New Delhi: A watchman from Mumbai has decided to pedal his way to Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir to meet his ailing father. For this, Mohammed Arif, who works as a guard at Libra Tower in Mumbai’s Bandra West area, would have to cycle for about 2,100 km.
On Tuesday, when Arif (36) got a call from home that his father suffered a stroke and was in a critical condition, he desperately started looking for means to travel to Rajouri from Mumbai.
However, with the lockdown in place due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, no train or bus was available. "I looked around for help, there was none. Then I paid Rs 500 to a fellow watchman, who works in the same building, and bought his cycle. I have to see my father, even if that means cycling all the way home," Arif told CNN-News18 on Friday.
By then, he had pedalled for two days at a stretch. "I left the tower around 10am on Thursday. En route I met a few policemen, told them about my ordeal, but they didn't offer any help," Arif said.
However, they did not even stop him. According to the lockdown orders, the administration has to ask people to stay put wherever they are. Arif says policemen may have allowed him to continue his journey as his is a different case.
When asked about how many days he thought it would take for him to reach Rajouri, Arif said he only hoped it was in time for him to see his father even if it meant seeing him one last time.
"There is no one to take care of him. I don't have any brother or sister. I have to go. I left Mumbai with Rs 800 and some water. Now I am left with Rs 600 and two bottles of water. My phone is also running out of charge. I slept on the road and started again in the morning," he said from somewhere along the Maharashtra-Gujarat border.
Since then his phone was switched off. Due to the lockdown, Arif is also finding it difficult to manage some food for himself.
On Saturday, when CNN-News18 managed to speak to him again late in the afternoon, Arif said he was about to cross Gujarat and have had only biscuits in the last 24 hours.
"Only grocery shops are open along the stretch, so all I could get was biscuit and water. Just now a car stopped and gave me a glass of 'nimbu paani' (lemon water). I asked a lot of people for lift, but no one stopped. Policeman at various nakas stopped me. When I told them my plight, they allowed me to go."
He said he has managed to speak to his family once in the last few hours and his father's condition was still critical. "I charged my phone at a shop and managed to speak to my family. My father is still in a very serious condition. No one is there to take him to the hospital also."
Arif is a resident of Naver Bhramna village. His wife and children live with his father there. He got a job in Mumbai 28 days ago after returning from the United Arab Emirates where he had gone in search of work.
When CNN-News18 apprised the Jammu and Kashmir administration of his ordeal, senior officers offered to help. "We can get him picked up from Lakhanpur and drop him at Rajouri in four hours," a senior police officer said.
Union Home Ministry officials also assured to activate the control room, identify Arif’s location and offer whatever help is possible.