Lockdown Diary: Can Priya & Her Daughters Walk 475 km to Kanpur?

Can Priya and her little daughters walk 475 km from Delhi to reach their home in Kanpur? Find out.

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On the intervening night of 26-27 March when thousands of migrant labourers hit the road from Delhi to somehow reach their homes, Priya and her three daughters also joined this surge of humanity on the road. Their destination – Kanpur, where Priya’s parents lived.

Her daughters were aged between 3 to 6. Neither Priya nor her little daughters had any idea how far Kanpur was. Their destination was almost 475 kilometres away!

I also joined them in this journey, filming it, with the hope that they can make it to their home.

Priya was tagging along with some fellow villagers, Kanhiyalal, Sheelu and Rakesh. Priya told me that her husband was in the village.

Sikandarabad Toll Plaza, 8pm

We were told that UP Roadways buses will ferry people till the district border. And there were strict orders that the buses should not cross the border.

As we waited for the buses, Priya’s 3 daughters Shivani, Riya and Komal were enjoying their glass of aerated drink. Oblivious to the hardship that awaited them.

After almost an hour the first bus arrived. It got jam packed within two minutes. Priya and her girls had no chance of boarding it. The same thing happened with the second bus. Finally, the third bus arrived at 10 pm. I requested the authorities to somehow accommodate the family in the bus. Priya and the children boarded the bus from the driver’s door. We were on our way to the Gabhana border between Bulandshahr and Aligarh district.

Gabhana Toll Plaza, 12:30am

We reached Gabhana at midnight. Our body temperature was checked before we crossed over to Aligarh district.

The Aligarh district administration had made no arrangement for buses to take people to their destination.

Priya’s children were barefoot, no shoes or ‘chappals’. It was her eldest daughter Riya who was particularly finding it increasingly difficult to walk. She was nursing an injury and was limping all the way. The poor child kept crying with pain all the way.

At 12:30 am a truck arrived. The family boarded it and managed to reach the outskirts of Aligarh city at 2 am. By this time their bodies and spirit had given way. The children were in no shape to walk any further. Sleep, fatigue and hunger had taken over. I wanted to arrange some food for them but everything was shut.

They found some space outside a furniture shop and decided to sleep outside it. The plan was to resume the journey at dawn.

At 5:45 am when I reached the furniture shop, to my dismay, they were gone. I looked for them but couldn’t trace them.

Perhaps Priya, Riya, Shivani and Komal have reached their home, they may have got a ride which took them to their destination. Maybe they finally got to eat something. Maybe Priya was able to buy ‘chappals’ for her daughters. Maybe Riya is no longer in pain.

I have no answers, I don’t really know what happened to them but I really hope and pray that they are finally home.

(Vinod Kapri is a national award-winning filmmaker and television professional.)

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