In another version of his life he has not traveled beyond a mile. The river plies fresh loads of algae empties the hill at his feet where the ferns dry their hoary limbs.
He fits the odds of his life in a bag walks along the spent river that cradles the kingfisher in a shard of light. The villagers troop along the cracked bund see his back diminish to a pinpoint.
The fish floats belly up the venom stains the reeds a shade of purple flows down the throat of the crown flower to the small of his back when he kneels as if the body is built to fold up.
They bring him wrapped, calf muscles buckled from what the human body is not meant to do – walk three hundred miles, drop like a yellowed leaf to be rested under the cassia tree in full bloom just a mile from home.
The context: After the 21 day lockdown in India to contain the spread of Coronavirus, the states have closed their borders, bus and train services have been suspended. The lockdown has left tens of millions of migrant workers unemployed. They are from rural India, small towns and villages, but live most of the year in India’s megacities. Believed to number at least 120 million, possibly more, they are walking to their homes, hundreds or thousands of miles away from where they had migrated for work.
A 23 year old man walking from Nagpur in Maharashtra to Namakkal in Tamil Nadu, after completing 500 kilometers in the summer heat of the southern Indian plains, died of cardiac arrest in Secunderabad, many miles away from home.