Last month, in the midst of New Delhi’s coronavirus lockdown, 37- year-old labourer Prakash Kumar wanted to return to his rural home in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh. But instead of travelling the usual few hours by bus, Kumar had to journey for three days.
Ankita Gupta, a housewife from south Delhi, is anxious about whether she should send her 4-year-old daughter to kindergarten. Outside visibility is poor as smog
— a combination of emissions from factories, vehicle exhausts, coal plants and chemicals reacting with sunlight — has settled over the city, surpassing dangerous levels.
Haseena Akhtar was only 13 when an agent told her parents that they could earn a good amount of money by letting her marry a Kashmiri man. The man was, however, three times older than Akhtar, the agent said.
It is 50 days into the lockdown in Kashmir since roads were blocked off, schools shut, and internet and communication services stopped.
Mubeen Ahmad was nine years old when his mother sold him into service to a mechanic for the petty sum of few thousand Indian rupees. His mother had found it hard to support the family after his father, a labourer, was killed during one of the anti-India protests in Jammu and Kashmir in 2008.
Much has changed since Rahti Begum, a fisherwoman in Kashmir, now in her late 60s, first began wandering the streets with a bucketful of fish on her head. She was 17 when her father roped her into the business that became the source of her livelihood for the remainder of her life.
In central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, 40-year-old Javaid Ahmad Hurra remembers vividly how his small hamlet used to be lush and green when he was a child. It is now subtly turning into a concrete jungle, with cement structures dominating the scenery.