We had met only once earlier during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. I am from Indore and she, I learned, is from Ujjain. We exchange smiles when our paths cross. This time, as soon as she spotted me, Noori Khan burst into tears.
To my surprise, my eyes watered too. Perhaps she saw in me a brother, a comrade, with whom she could share her thoughts and her pain. She is a Bharat Yatri while I only cover the Yatra. Tension and exhaustion were written all over her face, and she had a bandaged toe.
When she spoke, it was obvious she was homesick. But she said she would keep walking and resist the temptation to steal a quick tour home when the Yatra passed through Ujjain. Her children, Sofia and Raihan, may want her to spend time at home, but she can’t afford it, she says; it will weaken his resolve to march to Kashmir.
The body hurts in the evening and often it is even painful to move the legs, she says. A few nails on the feet have come loose. But it all feels like a dream, she says, as if she’s part of the story as it unfolds. “I have the impression of being in the Dandi walk of Gandhi”.
It was exhilarating, she admits, to be greeted by thousands of people, smiling and waving at the Yatris. “We don’t speak each other’s language but their eyes convey so much affection that we don’t seem to need words.” The political wind is turning, she gushed. Kamal Nath will once again become Prime Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Congress will regain power in the Centre.
Predictable perhaps, coming from a congressman and a Bharat Yatri. But Kollam’s rickshaw driver also echoes his faith. When he heard that I was covering the Bharat Yatra, he said in his broken Hindi, “Sir, Modi jayega aur ab Rahulji aayega.”