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By Nitesh Pradhan | JUNE 29, 2020:
"My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." ~ Thomas Paine
Everyone wants to hit the road or take a flight, bus, or train to meet their loved ones and reach home safely. Some had traveled by train, some by air and some by bus, but the question is, whose responsibility is it to transport the people? Who should bear the cost with no income to sustain amid the crises?
Here is an inspiring story of empathy and compassion and how people came together to help each other amid the pandemic lockdown.
"We were 15 stranded students from Sikkim, the others had booked their buses and left!" says, Sheetal Kharka Chettri, a student who was stranded in Shimla during the lockdown.
Chettri is a resident of Soreng, West Sikkim. She and her friends didn't want to travel back to Sikkim by the train provided by the Government of Sikkim because of their fear of getting exposed to the coronavirus as they would have to travel to Delhi to board the train.
When the students were running out of options, Sheetal dialled the IPS officer SD Negi – Additional Chief Secretary for help.
Negi is an IPS officer who originally from Himachal Pradesh and posted in Sikkim. He immediately called a few officers in his home state of Himachal Pradesh to organize some assistance to Sheetal and her friends.
As the number of students was less, no one was willing to rent a bus while the fare was astronomically high. Sheetal informed that Negi then contacted the Chief Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan which resulted in the students getting a minibus.
"By paying 7000 each we managed to get a bus and return to Sikkim," says another student.
In Shimla, the students were under isolation from the rest. They underwent a thorough health check-up before starting on their long journey to Sikkim.
Many students feared to pass through red zones and other containment zones fearing contracting COVID-19.
"We did not let the bus driver stop on risky highways. We bought some snacks and edibles from Shimla like bread, banana, apple, juice to eat inside the bus," says Chettri. The bus only stopped at petrol stations.
Appreciating the driver, the students said that had it not been for the brave driver, who they said "did not complain" and brought them till Rangpo (Sikkim's border town) even after knowing that the fare which they had paid was much less than what may have been offered by others in the current scenario, they wouldn't have had a safe and hassle-free journey.
A student in his early 20's said, "The bus driver was tired and hungry but still managed to bring us home. We are grateful to him for his service during our time of crisis".
"Negi Sir came as a Godfather without hesitating. He promised to help and assured us not to take any stress" says another student.
These students are all praise for the Chief Mayor Of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan as they vividly remember his words; "You are like my own daughter, you don't need to be grateful, as I am a father too, I can understand how you all are feeling right now, I will be happy and proud to sent you all back to your homes".
"Even if we were from different states, with different languages and cultures the Mayor of Shimla cared for us. He showed us even though we might not be from the same place we can care for each other" explained the students.
The students are also appreciative of the prompt help delivered by Sikkim Lok Sabha MP, Indrahang Subba.
Reaching home from one edge of the Himalayas to another has made these students realize the importance of home, values – kindness, compassion, and realizing the goodness within including the power that humans possess to keep moving ahead irrespective of the situation.
The unsung heroes are the officers and the driver who were so instrumental in bringing these children back to their homes.