Name: Geeta Devi and Shivani
Hometown: Jogapatti, Bihar
Returned from: Ambala, Haryana
Geeta Devi lived with her daughter Shivani in Ambala Cantonment for the past fifteen years. She worked as a sculptor to support her husband and provide for their daughter. After watching the news of lockdown, the two waited for a month before being forced out of the house. It was then they decided to return to Bihar.
Interviewer: How did you react to the news of the Covid-19 virus? Why did you make the journey back to Bihar instead of waiting there?
Shivani: I first saw the news on Instagram and shared with my mother. The necessary precautions such as wearing a mask, isolating, using sanitizer, and washing fruits properly before consuming.
Geeta Devi: Since we were inside, the only source of information was television news. The work stopped at the announcement of the lockdown. Over the next few days, we struggled with food and water primarily. Since the savings were over, we could not afford rent, and the landlord demanded we leave the premises.
Shivani: We registered on the 11th of May at a cyber-café and waited till 25th of May for our tickets. During the lockdown, the Haryana government assisted with food and water, in addition to the screening process.
There was the provision of rice, vegetables, ‘Roti’, pickle and ‘Dal’ before boarding the train and during the journey. The train maintained basic hygiene, social distancing protocols by assigning one seat per person for the 1,200 passengers and dropped us at Muzzafarpur. In Muzzafarpur, the food they provided was barely a full meal as compared to what we received from the Haryana government. From there, we took another train to Bettiah.
The train ride got delayed in Chhapra due to a conflict. Some individuals were displeased with a train full of Muslims and so – they attacked the train and broke windows. The policemen were few at the time, adding two hours to the journey. Eventually, their train left, and ours followed.
A bus brought us to Jogapatti from Bettiah railway station after getting checked. Upon arriving in the village, we home quarantined for fifteen days.
Interviewer: How has the pandemic altered your lifestyle?
Shivani: In the initial days, the schools remained shut for a while. And now, I have not grasped much due to the digital difference. There are constant network issues. I doubt the situation will get better soon, although we will continue living here till it does. I have to comply with the online cases as we wait here. I would not want to continue living here since there is a considerable difference between the education infrastructure of the two places.
Geeta Devi: I initially followed my husband there. He worked as a vegetable vendor, and since my parents were ill, there was a need for another source of income. I earned Rs. 4,000 a month with an expenditure of almost Rs. 3,000 on Shivani’s education.
Since there are no earnings either, we will have to convince Shivani to study here. It was for her education we lived in Ambala. Currently, we are purchasing food through the small shop we own; my husband and I share the operations of the shop.