Migrant Worker Hitchhikes 1,800 km, Finds Home Damaged in Cyclone

He hitchhiking over 1,800 km to get home. But by the time he reached, Cyclone Amphan had destroyed half of his house

Updated23 May 2020, 01:34 PM IST
India
3 min read

Before leaving for a transit centre in Bengaluru International Exhibition Centre (BIEC), Kutubuddin Khan, a migrant worker from West Bengal, had sold all his belongings – one gas stove, some utensils and two plastic chairs – for Rs 2,000. Unable to afford food or rent, reaching the transit centre was his only hope, but he was turned away after the police decided to shut down the centre on 19 May.

It was while struggling to find shelter for the night that he got a call from his wife, who was at the family home in Kuleshwar village in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, telling him about a cyclone that was to make landfall soon. Fearing for his family's life, Khan decided to walk all the way home, but with the help of some kind truckers, he was able to reach on 23 May.

He hitchhiked over 1,800 km to get to his home in West Bengal; but by the time he reached, only half of his house was there. Cyclone Amphan had taken the other half with it.
A photo of Kutubuddin’s Khan home in West Bengal.
A photo of Kutubuddin’s Khan home in West Bengal.
(Photo: Kutubuddin Khan/The Quint)

One of the first things Khan said when The Quint contacted him on 23 May, was how relieved he was when he found his family safe. But that joy was shortlived. The walls of the house had collapsed, and a set of coconut leaf sheets have replaced them. The roof tiles have been blown away, and if it rains again, his family will not be able to sleep within the house

“We haven’t got any help so far. No official has come here. We are still sleeping in the damaged house. I have two children,” he said.

The Long Journey Home

As Khan is scrambling to find help, he has forgotten the troubles he faced in the last four days. When probed, he opened up: "The day my wife called, I decided to walk home with four other friends of mine. On the way, near KR Puram (in Bengaluru), we asked some people for the way to West Bengal, and they asked us to follow the highway," he said.

When The Quint met Kutubuddin Khan in Bengaluru on 19 May.
When The Quint met Kutubuddin Khan in Bengaluru on 19 May.
(Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

After walking for about 20 km, he came across the police check post. He said he was scared he would be sent back when the policeman asked them to wait. "But he stopped a truck that was passing by and asked the driver to drop us till the Andhra Pradesh border," he said.

Even at the Andhra Pradesh border, the police didn't stop them, but the truck ride ended there. Once again, they started walking, and after covering close to 70km, they found another truck that gave them a lift. "People were good. Many of them, including police officers, gave us food and water. None of the truck drivers asked us for money. Changing trucks and walking, we reached the Odisha border," he added.

Fortunately for him, from the Odisha border, he was able to find another truck that took him directly to Kolkata. After being on the road for four days, he finally reached home. "Whatever happiness I had when I reached home went away when I saw the state of my house," he said.

His family, including two children, are still sleeping in the broken house. Some neighbours are helping him, but for Khan, the troubles that started in Bengaluru have followed him all the way to his home.

“I thought, I won’t hungry if I get to my home in West Bengal, but I don’t even have a roof over my head,” he said.

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Published: 23 May 2020, 11:51 AM IST
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