‘I heard Punjab is a land of plenty… Hope my kids have plenty’
Phoolan Devi, 18 Near Patiala, Punjab: Moved from Nalanda, Bihar, post-marriage, with husband
They got married in October, around Dussehra. Phoolan Devi doesn’t remember the date. What she does remember is how excited she was, about leaving for Punjab with husband Mangal. It was a land of riches for migrants from Bihar, she had heard. Shivering under a towel that she uses as covering in the harsh winter of Nardu village near Rajpura, 25 km from Patiala, Phoolan smiles weakly at how quickly that dream has shattered.
Mangal alternates as a farm and brick kiln labourer, depending on the season, and money is too scant for her to afford woollens. Within two days of reaching Punjab, she had joined him, both in the kilns and fields for work. “My husband borrowed money for the wedding and has to pay off the debt,” Phoolan shrugs. “If we both work for 15 days, we get around Rs 1,500. We can barely afford two meals a day.” Picking weeds from a field, she adds, “I hope to make Rs 200 to buy a shawl.”
‘He is a child, he will forget’
Taj, 7 Bulandshahr: Moved out from Moradabad jail where his mother is on death row
On December 14, Taj walked out of Moradabad jail, clutching a packet of laddoos in one hand and holding “papa” Usman Saifi with the other. It was a day after his seventh birthday and he had spent it with his mother Shabnam. He had cut a cake, eaten samosas and spent time “alone” with his mother, who is on death row with his father Saleem.
Shabnam and Saleem were convicted of killing seven members of her family, on April 14, 2008, at Bawankhedi village in Amroha. Shabnam gave birth to Taj in jail, in December that year.
Earlier this year, the Amroha Child Welfare Committee put out advertisements for foster parents for the boy since jail manual doesn’t allow women inmates to keep children above six with them.
‘A friend told me about Al Pacino, his struggle’
Kunal Sharma, 29 Mumbai: Moved from Delhi to pursue his Bollywood dreams
Only a few make the cut. Of the unknown, but a very large, number of people who take a flight or train to Mumbai every year in pursuit of Bollywood dreams, only a handful bag an assignment, or that get that famous “break”.
Sharma can be counted among the lucky ones. An MBA and a former corporate employee from Delhi who shelved his Army dreams after an accident, he arrived in Mumbai in February to try his luck in acting. Within a year, he bagged two plum assignments — the role of a Pakistani intelligence officer in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and a part in Zubaan, which releases in 2016.
The actor, who was part of the theatre group Asmita for about three years before he shifted to Mumbai, says he has borrowed from his father’s genes. “My grandfather is a 1971 war veteran and my father dreamt of a career in films — even spent a few years in Mumbai in the 1970s — before settling for a more secure government job,” he says.
‘Mother calls up to ask if I have eaten food’
Manjinder Singh’s worries about coming to Mumbai were what the food would be like, who were the people he would meet, and how he would fit into the big city. He never feared being homesick — the 22-year-old has spent most of his childhood away from home, playing hockey at some of the top academies in Punjab. Manjinder belongs to Marrar village in Gurdaspur district and, as he puts it, “In Marrar, (hockey) is an everyday thing. It’s like a daily activity, just like brushing your teeth.”
At 16, he attended the famous Surjeet Academy in Jalandhar. From there, he was picked up by the Punjab and Sindh Academy, which serves as a feeder centre for the Punjab and Sindh Bank team, and soon after, won a gold medal at an all-India university tournament. He got the call for trials for a place in the Western Railway team while playing at the Nehru Cup semi-final last year. Towards the end of January 2015, Manjinder moved to Mumbai.