Salute Sonu Sood

Cartoon Satish Acharya

When this crisis is over there will be one name that will always be a part of our collective memory. Sonu Sood. The hero who sent the stranded migrants home.

It’s Day 66 of the lockdown. This man alone has sent 12,000 migrants home and has plans in place to send 45,000 more.

The migrants exodus is an unfathomable tragedy. I have still not been able to process it. I am at a complete loss in finding the words to express it. At least a million migrants from Mumbai alone are at various stages of going back to their villages. These are the people who have built our cities. The daily workers who drive our autos, who iron our clothes, who deliver our stuff, who repair our gadgets, who sell our produce, who clean our streets, who run our factories, who guard our buildings. People without whom our cities will not be able to survive. What triggered their reaction to abandon us and return home? What comforts do they perceive in their villages? How did they get so disillusioned by Mumbai? Mumbai the city that has made so many dreams come true.

I don’t have the answers. I cannot understand their desperation. The desperation that has made them pack all their belongings, made them abandon all their dreams and forced them to trudge home in the sweltering heat of May.

I don’t think Sonu Sood understands either, but he understands that they need help. Everyone I know is helping in their own small ways. This hero went the extra mile. He contacted stranded migrants, arranged buses, got permissions from various government agencies and sent them home with enough food and water for their journeys. Each of these is a herculean task on it’s own. Collectively the logistics must be a nightmare. But like a superhero without a cape Sonu Sood has done the undoable.

He began by sending 350 migrants to Karnataka. Now this is his full-time job. He spends 20 hours a day working on the logistics of getting people home. Along with his childhood friend Neeti Goel he manages the government regulations, arranging of transport and providing the food. Connecting and coordinating with the governments of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Kerala, Odisha & Maharashtra must have been the hardest part. Initially he arranged buses, now he has even arranged a chartered flight. Providing food single handedly to approx. 45,000 people on a daily basis to make their wait less painful, revives our faith in humanity.

I don’t know if the migrants returning to their villages will find what they want at the end of their journeys. But I do know that none of them and none of us will forget how Sonu Sood rose to the occasion when it mattered most.

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