Mukesh Pandey with wife Babita and son.
Mukesh Pandey with wife Babita and son.
FPJ

BHOPAL: The vicious corona virus was creeping throughout the world in mid-May last year, as Mukesh Pandey, a 26-year-old work supervisor, set out of Bhopal with his heavily pregnant wife, Babita. He was accompanied by his brother, Navneet.

Their destination was Motihari, Bihar. Just as other cities in the country, Bhopal was also under lockdown. The Pandeys were living in Professors’ Colony in the city. Both Mukesh and Navneet were working at a construction site. Babita is a housewife.

The lockdown rendered both the brothers jobless. The manager of the construction site gave them a few months’ salary so that they might survive. Mukesh decided to leave for Motihari, more than 1,100km away from the city. Making that trek and that, too, with a pregnant wife, was more than wearisome.

That apart, at that time, getting a pass for travelling from one place to another was as arduous as hitting upon a piece diamond in a coal mine. Still, Mukesh’s one thought was to reach Motihari, as Babita wanted to spend the last few months of her pregnancy at her mother’s. He was ready to take that risk. So, as soon as he got that valuable piece of paper, his heart began to race. But hiring a vehicle was also a hard slog, especially in those days. Mukesh, however, got it arranged through an acquaintance of his.

At daybreak, on Saturday, May 23, the Pandeys got into a car. So began their strenuous journey. The way was long. The heat was unbearable. Besides, an enemy called corona was lurking. Dust carried by the dry and hot northerlies covered the car. They often wondered if they would reach their destination. It was eerie, and the road was entirely empty, and they had no knowledge what might lie ahead. There was checking by policemen off and on.

In the morning and in the afternoon, the cawing of crows broke the otherwise deathly silence of the road. As Babita was in family way, her craving for different kinds of food was so intense that it was difficult to meet that. Another worry that gripped Mukesh was the safety of the unborn child. As Babita was consulting gynaecologist Dr Hajela, the Pandeys occasionally got in touch with her over the phone on the way.

Navneet recalls that social workers and volunteers of various organisations and policemen offered them cooked food and fruits on the journey. Navneet says that, as the volunteers came to know his Bhabi (sister-in-law) was pregnant, they provided more fare than what the family required.

Suddenly, Babita fell ill. She was feeling nauseous and often cried out. She was also becoming feverish and listless, her right eye flickering alarmingly. The vehicle had to stop. Mukersh knew that he had to seek medical aid, but, as it was out of the question then, he called up Dr Hajela, who advised them to break the journey. For fear of contagion, the hotels were closed. So were the clinics. Once her conditions bettered, the family resumed the journey.

In the evening of May 24, as the Bihar borders came within their sight, their heart began to throb. They breathed a sigh of relief. On May 25, after more than 50 hours of that painful voyage from Bhopal, they reached Motihari.

Babita says, as she got out of the car, her father pulled her into the house, repeating as he kissed her, “It’s all right, it’s all over now.” He yelled, “It’s our Babita. She’s home!”

Three months later, on August 8, she gave birth to a baby boy. He was named Suryansh. Navneet, back in Bhopal, has rejoined work. Mukesh and Babita, still in Motihari, are planning to return soon, unless there is another country-wide lockdown!

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