Sunday, 24 May 2020

Arjun Kumar Paswan Migrant

See this cropped WhatsApp image carefully. You would have seen this face many times. Behind golguppa carts, cleaning up in hotels, as watchmen in apartments. They all have a story to tell.
Here is the story of a debt of 80,000/-.That drives a young man from pillar to post. From Bihar-Jharkhand border to Erode and on foot back to his village Hazipur.  
Arjun, "I am the only support for my parents. They are old. Every day my mother weeps, I have to reach home , see them as soon as possible.
I came here only because we are in deep debt. One and a half lakhs debts, over the weddings of my two younger sisters.
I was first working in Erode for 2 years. But that company ran into losses and they fired some of us. Then I came to Chennai eight months ago.
Over the years I managed to earn and pay up 70,000/-. But then the lockdown happenned and everything was finished. We still have 80,000/- debt. At 100% interest."
And then he switched topics, "Is the WhatsApp picture yours ? Really ? Then you are just like my Ammaji. I will never foget your ehsaan. We people never forget."
"In Chennai, I had set up a small stall outside a company where I would sell water and chana. I would make about 9000/-. I would send it home. I spent very little on myself. I did not even stay in a room. Night I would close my stall window and sleep on the ground outside. I had a small kerosene stove, and I would cook my roti and subzi there on the roadside."
And when it rained, I asked. "The watchman of the company has his room at the gate. We would both sleep there then."
"Every day I speak to my Ammaji and Babuji. I speak for half an hour. My Babuji would always tell me, work anywhere, but never theive. He would teach me that again and again."
"We have some land. We put a motor, but that failed and we dont have money to repair it. You will not understand the pressures of us poor people."
I asked him to send his picture, and of his family. "My phone camera does not work. I will send after we return home.When people see me now they will not recognize me. The times have been very hard. Six months ago I was so much better.
Nights I dont get sleep, I keep worrying ..."

Part I
Arjun Kumar Paswan called me last night, late.
"Aap Kahan ho ??", I nearly shouted.
Whole day I had been on the phone trying to reach him. His phone was switched off. And I could not get off my mind the image of a lone man with no money in his pocket trudging on the highway from Hyderabad.
"Mein Latur mein hoon.", I fell off the chair. Morning he had called from Hyderabad.
But Latur is still a long way from Bihar, Aurangabad.
He was with a group of 57 Jharkhand people in Chennai, when I started tracking this group.In hennai we had divided amongst us the work of helping differnt groups. He was not originally part of that group, but as he was alone he attached himself to them. 
They had all set out walking from Chennai.The police caught them at the check post after their long hard walk to the border, and brought them all to Central Station. There the group of 57 was split and left in two places by the police van. A group of 36 was dropped on the Sriperumbudur Highway. The remaining were  dropped at Redhills . 
This group of 36 ate with their own money at a small hotel on the Sriperumbadur highwayland slept on the roadside. He stayed with them.
The 36 of them together raised 7000/- each, by selling their cell phones, and took a private van and left. He had no money, or wherewithal to raise it, and when he tried to get in too, he was pushed out by the driver.
So he and another lone person Mohan Singh stayed on the Sriperumbudur Highway for two days near a hotel. As we were in touch with them, we would pay the hotel and they would eat. He would tell me about his parents, "Mere Ammaji and Pitaji boode hain. Roz rothe hain. Mujhe Jana hai. ", 'My parents are old, they weep daily. I need to go  ...'.
One day I transferred 1000/- extra to the hotel as he would have some spending money. And that afternoon he left even as we were trying for relief centres for him.
The phone was switched off after that. I would try daily many times.
Then 3 days later I got a call from him from Hyderabad to tell me that me that he had walked to there. And he told me that he  would keep walking till he reached home. I told him not to, I asked him to wait till we discussed possibilities. I asked him how much money he had. 200/- he said. He does not possess a bank account. And he had no suggestions on how I could transfer money to him.
After that I could not contact him. His phone was switched off.
He had told me that he keeps the phone switched off. To conserve charge.
Night I got a call from Latur ... he had had a ride on a lorry. He had 100/- now. He had no way to help me transfer money to him.
He informed me that he would walk on to Varanasi. He said that a lorry driver asked for 1500/- for the trip, and that that was not possible. I assured him that I would pay and to please fix up the lorry ride. ... He hesitated very much, and then said ok ...
Today morning I got a call that the driver refused, and that he had started walking and was 25 km out of Latur. And since then the phone has been switched off ...
He will call ...
(to be continued ...)

Arjun called now. "Border paar kar liya. Bihar mein hoon." !!
He said that now hes 200 km from home. He was very cool. He said now he will meet people from his district, and will reach home by tomorrow
18th May, He set out with 1000/- from Chennai. Which I had transferred to him via a shop as he had absolutely no money. I did not transfer more as I did not know about this shop. After that he disappeared.
21st May, he reached Hyderabad and called. He had 200/- with him. He was determined to proceed homewards.
As he has no bank account, it was not possible to reach money to him. Also no coordination was possible as he would keep switching off his phone when he was not calling, to conserve charge.
21st evening he called me up from Latur. He had hitched a ride. He had 100/- left.
A lorry driver said he could drop him in Varanasi for 1500/-. I tried to persuade him to take it, promising to transfer as soon as he gave me a number. He was not sure.
22nd morning he called to tell me that he was walking from Latur to Varanasi. That the lorry did not work out. I checked the distance 1245 km ! There was no way to reach him, the phone was switched off.
22nd evening he called me saying he was in a lorry to Varanasi. That the driver had asked for no money and all was well. That he would reach by 2 am. He had only 100/- with him. And courage.
23rd morning, today, there was no call. I kept waiting, worried. Then I got a call near noon saying he was in a bus from Varanasi towards Bihar.
23rd 3pm he calls me and says all is well. That he has crossed the border into Bihar.
Money was not on his mind, and now I realized that that are far greater support systems working than money can buy. Anyway I again asked him if I can transfer some money for the remaining 200 km he needs to go. He then asked the shop nearby,and the shopkeeper said that he could take the money on Google Pe and give him.
He said he should reach home by tomorrow. 24th.
I will wait for that call. But he reassured me that he was now in Bihar, all was well. He would meet people from his district. Everyone would help.
18th to 24th. A young man, a 'migrant', lost his job, his savings. And crossed the country on 1000/- from a wellwisher, and on his own courage and determination and need.

Do you know what gives greater happiness than seeing Arjun reach back his village Hazipur after a walk of a week across the length of this land ?
Talking to his mother.
He connected me to her now. She spoke Jharkhandi, I did not understand anything, and yet I followed everything she said. And she, all that I said.
Journeys end in mother-son meetings. 🥰

Monday, 11 May 2020

Prints for Bags

1.  "Which is more important in this bag ? Environment ? Livlihoods ?"

2.  "Cloth Bags, Clean Earth "

3.  "I am not a plastic bag"

4.  " Recycle or Die "

5. "Nevertheless She Persisted"

6. "She is coming back from PaalaGuttaPalle "

7. Rangoli

8. Tribal Art Square

9. Tribal Art Line

10. Tribal Art Star

11. Feather

12. Cartoon

13. Christmas Series - Santa Claus

14. Christmas Series - Christmas Tree

15. New Year Series (1)

16. New Year Series - 2

17. Ganesha 1

18. Ganesha 2

12. Flowers (Size Sml)