“Kaam band hai, badi mushkil se roti milti hai. Gaon mein bhi kuch nahi hai. Wahan jaa kar bhi kya karungi (There is no work, it is very difficult to arrange food. There is nothing in my village too. What will I do even if I return?” questions 60-year-old Savitri Devi.
She and her husband left Bahraich district in Uttar Pradesh around 30 years ago and since then, Ludhiana is her home. She narrates her life story with little emotion — from her husband’s passing away to her young son-in-law’s accidental death. Now, the pandemic and lockdown has taken away her factory job, she says. She does feel hit by financial hardships. Yet, she is not bitter. Living with her young widowed daughter and grandchildren, Savitri manages to find her moments of joy even in tough times. Her face lits up when her 13-year-old granddaughter, Shivani, a class VII student, says she aspires to be a teacher. Savitri’s resilience promises to see her through these tough times and she reiterates, “Ludhiana hi rahenge hum toh (We will stay in Ludhiana only).”
Another migrant Ram Avtar, hailing from Agra in Uttar Pradesh, too, is full of gratitude for Ludhiana, the place that transformed his life. “Seven years ago, I had nothing to eat. Now, I’m doing fine,” he says. Ram Avatar is a vegetable vendor and even during the lockdown, his sales have not dipped. He has been delivering vegetables to his customers at their doorstep.
However, the lockdown did have an impact when his son, an autorickshaw driver, was left without work. But, his son then joined him in selling vegetables. “We earn between Rs 500 and Rs 700 daily,” says Ram Avatar. He has purchased a plot in Ludhiana and will build a house once his finances allow. His children have refused to relocate to UP.
For the six-member migrant family of Parmila Devi, things looked bleak when her husband lost his job as a hosiery unit worker. Their four sons were at home as the schools were closed. No money was coming in and life seemed to have come to a standstill. But the family decided to stay put. As lockdown restrictions started easing, one of the sons, Sandeep, a class VIII student, worked on his idea selling snacks. With hosiery unit reopening, Parmila’s husband is now back at work. And the family is not at all regretting the decision to stay back in Ludhiana.
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