Travel tales: From Jammu to Kerala during the National Lockdown


The world, including India, is witnessing the most unpredictable human crisis due to Coronavirus Pandemic. The battle to contain the Pandemic is being undertaken by the global commons.  India, with 1.3 Billion population, is also a pivotal player in South Asia fighting the pandemic. The COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in internal migration in India on a tremendous scale. Travelling from the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir to Thiruvananthapuram during the lockdown to reach home was a painstaking yet deeply memorable journey through the length and breadth of Bharat.

The journey was a worthwhile experience overcoming various ordeals and anxious moments. The COVID-19 testing camp in Jammu made me realise the value of human life and the struggle of labourers and daily wage workers who were sitting in rows one after another for the test. The swab penetrating the nose giving extraordinary pain for five seconds is enough to remember the migration from the northernmost Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir to the southern tip of Thiruvananthapuram. The testing centre in Samba was the most shocking place where thousands of people were being tested. I felt an ominous silence in the testing centre. The helpless labourers were sitting in rows one after another  eagerly waiting for the tests.  Large groups of women their kids, elderly and the teenagers were also waiting patiently for the test to be done. Being students, we were luckily tested without much delay. Yet the visuals of the camp sent shockwaves through me. Everyone in the camp was hoping for a negative test result. Doctors became guardian angels. Once my test was done, a mark was put on the left hand, a capital letter ‘T’ as a symbol of being tested.

On the course of the journey, I saw the Tawi River in Jammu flowing in full swing and in  Punjab the rivers have turned into pristine water bodies flowing through the lush green surroundings. The rivers liberated from human contamination have regained purity. The kind-hearted fellow travellers and the Indian railway ensured food and water supply during the travel. J&K administration, the Government of India and Kerala ensured the safety of the student community. Social worker Vikas Sharma in Jammu provided all the students with sanitisers and masks which acted as a lifesaving tool in this unpredictable Bharat Darshan.

The journey from Jammu to Delhi was quite joyful. We also received food packets. Some of my friends were fasting as part of welcoming Eid. Breaking the fast was followed by distribution of fruits.

After reaching Kerala School in Delhi, there was a temperature scanning and then, the wait for the special Shramik Train began. We were allotted a classroom to take rest. By noon warm rice was served with Kerala cuisine ‘Sambhar’ quenching the fire in my belly and giving delight to the taste buds, a change from the hot roti and Raajma Chawal routine in Jammu.

Satheesh the PS of Special representative of Kerala in New Delhi and Ex-MP Adv. A Sambath have been a pillar of strength, ensuring a smooth journey for the Kerala students of the Central University of Jammu. This journey was made possible with the efforts of a lot of people especially the Kerala students in New Delhi who stood firmly demanding special Sramik trains to operate from Delhi to Kerala.

By evening, the special train was ready for travel and we were transported in a special Delhi transport bus. The driver uncle of the bus was kind enough making us aware of sitting away from the intense sunrays of Delhi summer. The Indian National Congress members provided food packets near New Delhi railway station and also reimbursement for train tickets for those students who wanted to opt for it.

As I entered the railway station with friends there was total chaos. I witnessed the unprecedented migration of students, youngsters, pregnant women and children part of this most memorable journey across the length and breadth of our nation on the special Sramik Train amidst the National Lockdown. Passengers relentlessly ran towards the train and rushed inside it in the hope of reaching safe haven.

Within seconds, the entire coach was occupied by passengers. Carrying heavy loads of luggage and finally left with no choice, I stood there in the hope of finding a seat. Luckily a group of students travelling from Delhi offered a side upper seat. Since it was summer, even the wind was hot. The fan on top gave some relief but since amidst the Pandemic, the use of AC was no longer safe, we had no other option. A kind smile from co-passengers and friends kept me company through the trip. Parrotta and veg curry parcel provided by Kerala School in New Delhi was enough for the night. Biscuits and Motherdairy milk packets too was stocked for the rest of the journey. Some kind-hearted fellow travellers and the Indian Railway ensured food and water supply during the travel.

Amidst the chitchat among the passengers inside the coach, I restrained myself to the seat reading The Alchemist. Rolling over the pages, I imagined the life of Santiago in my mind.  Santiago set off in search of a treasure which ultimately he was able to discover. Like Santiago, the protagonist of the book, how many of us can fulfil our innermost desires and find the Maktub?

My friends and I registered in the COVID Jagrata portal and received travel pass. Once the train reached Kerala, I was over the moon. Like Dorothy, I now shared the feeling that there was ‘No place like home’.

As I have now left J&K, the heaven on earth, both sweet and bitter memories about Jammu pop up inside my heart. Living in the absence of the loving people of J&K have now created a void in me. Awaiting the bulawa from Maa Vaishno Devi, listening to the raindrops and enjoying the cool breeze from the Western Ghats I am signing off.

Anoop Krishnan H

Anoop Krishnan H is a student of Department of National Security Studies in Central University of Jammu.


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