Disabled woman rides 18 hours to bring son home amid lockdown By Nikhil Deshmukh

Mumbai, May 6 (PTI) A distress call from her 14-year- old son forced a disabled woman from Pune to travel 1,200 km to Amravati on a two-wheeler to bring him home amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

An accountant with a private firm, Sonu Khandare had no idea that the lockdown would force her to make the journey of a lifetime.

On April 25, the 37-year-old disabled woman rode her scooter for 18 hours to bring her son home from a village in Maharashtra's Amravati district.

'My son Prateek had gone to my in-laws' place at a village in Anjangaon Surji tehsil on March 17 and was stuck there after the lockdown was announced on March 22,' Khandare told PTI.

The Khandare couple was initially not worried about the boy's well-being, but when the lockdown was extended further till May 4, they got restless.

Khandare approached district authorities, applied for a travel pass online and even considered hiring a car for the journey, which would have cost her an exorbitant sum of Rs 8,000.

After none of these options seemed viable, she personally went to the police commissioner's office to get special permission.

'When I was granted a travel pass for 48 hours on April 24, I just headed home, packed some food and water and left on my two-wheeler without thinking twice,' the 37-year- old said.

The trip proved to be a test of her grit and perseverance, as she had to encounter harsh weather conditions and dry terrains of Marathwada and Vidarbha along the way.

'I kept riding my two-wheeler even at night, with no light except the dim one coming from the headlight and to make things worse, I was stopped and questioned at every check-post along the way,' she said.

In order to break the journey at night, Khandare managed to make a pitstop at a petrol pump along the highway near Khamgaon, where she slept on the sidewalk under the watchful gaze of a CCTV camera.

'When I noticed the CCTV cameras near the petrol pump, I decided to rest there on the open ground, as I believed that if anything were to happen to me, it will be recorded,' she said.

Khandare made an early start on April 25 and reached her in-laws home in the afternoon.

'I hardly spent a couple of hours there, as I kept thinking about getting back home safely, before my travel pass expired,' said the mother of three, who had to tackle dehydration and hunger, apart from the rough terrain and potholed roads.

Khandare managed to reach her home in Bhosari area of Pune, with limited stops, at around 11 pm on April 26, just an hour before her travel pass expired.

'My son and I immediately rushed to the hospital to check if we needed to be quarantined, as we had travelled,' she said, adding that doctors only advised her home quarantine for 14 days and bed rest.

The trip took a toll on Khandare, who is pursuing her post-graduation in commerce in a bid to get a government job.

However, knowing that her son was under the same roof during these unprecedented times, made the journey worth it, she said. PTI ND ARU ARU