Hometown: Rampur, Uttar Pradesh
Occupation: Power Loom Operator
Returned from: Bhiwandi, Maharashtra
Imran operated a power loom in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra for Rs. 9,000 every two weeks. He updated himself concerning the virus through his smartphone. At the announcement of the lockdown, his work shut-down, and the employer could not afford to pay his salary. Imran and twenty-eight others from Rampur, residing in Bhiwandi, debilitated by the siege of income, compiled their savings for an SUV back to Uttar Pradesh.
Interviewer: What information do you have about the virus? How have you reacted to the pandemic thus far?
Imran: I do not understand the virus, nor do I entirely believe in its existence. There is not a substantial amount of physical evidence to conclude this virus exists. For me to acknowledge the Coronavirus, I need to be able to see more symptoms than the flu. My sneezing triggered rumours of my infection in the locality. What am I supposed to make of that? I hear the patients diagnosed with tuberculosis or the common cold are now declared Covid-19 positive. I need to be able to observe a corona positive patient for accepting its presence. The rumours of Covid-19 infection on flu patients disorient my judgment.
Interviewer: How was your four-day journey back to Uttar Pradesh?
Imran: I anticipated work to resume soon, yet the wait lasted two and a half months. The employer shared his stance of not being able to pay us anymore and suggested we return to our respective villages. During our wait, he paid Rs. 500 twice. It was an insufficient amount. I had Rs. 5,000 savings, there were twenty-eight others to contribute a sum of Rs. 8,400 for the vehicle. Since all of us shared our hometown and the place of residence, we did not think social-distancing would be a concern. Hunger was our dominant worry.
We left on Friday and reached on Monday. On the way, we were stopped for checking at the Jhansi border, and the second time at the Kanpur-Unnao border. The Pradhan had been informed of our arrival to make quarantine arrangements. My arrival in the village was not pleasant as there were locals spreading rumours of the newcomers being the virus carrier, but I did not care for it. I was aware of the truth. Besides, I had to protect my children. I went to my house first, had a cup of tea while maintaining distance, and headed to the quarantine centre for fourteen days.
Interviewer: Have you been able to earn since you returned? How are you adapting to the situation?
Imran: I was earning Rs. 9,000 every two weeks in Maharashtra. My monthly expense would not exceed Rs. 4,000 allowing me to send home approximately Rs. 15,000. I have been idle at home since my return. There is no work — no money. I do not have the strength to leave and starve myself all over again. We will experience unemployment and famine once again; it is wiser to starve at one’s home with the loved ones rather than in an alien land.
I live in Rampur with my wife and three children, my parents, and two siblings. The children are too young for me to be planning their future, I will let them continue their education for now. For now, we are bracing ourselves for the new normal. The virus might not leave, but we are ready to fight it.
Interviewer: Now everything is getting digital—e-education, e-health, etc. How have you adapted to the situation?
Imran: I did not complete my education. I would have a job if I was, and not operate a loom. However, I am proficient with a smartphone; I primarily consume content on Facebook, nothing else.