might have soaked up even the last droplet of water there was in that barren land. Recently the Government had taken stern steps to develop the nation, and creating a world-class infrastructure was an important part of that plan. Connecting the towns and cities, bringing people together. More opportunities, more jobs!
Nothing was unusual about seeing a cement mixer near a barren land, it was probably the best thing to happen because that meant they’ll be connecting one more town or a village with the highway. But what was unusual today was that there was only one cement mixer and nothing else… not a single soul or a car for as far as your eyes could see.
A month ago, the Government had announced a complete lockdown, there was a certain pandemic on the lose. So the question was, didn’t the notification reach the Transport ministry? Turns out it did. Because it wasn’t a normal cement mixer. A horrifying scenario starts unfolding on the service road adjacent to the highway. That machine wasn’t there to construct a road and connect people with opportunities. No! It was there to see off the people who have lost the chance that life gave them because of a disease spreading globally. Twenty-one people jump out of that cement mixer, all scared for dear life!
Akhilesh Tiwari, a lanky looking man was the last one to emerge out of that truck. Akhilesh hails from a little town named Ramgarh situated on the outskirts of Uttar Pradesh, still about 800 km from this point. He started stretching his body as if he wasn’t sure if his limbs would ever work again.
As everyone was resting by the highway, a tired-looking old man asked Akhilesh, “what were you doing in Mumbai?” Akhilesh smirked, his lips twitching under his thick moustache. “I had heard this was the city where dreams come true! So, without thinking about anything else, I just walked in here 7 years ago without a single penny in my pocket.” The old man giggled at the statement. Wiping the sweat on his forehead with a gamcha (towel) around his neck, the old man said, “That is my story too, but I came here 30 years ago! Anyway, so tell me, what’s your dream?” Akhilesh opened a packet of biscuits, the last one he had in his pocket. He didn’t know if he’ll get anything to eat after he was done with this packet, he wasn’t really thinking, but he didn’t hesitate to offer it to the old man. “Have one,” Akhilesh insisted. As the old man obliged, Akhilesh started venting. “I have two kids, Shyaam is 7 and Priya is 5.” He showed the old man their pictures on his phone. The twinkle in his eyes said everything about his love for those two little kids. Akhilesh continued, “I want to educate them as much as I can. I wish to make both of them Doctors. We need doctors in our village. Also, Shyaam is very good at cricket, so if possible, I want to see him become a cricketer!” He smiles as if he was watching his son play for India. “My son can be the next Sachin Tendulkar!”
Almost 8 days after that conversation with the old man, Akhilesh had finally reached his hometown. He looked like a completely broken down man. He had barely found some water to drink in the past week, food was a privilege he didn’t know of. How would he, being a farmer it didn’t seem to be a privilege to him before!
Imagine, working 8 months of hard labour in the Maximum city so the economy keeps moving and then going to your hometown to do farming for 4 months so that the country would get to eat. But when you were in need, in the desperate of times, you were left behind for the vultures!
On his journey back home, Akhilesh had fallen to the ground in a heap numerous times. He starved. There was always a risk to his life from the people of the villages he was passing by, nobody would want an invader carrying a virus in their sweet little society. They would rather kill the man than face the virus. But through all this, Akhilesh continued, majorly on foot, what was inspiring about this journey was not even once had he thought about giving up his life. Not one suicidal thought. All he wished to do was go home and be with his family, his kids! And that’s what defined the heart of these migrating labourers, while the privileged world was crying out loud with the idea of being doomed on the internet, the migrants, they wanted to live!
Two days after reaching home, Akhilesh was working on his farm. Which was ironic now, to say the least. But he was a hardworking guy and wasn’t spiteful. While he was busy feeding water to his two buffaloes, his wife asked him, “How will we afford to pay for our children’s education now?” He stopped and looked at her for a moment. Akhilesh was never a confused man, he always had clarity, even at that moment, he seemed poised with an answer. “What’s the point of education? Yes, it does brings you prosperity and all the privileges in the world. But I want my kids to be kind, and humane. I think that is the only thing the world needs right now.”
Akhilesh was sure, the biggest danger to humans was the virus called inhumanity.