“He is with me now, I am very happy,” Razia Begum giggled over the phone. The 48-year-old headmistress of a government school drove 1,400 kms on her scooty from Bodhan in Nizamabad in Telangana to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh and back to bring back her son who was stranded at a friend’s house. Her son, 19-year-old Mohammed Nizamuddin, a student at Narayana Medical Academy at Hyderabad, had gone with his classmate to Rehmatabad in Nellore on March 12.
“I accompanied him as he was going to see his father who was unwell and I also wanted to visit a dargah at Rehmatabad. We went in train on March 12. I had booked a return ticket for March 23 but the trains were cancelled and the lockdown started and I got stranded there,” said Nizamuddin. He tried unsuccessfully for several days to find some transport to reach Hyderabad but to no avail.
“I stayed with my friend’s family while I and my mother tried to figure out over phone how to return home,” he said. Razia Begum, who is headmistress at Bodhan Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency School, approached Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Bodhan V Jaipal Reddy twice to seek advice on how to bring back her son.
“I was worried that he won’t take enough precautions to stay in safe zone to protect himself from coronavirus. Nellore is one of the affected districts and I was really worried for him. If he is at home I can keep a watch. Police suggested I wait for a few days as the lock down was being implemented strictly,” she said.
On Sunday, April 5, with the prospect of the lockdown getting extended, Razia Begum decided to go to Nellore and bring back her son. “I had no option but to go on my scooty. Hiring a car was out of question as no one was interested and besides if I was travelling in a car the chances of being allowed by police on the highway were bleak. I thought that by riding on the scooty alone I would be able to convince cops to allow me to travel. I neither informed my son nor my brothers and sisters. I started off early Monday morning and only after reaching Toopran on the outskirts of Hyderabad I informed my son that I was coming to pick him up,” she said.
“I have been driving two-wheeler since 25 years. My husband passed away 14 years ago and even at that time I used to drive to Hyderabad on a two-wheeler when he had to undergo dialysis. So I was not afraid although the distance was daunting,” she said.
Razia Begum topped up petrol wherever she found a fuel station and carried a five-year-old can with additional fuel. She carried rotis and sabzi for the journey. “I took 15-20 minute breaks at fuel stations, drank water and let the scooty engine cool down. Thankfully, the scooty did not break down anywhere. When I reached the Telangana-Andhra Pradesh border, it was late evening and the cops there were surprised to see me. They were taken aback when I told them where I was coming from and where I was going and it took a lot of convincing to allow me to go. They were worried about my safety; they said that there was no one on the highway and night was falling. However, I convinced them that I will be safe and drove away. The highway was dark and lonely but I had to pick up my son. I was stopped by police at a checkpost at 2 am on Tuesday on the outskirts Nellore. After listening to my story, they said that the road ahead was dangerous and advised me to halt for some time. I waited at a road side shelter near the check post till 4 am and then called my son that I was nearby,” she said.
“She arrived at 7:30 am. She drove almost 23-24 hours to pick me up and I was overwhelmed and very happy to see her. We left again in the afternoon and returned to Bodhan Wednesday evening. She had her first good meal after two days,” Nizamuddin said.
“She is a gutsy lady. I tried to persuade her to hire a car but she said she doesn’t have that much money and went on the scooty. She requested a letter from me stating the reason for which she was travelling to be shown if she was stopped at checkposts. Her courage to bring back her standed son is very moving,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Bodhan V Jaipal Reddy said.
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