But he didn’t stop walking. he can not.
The 26-year-old migrant worker is only half way in the heart of India.
Unable to survive in the city, and most of India ’s vast railway network has been closed, many people have made extraordinary decisions and decided to walk thousands of miles to return to their families.
Chouhan knew the risks. But on May 12, he decided to ignore India’s strict blockade laws and began a 1,250 mile (2,000 km) walk from the Bangalore Technology Center, formerly known as Bangalore, to his village in Uttar Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh.
He originally wanted to hitchhike, but as the police checked the truck for smuggling, the driver demanded more than Joe Han ’s budget. Within ten days, he will have to avoid police checkpoints, make a living with tea and biscuits, and walk with sore feet.
He said: “I don’t think I will forget the journey of this life.” “It will always be filled with sad and anxious memories.”
Chouhan moved to Bangalore in December last year to work on a construction site.
In his hometown of Tribhuvan Nagar on the Nepal border with India, he earned 250 rupees ($ 3.30) a day. In Bangalore, he can do this.
He and his brother work in another state and send home about Rs 14,000 (US $ 185) per month, enough to maintain their family of 11 including Johan ’s two children and elderly parents who live in sugar cane Thatched roof houses neutralize wheat fields. His nephew Arvind Thakur joined Chouhan at the age of 14 (the legal age to work in India).
By the time Chanhan, his nephew and nine other immigrants from his hometown decided to leave Bangalore, the country had been closed for weeks. Part of the rail service was restored on May 3, allowing cross-state travel-but only through arduous approval procedures.
Normally, Chouhan pays 300 rupees ($ 4) for the 48-hour travel home in the lowest cabin class, but during the pandemic, the price surged to 1,200 rupees ($ 15.90). The National Police is assigned to sell tickets and keep order at the police station, which is packed with travelers eager to go home.
Bangalore police told At the end of the day, CNN used batons to clear the crowd. Qiao Han said: “We have been beaten many times. Just because we are poor does not mean that we will not feel pain.”
Chouhan and his villagers spent five days outside the police station trying to buy tickets before deciding to walk. They dare not tell their family.
Qiao Han said: “My father has severe diabetes, if they find that we have no money to go home, it will cause him and my mother a lot of harm.” “They will cry until we return. All of us Decided to tell the family that we are waiting for the train. ”
He packed four shirts in his backpack, a towel and a bed sheet, and several kettles. He has 170 rupees (2.25 USD) in his wallet.
At 3 a.m. on May 12, Zhou Han (Chouhan) slipped out of a single tin shed and shared with 10 other people, taking the first step towards family.
When Chouhan left, police checkpoints had been established throughout the city. The authorities did not anticipate the impulse of immigrants who wanted to leave, and clarified that registration only applies to those who are “trapped”, not to migrant workers. Unauthorized interstate travel is prohibited.
When Chouhan’s team walked through the city, they were picked up by the police and taken to the station where their boss (they didn’t want them to leave) picked them up. Although migrant workers enjoy rights under Indian law, they often do not understand these rights and are exploited by their employers.
At noon, the police changed the shift, leaving the group unattended. Qiao Han said: “We ran there.” “We ran for about two kilometers until we felt safe.”
The gang avoided police on the road along the rails and stayed overnight with other immigrants until they entered Andhra Pradesh at 1am.
After 46 hours, they crossed the first of the five state borders. They only traveled 74 miles (120 kilometers).
Hope, unity and hunger
Chouhan ’s 11 immigration teams have 9 smartphones, and they use Google Maps to navigate. They use flashing blue dots to see if they are walking roughly in the right direction.
To save battery power, Only one person turns on the phone at a time, and then takes turns sharing GPS. There are not many places along the way to charge the phone.
The first part of their journey dates back to National Road 44-this long and open road divides India neatly into two parts, extending from Tamil Nadu in the south to Srinagar in the north Entire country.
This road will take them to Hyderabad, a city of 10 million people will be the first important milestone of their journey-they heard that it is possible to hitchhike home.
When the temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), Chouhan walks about 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour and takes a break every two hours. His goal is to complete 68 miles (110 kilometers) per day. He said: “There is a temptation to rest or play na.” “But we know that every time we sit down and walk, it becomes more difficult.”
Along the way, they will see other immigrant groups head to the impoverished western states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which provide a large amount of immigrant labor for Indian cities.
Qiao Han said during the trip that the traditional differences between caste and religion-the deep-rooted fault lines in the hinterland of rural India-disappeared. His 11-person team spanned the caste in the same village. The Brahmins and Takuls are considered to be upper castes, while Chamars are considered to be the lowest castes. In the long journey home, nothing has changed.
The next day, when Chouhan’s slippers were damaged, the organization focused on buying new shoes for him.
But on the third day, they had not eaten enough food after leaving Bangalore. The starting price for each person is from 150 rupees ($ 2) to 300 rupees ($ 4). Instead, they bought 20 biscuits for 100 rupees ($ 1.32) and rationed them throughout the day. Chouhan said: “We must save all rupees in case we need it in the future.”
“Our stomach will buzz. We will eat a cookie to calm it down. We are hungry, but we have no choice. In an emergency, we must save every rupee.”
At about 8 a.m. that day, they stopped by National Highway 44 and thought they would take an hour’s rest. They slept for eight nights, completely unable to hear the noise of the highway and the roar of trucks.
When they woke up at 4 pm, Hyderabad was 250 miles (400 kilometers) away and bordered a state.
Cross the border
In Hyderabad’s eyes, Johan walked into the night. However, when his team arrived in the town of Kurnoor at about 10 am on the fourth day, a police checkpoint blocked the bridge they had to cross to reach the city.
Chouhan saw a group of immigrants meander along the river and follow them. About 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away, hundreds of people are walking across the river.
Chouhan and others hesitated-they didn’t know how to swim. He said: “Man, woman, child, old man are crossing the river.” “(We think) if they can do it, why we can’t.”
After a long and hot summer, the river was only 3 feet (1 meter) deep. Chouhan raised the schoolbag over his head, and one of the tallest men among his associates carried his 14-year-old nephew.
Chouhan said: “We are afraid that we will be washed away. But we keep telling ourselves that this is the only way to go home. This 100-meter long section may be the most scared of us on the journey.”
Back on the highway, truck drivers need 2500 rupees (33 dollars) per person to take them to Uttar Pradesh. Qiao Han said: “They told us that if the police caught them, they would have to pay huge fines. They didn’t want to take risks without getting paid. We had no choice but to walk.”
But others are more charitable. An old man provided them with the first meal in four days. The truck driver took pity on their bubbly feet and raised their feet. He was transporting rice across borders, and they were sleeping in sacks as he drove them to the suburbs of Hyderabad.
After they passed the Telangana-Maharashtra border, they had luck again-a villager took them to a school where NGOs were providing food and water for migrant workers.
When the police arrived, more than 300 immigrants were eating.
Qiao Han said: “They started to abuse us.” “They said that we did not follow the social isolation policy, we should sit ten feet away from each other. They tried to disperse the crowd and told the organizers to stop distributing food.
But the number of immigrants exceeds the number of police. He said: “We started yelling. Some migrant workers even started pushing the police, and the police retreated to the jeep.” “We were angry. They (the police) didn’t help us at all-they didn’t help people help us.”
Pandemic and death on the road
There are few data on how the migration of urban workers affects the spread of Indian coronavirus. Immigrants who have returned to their hometowns have conducted many positive tests for the disease in many states, but it is not known whether they have contracted Covid-19 in the city or picked up the virus along the way.
On the fifth day of the trip, they felt very frightened when they arrived in Nagpur, a city in central India.
Avend Thakur, Rajesh’s nephew, has a fever. Takur said: “I am really scared.” “I don’t know anything about coronavirus. But adults tell me that it can’t be a coronavirus because it’s a cold and cough first. I just have a fever. They gave I take pills, I feel much better. “
On the highway, the pandemic has not received the attention it deserves-more urgent health problems: hunger, thirst, fatigue and pain.
As of May 24, it had recorded 667 deaths, of which 244 were killed when walking home from hunger, fatigue or railroad and road traffic accidents.
Qiao Han said: “In Bangalore, I am very afraid of this disease.” “Now, all we have to do is go home. If we get sick during the journey, this is not in our hands.”
“The moment we left Bangalore, we left our destiny to the gods.”
Under the dark night sky and dense canopy of central India that had inspired Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book, Johan crossed the Maharasthra-Madhya Pradesh border. The sixth day.
In Madhya Pradesh, tractors, buses and trucks helped the organization move forward during the day, and villagers on the hillside provided them with food and even had an oil tanker to bathe in.
Two days later, they reached the border of Uttar Pradesh. The home is only 217 miles (350 kilometers) apart. Qiao Han said: “We have forgotten the pain. It feels like we have returned home.”
As they passed Prayagraj, the spiritual center of India, the Ganges, Yamuna, and Sarasvati rivers merged together, and Chouhan let himself spend a rare happy time.
He and thousands of Hindus took a dip in the cool water and prayed for the group to return home as soon as possible.
One day later, they took the ninth step and reached the state capital of Lucknow.
The home is only 80 miles (128 kilometers) away. For the first time since their journey began, Chouhan bought a meal and called his family. He said: “We told them we went to Uttar Pradesh by train. We can go home in a day.”
The closer they were to home, the more tired Qiao Han said.
On the 10th day, in Gonda, 18 miles (30 kilometers) from their village, Thakur’s body was abandoned. He fell on the asphalt first. They brought him back to life by pouring water on his face.
Then, they were only 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from home and met the police. Too weak to run, they allowed officials to isolate them.
Finally, they returned home.
Home and scarred
The scars of walking on the Indian spine hurt their bodies.
Qiao Han said he lost 10 kg (22 lbs) throughout the journey. He said his feet were swollen a lot, which was an effort to walk to the bathroom to be quarantined for 14 days.
However, in Uttar Pradesh, isolation and quarantine measures have been poorly implemented.
On May 24, Qiao Han said that his family was allowed to visit him in the quarantine area.
His children rushed at him. When they hugged tightly, Qiao Han said he forgot the pain. He was allowed to visit his family at his home and went to the pharmacy to buy medicine, and then he borrowed a loan to pay for it.
He said that seeing the thatched-roof house where his extended family was sleeping reminded him of how his work in Bangalore maintained his family.
However, on May 25, tragedy came. Salman, 30, was one of 11 people who came from Bengaluru and was bitten by a snake a few days after returning home to leave the isolation zone.
He died on the way to the hospital.
Qiao Han mourned the tragedy. However, he realized that the poverty of the village, the hunger of the family and the growing debts caused by medical treatment meant that he must eventually return to work in the city.
He said: “When I left Bangalore, I was determined not to return home.” “The best thing I can do is wait a few weeks to see if the lock is relaxed before going to work.”
Jason Kwok’s design and graphics. Edited by Jenni Marsh and Hilary Whiteman.