New Delhi: The nationwide lockdown in March 2020 forced thousands of migrant workers to return to their native villages by covering thousands of kilometres on foot.
A new book ‘1232 km: The Long Journey Home’ by filmmaker Vinod Kapri chronicles the journey of seven such migrant workers from Bihar, who journeyed back home on their bicycles and reached their destination after seven days.
Published by Harper Collins, the book will be launched on 31 May on ‘SoftCover’ —ThePrint’s e-venue to launch select non-fiction books.
Kapri accompanied these seven migrant workers — Ritesh, Ashish, Ram Babu, Sonu, Krishna, Sandeep and Mukesh — on their 1,232-km journey from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh to Saharsa in Bihar.
It is a story of courage as well as the desperation of seven men braving police lathis and insults, battling hunger and exhaustion to reach their home.
A documentary based on this journey, directed by Kapri, has also just been released on the streaming service Disney+ Hotstar.
According to the author, he was curious to know what makes labourers’ cycle 1,232 kilometres without food or any help in such extreme circumstances. He wanted to see them up close.
“This is not a journey about courage, willpower or grit. It is about good and bad people in our society. The migrants I filmed were getting unexpected help from strangers, while the authorities, who one would expect cooperation from, were harassing them,” said Kapri.
The book has been well-received by filmmakers, authors and journalists. Renowned poet, lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar said, “Khuda jaane, yeh batwara bada hai, ya wo batwara bada thha (God knows, whether this partition is big or whether that one was)”, comparing the migrant crisis to the 1947 post-independence partition.
Filmmaker Anurag Sinha called it “a heartbreaking document but so necessary”, while actor Manoj Bajpayee said that the book is “riveting, touching and resonates with all of us”.
Senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said that the book is a wake-up call to our conscience. “They built our cities; they cannot remain anonymous any longer,” he said.
Kapri is an award-winning filmmaker who won the National Award for his 2014 film Can’t Take This Shit Anymore. His critically acclaimed film Pihu (2017) bagged two awards at an international film festival.
Before venturing into filmmaking, he spent 23 years of his career as a journalist with media organisations like Amar Ujala, Zee News, Star News, India TV and TV9.