By Amita Verma
Lucknow, May 29 (IANS) Home is usually where the heart is but when the heart is broken, the home no longer matters.
Shashi, 30, with two children and husband Kewal, has no home and her heart no longer responds to emotions.
Since the past three days, Shashi and her family have been going from house to house in the Gomti Nagar area in Lucknow, asking for work and a place to stay.
On Friday, she was seen sitting at a roundabout, barely 200 metres from the chief minister’s residence. Within minutes, the cops shooed her away from the spot.
Shashi and her family are among hundreds of those migrants who have been turned away by their families and villagers due to the stigma of coronavirus.
“My husband worked as a taxi driver in Mumbai and I worked as a house maid. My landlady took care of the children when we went to work. Work stopped in the lockdown and we decided to return home. As soon as we reached our village in Barabanki, the villagers stopped us and told us to stay away. Even my in-laws would not allow us in. We spent two nights on the outskirts of the village and then decided to turn back,” she said.
Her husband Kewal said, “I will go back to Mumbai as soon as things return to normal and will never return to my village. For me, my family no longer exists.”
He said that he, his wife and children had already undergone medical screening and were found fit but the villagers would not accept them.
Shekhar, another migrant worker who returned to his village in Basti district of eastern UP last week, was beaten up by villagers when he moved out of the primary school where he had been quarantined, to relieve himself.
“They have been treating me as a pariah. I will never go back to that village again,” he said.
Shekhar, who is Kewal’s friend, telephoned the latter and has also reached Lucknow. Both will now return to Mumbai together.
Misconceptions, lack of information and also the caste system prevalent in villages seems to have made things worse for migrant workers.
“I was in quarantine and my own family threw food at me as if I was an untouchable. Even after I completed the quarantine period, they continue to treat me as an untouchable. I am made to sleep outside the house and food is given to me on piece of paper. I will go away soon because I cannot bear the humiliation,” said Ravi Maurya, a migrant worker from Pratapgarh.
The plight of Asha, who lives in Ayodhya, is even worse. Her husband died in Delhi two weeks ago and when she managed to return to her village, she was sent to quarantine.
The ‘quarantine’ centre is actually a cot under a tree in an orchard outside the village. One of the trees has a poster ‘Quarantine’ pinned to it and Asha sits there with her two children – a daughter aged four and a son aged two.
The family depends on food as and when it is provided by the local administration.
She said that she had returned to her village looking for family support but she was upset with the manner her in-laws have behaved.
“Koi milne nahin aaya. Ab yahan rahen ya kahin aur, kya farak padta hai? (No one came to even meet me. It no longer matters if I stay here or elsewhere),” she said.
Asha does not know where she will go now but she does know that she will not return to her family. Her home in her village does not exist for her.