The pain is real but so is hope.!
चलो एक और दिन कट गया, अब बस थोड़े और दिन !
This is the story of our silk vendor Santosh Singh, Son of late Shri Nawal Kishor Singh, the respected and influential Sarpanch of Sultanganj. Due to the lockdown Santosh got stuck in Surat. Like anyone else, Santosh has had his share of ups & downs but this was the great flat that he just hadn’t seen coming.
Santosh Singh weaving
Day 1 - अरे हम यहाँ फस गए है.. 24 का टिकट था, पर ट्रेन नहीं चल रही, देखते है कुछ इंतज़ाम करके पहुंचते है जल्दी
From Silk City Bhagalpur to Diamond city Surat, Santosh had arrived at the National Silk Expo Surat to exhibit & sell his luxurious silk fabric. An employee of Bharat Handloom Silk U.S.S.S. Ltd Santosh is a master of silk, with nearly 25 years of experience he genuinely is one of the foremost authorities in his trade. But all his experience couldn’t prepare him for what he was about to face. Santosh’s ticket home was just one day after the Railways stopped trains due to the lockdown.
The advertisement for the exhibition in Surat
The Venue – Maharaja Agrasen Bhawan in Surat
Day 5 – चलो रहने खाने का तो इंतज़ाम हो गया
It was panic, mayhem & chaos
How do we go back, where do we stay, what do we eat, what do we do & then again how do we go back? After all Santosh had not considered the finances for a hotel bill extending months. But as the dust settled, life started sorting itself out. The dharamshala of Maa Durga temple – Ambika Niketan Mandir opened its doors and the trustees of the temple arranged for food. While the stay needed to be paid for, the food was completely free. Santosh along with a ten more stranded souls were now the permanent occupants of Ambika Niketan Mandir dharamshala.
(Top) Ambika Niketan Mandir on a busy day (Bottom) The dharamshala
Day 10 – ज्यादा परेशान न हो..यहां सब ठीक है…बस अपना ख्याल रखियेगा
In a situation like this, time simply refuses to budge & the mind simply refuses to stay put. One can’t help but reflect about the fundamentals – What do we want from life, how do we get there in life, what is life..etc etc..then suddenly without even realising we jump from life to family. His eldest daughter went to Sundarwati Mahila College in Bhagalpur & topped her class in physics and two sons are still studying. So what happens to their studies?
His wife says their classes are going on ... what? why?
She meant online classes, these kids are managing schools on their phones now finally using google and youtube for some academic work. Just like here, things are starting to settle down back home as well..
Santosh’s home in Bhagalpur
Day 20 - आप ज्यादा स्ट्रेस मत लीजिये, पैसों का चिंता मत करिए.. जितना हो पाए उतना करिये, ज्यादा बाहर न घूमें
Responsible corporate, is it an oxymoron? A lot of stories floating around now a days adds weight to this notion but Bablu bhai the owner of Bharat Handloom Silk U.S.S.S. Ltd seems to be cut from a different cloth. Ten of his employees are stuck at various places. While he can’t do much about getting them back, he has clearly asked them not to worry about money, salary or jobs. From time to time he shares relevant updates but other than that his instructions are clear – not to roam about too much trying to get back home.
Mr. Bablu Bhai, Owner of Bharat Handlooms
Day 38-39-40-41-42-43-44……Corona नहीं Confusion ही मार देगा हमें..! सबर का बाँध टूट रहा है हमारा
Venting out his anger to the haphazard system of imposing a lockdown without any prior hint, he fears it will take a heavy toll on his mental health. Fighting the anxiety all alone in a room with nothing to do all day, an hour seems like a whole year. The dreariness is frightening and so is the eerie apprehension.
He narrated his ordeal of visiting the Collectors Office every day, a walk of four kilometres each way. They then direct him to the police station where they are made to stand in a queue to get a token. They then receive a form which is an application requesting the government to arrange their journey home. Till date he has filled over twenty forms but yet to get any assurance, leave alone a ticket to home. He booked flight tickets for planes which never flew in companies that did not refund the money as well. He feels jealous of those stranded outside India, as they were flown back home but nothing seems to be happening for him.
Present Day - भगवान् पे भरोसा है, कुछ न कुछ तो करेगा…
The quiver in his voice as he narrates it all to me fills me with an uncanny unease of uncertainty. It is clear that he expected more from the authorities. The seemingly never-ending lockdown has brought him to his knees and the lack of clarity even now is definitely wearing him down. He worries about the future; he knows if the looms dont start then not only his family but entire Bhagalpur will burn and that will be a time, when even his boss wont’ be able to bail him out.
But somehow, when I asked if there was any message he would like to share, this is what he had to say. “My message to all people stuck away from their families is to have faith in God and also yourself. Lockdown will be lifted sooner or later and we must be prepared to work harder to bring back our business back to its feet. Depression will do no good to you”
The pain is real but so is hope, so is generosity, so is compassion, so is friendship & so is the fight.
Santosh Singh during better days!