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Defining images of the COVID-19 lockdown

Defining images of the COVID-19 lockdown
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 6/29/2020 5:00:00 AM IST

 They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Every crisis has that one defining picture which tells you a story so powerfully without a word being written or said.  For instance, one of the most enduring images of the horrors of war is that of a naked 9-year-old girl also referred to as the ‘Naplam Girl’. The Pulitzer Prize winning photograph clicked by Nick Ut on June 8, 1972 during the Vietnam War in Tràng Bàng showed the weeping girl running onto the street with her back severely burnt. 

Another Pulitzer Prize winning photograph called “The Struggling Girl” showed a grossly malnourished child in famine stricken Sudan in 1993 slowly sinking into what seemed a certain death as a vulture stalked in the background to devour the child. It was later learnt that the child was actually a boy. The photographer Kevin Carter bagged the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography award in 1994 for the photograph but committed suicide 4 months later after winning the prize.

In India, the picture of a boy helplessly looking at his books strewn on the ground in the aftermath of the Delhi carnage in February this year was a defining image of the violence that was unleashed in the ghettos. The picture perfectly summed up how children and students often bear the brunt of riots. The ongoing lockdown has also thrown up many images depicting hardships of migrants that will haunt our memories for a very long time. 

Here are some defining images of the world’s biggest and harshest lockdown:
2800 kms, 25 days: from Gujarat to Assam on foot
The longest journey on foot by a migrant worker to return home was perhaps made by 46-year-old Jadav Gogoi who walked a staggering 2800 kms from Vapi in Gujarat to his native village Gadharia Karaoini in Assam’s Nagaon district. Jadav began his journey on March 27 and reached his village in Assam on April 20.  
During the journey that spanned 25 days, he was robbed of his last 4000 rupees and other belongs. On the day he reached Nagaon, locals spotted him resting at a roadside restroom and informed the police. On questioning Jadav, it was learnt that he travelled the last leg of his journey from Bihar to Assam without slippers.  Before reaching Assam, he had even approached government authorities for help, but they refused to help him. On reaching Nagaon, he was admitted to the Nagaon Civil hospital for quarantine where his condition is said to have improved. 
A tale of Hindu-Muslim friendship 
The most heart rending sight of friendship during the COVID-19 lockdown is that of Yaqoob Mohammad sprinkling water on his friend Amrit Ramcharan cushioned on his lap to revive him.   Amrit Ramcharan who was travelling with Yaqoob Mohammad in an open truck from Surat, Gujarat to Basti district in Uttar Pradesh had fainted due to heat and exhaustion.
En route, fellow travellers feared Amrit Ramcharan was suffering from Coronovirus when they observed his deteriorating condition and dumped him alongside the highway in Kolaras of Shivpuri district in Madhya Pradesh instead of calling for an ambulance or medical help.  Yaqoob Mohammad refused to travel further without his ailing friend and chose to tend to him as both their parents were waiting for them back home.An ambulance eventually arrived and Amrit was taken to a hospital where he was kept on ventilator but did not survive. Yaqoob was admitted to an isolation ward at a district hospital in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh. 
A sheet that became a shroud 
The most poignant visual (video) depicting the plight of migrants is that of a child playfully tugging a sheet covering his mother while being completely oblivious that she is dead. The video was taken at the Muzaffarpur Railway Station in Bihar. The woman in the video, Arvina Khatun (35), had reached the Muzaffarpur Railway Station in Bihar on May 25 along with her two children, sister and brother-in-law.  She hailed from Katihar district in Bihar.
According to the Government Railway Police official Ramakant Upadhayay, the exact cause of her death is not known. A local journalist however stated that she fainted immediately on reaching the station, possibly due to the scorching heat, hunger and exhaustion. The woman is said to have boarded the train on May 23.
Soon after the video went viral, Shah Rukh Khan’s humanitarian NGO Meer Foundation reached out to support the child who was seen tugging the bed sheet. The two children are currently in their grandfather’s custody.  
A new use of a trolley luggage
Like many families who had walked for days to reach their native place, Dheeraj and his wife Ramvati walked from Punjab to Agra in the scorching heat to further proceed to their final destination Jhansi. When the family reached MG Road under Hariparvat police limits in Agra, their exhausted 6 or 7 year old son was seen sleeping on the their suitcase as he clung  on its sides while his mother dragged the suit case over the asphalt.  When their group finally reached the Agra ISBT, they were told there was no transportation available.
After the video went viral, it was learnt that the district authorities swung into action to provide food for migrant labourers and even make arrangements for their transportation. The district administration also searched for the family to ferry them to Jhansi. 
Children bear the brunt of an ill-planned lockdown 
This photograph of a man clinging on to a rope attached to a truck with his left hand while using his right hand to haul a child into a truck was taken in Chhattisgarh. It is another heart rending image depicting hardships faced by migrants desperate to return home after being left without jobs. It also highlighted how children had to bear the brunt of an ill-planned lockdown.  Apart from the child in the picture, there was another baby who was also hauled into the same truck. 
A mother’s resilience 
The story of 48-year-old Razia Begum, a government school headmistress at Bodhan Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency School who made a round-trip of 1400 kilometres from Nizamabad in Telangana to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh to bring back her stranded son is testimony to the resilience of a mother and the lengths to which she can go to protect her family.  Her son, 19-year-old Mohammed Nizamuddin, a student at Narayana Medical Academy at Hyderabad, had gone with his classmate to Rehmatabad in Nellore on March 12. He was scheduled to return on March 23 but with train services cancelled, he had to stay back at his friend’s house for over two weeks. With all means of transportation halted and hiring a car out of the question because of the numerous check posts along the way, Razia Begum decided to undertake the long and daunting journey on her scooty. She first approached the Commissioner of Police in Nizamabad for an authorization letter but was told to wait out the lockdown period.  However, on realizing that the lockdown would inevitably be extended, she set off on the long journey in the wee hours of April 6 without informing her family members. 
She finally reached Nellore around 7:30 am the following day and met her son. During the course of dark and lonely ride, she took 15 to 20 minutes breaks at fuel stations where she also refuelled while carrying an additional 5-litre can. She also carried rotis and subzis to eat along the way.
The gutsy daughter 
The tale of 15-year-old Jyoti Kumari Paswan who cycled from Sikandarpur in Haryana to Darbhanga in Bihar with her injured father on the pillion seat is one that garnered international attention and even featured in BBC.  US president Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump on hearing of her perseverance called it a “beautiful feat of endurance.”
The lockdown happened at the worst possible time for Jyoti- when her father was nursing an injured knee from an accident he suffered while driving his e-rickshaw.  With no earnings for around two months, their savings depleted. To make matters worse, they were also asked to vacate their house after they failed to pay the rent.  Fortunately for them, Jyoti’s mother and elder sister were already back home in Darbhanga, Bihar
With their backs against the wall, Jyoti decided to buy an old second hand pink lady’s bicycle for Rs 2000. Finally, on May 7, the father-daughter duo with just a bottle of water pedalled for 8 days making brief stops at Palwal, Mathura and Agra.  While they were offered a proper meal at some places, they also had to contend with biscuits on occasions. The Cycling Federation has offered her an opportunity to consider a career as a cyclist but what she really needed was something as basic as a means of transportation. Sadly for her, her plight was only known after her “feat” made international headlines.  
The migrant who did not make it home 
12-year-old Jamlo Makdam was amongst the first groups of migrants who decided to walk back home when they were left without work. Jamlo who hailed from Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district worked in chilli fields at Kannaiguda village in Telangana. 
On being stranded with no work and with all transportation halted, Jamlo Makdam and others who worked with her in the chilli fields, decided to walk back home to Chattisgarh. Jamlo’s house was around 150 kms from the fields she worked in. They set off on their journey on April 15. After three days of walking, she died due to exhaustion and dehydration near Bhandarpal village in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, around 50 kms from her native village. 
The weeping father who lost his son
After the face of Qutubuddin Ansari who became the emblematic image of the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots, the sight of Rampukar Pandit breaking down in New Delhi on hearing the news of his son’s death in Bariarpur in Bihar’s Begusarai will stand  testimony for years to come of how India let down its poorest section during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The photo was clicked by PTI photographer Atul Yadav who spotted Rampukar just before the Yamuna Bridge at around 5:15 pm on May 19.  According to Atul, when approached, the inconsolable Rampurkar could barely hold his mobile phone. All that he could communicate was point to the direction he wanted to go. 
Rampukar was halted at the UP border for three days and was finally able to board a train on May 21 but missed his son’s funeral. 
1700 kms, 7 days: from Maharashtra to Odisha on cycle
20-year-old Mahesh Jena who hailed from Jajpur district in Odisha worked at an iron casting facility in the Sangli Miraj MIDC Industrial Area in Maharashtra earning Rs 15,000 per month. When the nationwide lockdown came into effect on March 24, he had just Rs 3000 with him which was half the amount of his accommodation rent- Rs 6000. 
When he learnt that the factory he worked in would be closed for another three months, he decided to make the 7 days long cross-country cycle ride without any hesitation on April 1. It seemed the only way out for him to avoid starvation. He cycled for around 16 hours a day covering an average of 200 kms per day. Mahesh covered most of the distance during the cool pre-dawn and the evening. During the afternoons, he stopped at dhabbas along highways for bath, lunch and naps, while in the night he took shelter in safer places like temples, schools and roadside dhabbas. He had a few run-ins with the Maharashtra Police but succeeded in convincing them of his incredible journey. When Mahesh finally reached Jajpur on April 7, the villagers were hesitant to let him in without a check-up. He was sent to a quarantine centre at a school in Bichitrapur before finally being allowed to meet his family members. 
(Samuel Beech) 

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