Actor Sonu Sood is now all set to come up with a book recounting his experience of helping migrant workers reach their hometowns during the COVID lockdown.
“The past three and half months have been a kind of a life-changing experience for me, living with the migrants for 16 to 18 hours a day and sharing their pain. When I go to see them off as they begin their journey back home, my heart is filled with joy and relief. Seeing the smiles on their faces, the tears of happiness in their eyes has been the most special experience of my life, and I pledged that I’ll keep on working to send them back to their homes until the last migrant reaches his village, to his loved ones,” Sonu declared.
In the early days of June, 180 people working in a Pune canteen lost their jobs when the facility closed down. They had no option but to go back to their hometowns in Assam. The group reached Mumbai on getting to know that a train was likely to ply to Assam on 3 June, but the service got suspended during the lockdown. They were stuck in the city with no money for shelter, finally seeking refuge under the Tilak Bridge.
There, they got to know that actor Sonu Sood had been helping migrant workers find safe passage home. When they reached out to him, Sood found them shelter and food and also began to look for ways to reunite them with their families in Assam. With no other option than to airlift them from Mumbai, he and his team contacted several airlines and finally arranged a flight for them on 10 June.
“I believe I came to this city for this — it was my purpose. I want to thank god for making me a catalyst in helping the migrants. While my heart beats in Mumbai, after this movement I feel a part of me lives in the villages of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Uttarakhand, and various other states, where I have now found new friends and made deep connections. I have decided to put these experiences, stories that reside in my soul forever, in a book,” he said, about the book that is to be published by Penguin Random House India.
In a statement about the book, Milee Ashwarya, publisher, Ebury Publishing and Vintage Publishing, Penguin Random House India, mentions: “While most of us in our lifetimes wish to work to help others in need, only a few actually make it our life’s mission. Sonu Sood is one such person… The book will bring together the story of this amazing journey.”
On realizing that this mirrored the story of lakhs of people across India, Sood decided to make social media a platform for connecting with them and getting information. He also reached out to likeminded people such as his childhood friend, restaurateur Neeti Goel.
“I roped in chartered accountants and lawyers to help out with technicalities. From within this group of people, one lot would take care of the Bihar list, another of the UP list, so on and so forth,” says Sood. The actor also began to reach out to authorities in various cities for permission. Since then he has arranged buses, trains, and flights for stranded migrants, while also launching a toll-free helpline for those in need of assistance.
“I have barely been sleeping, spending 16-17 hours taking requests and spending time on the field. But I think it is the wishes of the migrant workers and their families that have given me the zeal to work. Their faith in me has been inspiring – that if Sonu has committed, he will make us reach home for sure,” he said.
Sood continues to be in touch with the various migrant workers that he has been transported back home over the past few months. “I now feel that a part of me lives in the villages of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Uttarakhand, and more. They have become my extended family,” he says. The actor is also working on a platform, which could provide a livelihood to these migrant workers in their hometown itself, in case they don’t wish to move out. “It will be challenging but this endeavor will not end. I wanted to put these experiences and stories, embedded in my soul, in a book and share it with everyone. Later, when people go through it, they will get to know of these families from all across India and be part of their journey,” he ended with.
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