Man sets off on foot from Mumbai for Bihar amid lockdown. Gets home in 27 days
A native of Darbhanga district in Bihar, the 32-year-old was employed at a steel factory in Mumbai’s Bhayandar, when his employers suddenly asked him to proceed on leave.Updated: May 26, 2020 23:38 IST
Soon after the Maharashtra government announced shutdown of workplaces from March 21 to check the spread of Covid-19, Harivansh Choudhary set off on foot from Mumbai, not knowing that it would take him 27 days to reach his village.
A native of Darbhanga district in Bihar, the 32-year-old was employed at a steel factory in Mumbai’s Bhayandar, when his employers suddenly asked him to proceed on leave.
He had Rs 240, which was borrowed earlier in the month against his salary.
With earning avenues shut, he decided to take the train to his native place. But to his shock, the train got cancelled after he had purchased an unreserved ticket for Rs 445.
“All trains bound for Bihar, except the one going to Patna, were cancelled,” he was told by a railway enquiry staff member.
Harivansh then called his father, Krishna Choudhary, who advised his only son to stay safe and make a practical decision.
He then boarded a Patna-bound train, which after 5-6 hours of journey suddenly halted and was subsequently cancelled.
Giving an account of Harivansh’s travails, mukhiya (village headman) of Panchobh panchayat, Rajiv Kumar Choudhary, said, “He had only Rs 500 out of which Rs 445 were already spent on buying a train ticket. It was his sheer grit that he decided to walk home, a distance of 1,800 km from the point where the train ended its journey.”
Harivansh joined a group of 25 people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and began walking without knowing how long it would take for him to walk back home.
“I would walk for hours along the railway tracks, on the road and at times with the group. At times we used to sleep under the shade of a tree. We usually walked from 5.30 in the morning till 8-9 pm daily, with breaks in between,” he recalled.
“There was no food, but thankfully a few people offered us biscuits and water. Some also offered food,” he said, while talking to HT.
Harivansh and his group were lucky that they got help from cargo truck drivers.
“We got lift on trucks nearly 6-7 times. It gave respite to us from trekking for a period ranging between 45 minutes and 4 hours,” recalled Harivansh while showing his swollen feet.
“Some truck drivers even guided us to take a particular route to reach our home state,” he said.
At Itarasi in Madhya Pradesh, they were joined by a huge crowd walking towards their respective destinations in MP, UP and Bihar.
“We never thought about distance. We just walked and walked,” recalled Harivansh, who was stopped by police at numerous checkpoints en route. “After we showed them our health certificate slips, which were issued in Mumbai, they would allow us to proceed,” he said.
“My mobile phone died on me somewhere in MP and I lost touch with my family,” he said.
“During the course of trekking, I got separated from the group. A policeman helped me and gave me Rs 200 for food. In Bihar’s Saran district, at one of the checkpoints, police forced him to undergo health screening by a medical team. They didn’t trust my medical slip, which had almost soiled by now due to excessive sweating,” he narrated.
His long trek to Darbhanga finally ended on April 16, when he reached the village and his family heaved a sigh of relief.
“It was like a nightmare. We cannot explain in words,” said the man’s father Krishna Choudhary.
“We put him at a quarantine centre as soon as he entered the village and informed officials about his arrival. He was taken to Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital for health screening on April 17,” the father added.
Darbhanga district magistrate, Thiyagrajan SM, when contacted on Tuesday said that he will ensure that the person concerned gets some work after completion of the 14-day quarantine period.
People in the region do not doubt Harivansh’s claim of having walked so long. Doctors too say it is doable.
“Walking for long depends on the physical power of the person and cardio respiratory status. A young man especially a labourer is adapted to the muscular exertion and the body supports him. The ejection fraction of the heart matters a lot because the cardiac condition determines the adaptability of stress,” said orthopedic expert Dr Amulya Kumar Singh.
“If a person is walking 60 to 70 kms per day with proper food and water with intermittent rest, then he can walk and heart and lung can take stress but if the food habit is poor and body takes unaccustomed exertion, then the body will form lots of unwanted products like ketone bodies etc, and this will have detrimental effect,” Singh added.