This pandemic has reduced us to zones and clusters. The physical distance we have been advised has created a huge social distance among people. We are afraid of contact and connection. All over the media, we see thousands of migrant workers tired of waiting and in hunger, trying to desperately walk hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes back in rural India. Without a penny or morsel, facing lathi charges and barricades – watching their condition, it feels like there is no humanity left anywhere.
And then you see a man carrying his old aunt in his arms in the middle of a highway, walking in the scorching heat of May and taking her back to her home in Akola district of Maharashtra. Is he human or an angel? Even in normal times, people abandon the elderly in melas, old age homes or Vrindavan. It is normal for affluent elderly parents to stay alone while children fly away to build careers and lives. This man does not fit the normal. He is an angel who shows us humanity exists, even in the midst of poverty and humiliation.
Note: The man, Vishwanath Shinde, a migrant worker, carrying his aunt Bachela Bai on the Mumbai-Nashik Highway, was journeying from Navi Mumbai to Akola in Vidarbha. The artist, Labani Jangi, saw this scene in a report by Sohit Mishra on Prime Time with Ravish Kumar (NDTV India), on May 4, 2020. The text from Labani was told to and translated by Smita Khator.