Gurgaon, May 18 (PTI) Tears blurring her vision, Raji Devi watched the bus carrying migrant workers to Uttar Pradesh drive into the distance and turned to her son to say she just wants to be home and never wants to see a big city again.
She couldn’t get a seat on the bus and neither could her son Sahab Lal, who worked as a construction labourer, and the rest of the family, all waiting to return to their village in Bhadohi.
The disappointment was almost too much to handle for the elderly woman, perhaps in her 70s, who had come here a few months ago from the village and is now desperate to leave. She held her son’s hands and told him she won’t be back to bother him and it’s okay if he’s not there for her last rites either.
The family of seven – Raji Devi, Sahab Lal, his wife and two children, his nephew and his wife -- were among the hundreds of people waiting at the community centre in Sector 9A Gurgaon from where state transport buses were taking stranded migrants to Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh.
But the seats were allotted on a first-come-first-served basis and the family missed their turn.
This is the first time she came out of her village, and it will be the last, Raji Devi vowed. The big city lights have lost their lustre, she said.
As the buses started leaving, she told her son in the Hindi dialect from her region, 'Betua ab hum kabhi nahi aiyai tu beshak humka kandha den bhi mat aiyai. Humka nahi dekhna shehar (Son, I won’t come back. It’s okay if you are not there to shoulder my bier. I don't want to see the city again).' The family would have walked to their village Dara Patti in Bhadohi, almost 850 km away, but Raji Devi could not have survived the journey, Lal said.
'God knows how we will go home now... we didn't try to walk because it would not have been possible for my mother to have walked for so long. I brought her here few months back to give her more comfort,' Lal, who is a daily wage construction worker, said.
The lockdown, which began on March 25 to curb the spread of coronavirus, scuttled all his plans to give his mother a glimpse of his life in the city. He lost his job and so did his nephew.
'Sir, you know how much a daily wage labourer gets... my nephew and I earned to feed our family of seven… We didn’t earn much. And for the last two months, almost all construction activity has shut down. Now we just want to go home,” he said.
He added that he had exhausted all his money and had to borrow to keep his family going.
Lal, who lived in old Gurgaon, was a construction worker at a real estate project in new Gurgaon, one of the faceless millions who helped build the glass façade high-rises that dot the skyline of the city.
Hearing her son narrate his pain, his mother broke into fresh tears, saying she was happy in her village and will live and die there.
But there are always slivers of hope and humanity in the darkest clouds of human suffering.
Lal was all praise for his landlord who didn't ask for a rent from him and also helped him with rations.
Haryana police personnel at the community centre coordinating the transportation of the migrant labourers also consoled the family, assuring them that in a day or two in next round of the buses to Uttar Pradesh family will get the seat. PTI JTR MIN MIN