Name: Rizwan Ansari & Tabrez Ansari
Hometown: Saidanpur, Barabanki District, Uttar Pradesh
Returned from: Ahmedabad, Gujrat
Rizwan and Tabrez Ansari worked together as Tailors in Ahmedabad, Gujrat. The two were working and living together during the first days of the pandemic. However, the work eventually halted, leaving them stranded and without any source of income. It was after failing to receive a response thrice by the government — the contractor organised an alternate mode of transport to Bihar.
Interviewer: When did you first hear about the Coronavirus? How was your journey from Gujarat to Bihar? Share your experience in detail.
Rizwan Ansari: Tabrez and I sourced information from YouTube on my smartphone before the lockdown. The next we heard on the 22nd March, and ever since – we’ve been adjusting to the curfew. I do not know much of the disease, just that I have to save myself.
The two of us lived together in Ahmedabad working as Tailor for a private factory. I was in Surat before for about seven years and moved here for a better job. As the curfew began, our work slowed and eventually shut down, and all the sources of income reduced till we could barely pay for the daily expenses. Since we had no savings either, the family sent some money, and the employer covered his dues, in addition to organising a bus ride back to Bihar.
We completed the online registration thrice for a train ride back to Bihar. Yet, even upon waiting twenty-days, we received no response. It was then the contractor rented a bus for thirty-five of us at Rs. 4,000 each. The bus headed to Gopalganj, Bihar. The only reason we waited for two months is because I was sure to work would restart, but when it did not – we left. The bus stopped at restaurants for food; we had to pay only once, the other times there was the provision of food and water by the locals on the way.
The first test was after disembarking the bus in Gopalganj. From there, we took a public vehicle to Motihari, followed by another bus ride till Bettiah. Since the last two buses were state-mandated, there was no charge for the same.
Once we reached back – we quarantined for fourteen days in an empty room on my family’s land. The family left food for us at the doorstep.
Interviewer: How has the pandemic altered your outlook?
Rizwan Ansari: Initially, some villagers were harsh towards our return, although it was due to fear of the virus, it took a bit of convincing to which they agreed.
I studied till 8th grade while Tabrez till 5th grade. Both of us are from impoverished households. Education did not put food on the table, learning the necessary skills to earn does.
Individually, the two of us earned Rs. 12,000 a month, with expenditure worth Rs. 6,000 for me, and Rs. 8,000 for Tabrez. My father and two brothers work as labourers earning for the family, but I also have a wife and two kids to support.
Nowadays, we are cutting corn in our field. The income generated is lesser than the investment required to harvest a crop. Since the land is 4 ‘Katt’ (less than an acre), we often operate at a loss. Both of us are waiting for the pandemic to ease so we can resume our work in Gujarat.