“We were anyway dying there. My sick parents could not walk the distance. I had to carry them home. We did not have a choice.”
Little Tabaarak rode a tricycle for nine consecutive days to carry his injured father and blind mother back home to their village Jokihat. The 11-year-old struggled tirelessly as he trod the journey of 600km from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Aaria district in Bihar.
Fifty five-year-old Israfil, Tabaarak’s father, said: “A stone fell on my foot on the fourth day of work and I fractured my leg. The owner of the shop where I work got me medical treatment. My wife and son had visited me just before the lockdown. We ran out of food after a few days of the lockdown. We started the journey on the tricycle cart because we were anyway dying there in Varanasi.”
Tabaarak’s mother Sogra was blinded while harvesting crops in a paddy field. She said, “We carried an LPG cylinder and other belongings with us. We would sleep on the roadside and cook food wherever we got water. People we met on the road helped us reach home safely.”
Tabaarak is the fifth of the couple’s six children. “His resilience has moved us so much. It has not only inspired us but also reminded us of the desperate ends we have pushed him to, and how much we have failed that young boy.”
Tabaarak’s story reminds us of all those hundreds and thousands of migrants who have been walking across long, unending paths. They are covering unimaginable hundreds of kilometres on foot with the desperate hope of reaching home. It has broken our hearts. We have felt empathetic and helpless all at once.
“I really have to reach home. These are hard and desperate times. We have no jobs, no food to feed our families,” said every migrant worker when asked about their long journey on foot.
Amidst this, Tabaarak’s story caught the attention of Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna, who has already been doing incredible relief work for thousands of people who are hungry and jobless in the face of the pandemic. He took to Twitter and asked, “Can someone help me find this hero. I am planning a big surprise for him.”
— Vikas Khanna (@TheVikasKhanna) May 26, 2020
Historian and author Rana Safvi helped connect Apne Aap founder Ruchira Gupta to Vikas Khanna on Twitter.
My #NGO @apneaap & our campaign https://t.co/HFlO2szNSE with #Chef @TheVikasKhanna are today taking a Big Surprise' For 11 YO Boy Who Cycled 600 Km Carrying Parents https://t.co/GKgCXTwRKb via @StoryPicker @DishaBanerjee15 @yadavtejashwi @RJDforIndia
— Ruchira Gupta (@Ruchiragupta) May 27, 2020
Ruchira reached out and volunteered to help because Tabaarak is from her hometown village. Team Apne Aap reached Tabaarak’s home in Jokihat, Aaria, and offered his family support meals, books and Rs 25,000 with the help of Vikas Khanna.
Tabaarak is a young, bright and hardworking boy. He might have lesser fortunes, but his dreams are no less greater than ours. While chatting with little Tabaarak, he told us, “I love studying. I want to study and become an IPS officer.” On Ruchira asking why he wants to become an IPS officer, he replied, “I want to work for the welfare of the people in my area. Nobody looks after us. We are always so neglected.”
Tabaarak jumped with joy when we gave him the food, books and money. He was delighted to be relieved of worries for his family. We assured him and said, “Use the money for immediate requirements of food and medicines. Reach out to us whenever you need anything in the future.”
Team Apne Aap is so delighted to have met this little wonder boy and helped his family in some way. His innocent laughter in the face of all the hardships and suffering has inspired us immensely. It is stories like Tabaarak’s that pushes us to do everything that we do.