What happened in Amritsar should not just stay in Amritsar and that’s why I am writing this. As a lot of you know that I was on a trip before all of this event happened. COVID-19 was still new to India. If I remember correctly 11th of March 2020 I took a train from Jodhpur towards Amritsar. I had a collaboration project with a travel hostel called “City on Pedals.” Honestly, I had no idea what was in store for me in the coming days.
This blog is based on my personal experience. This is exactly what happened to me in Amritsar in City On Pedals. Of course, I am publishing it a little late as I came back to Kolkata a week ago from Amritsar due to the lockdown that just kept getting extended, keeping the pandemic in mind.
On the 12th of March at about 2 a.m. I reached Amritsar, it was raining so I booked a cab and went to the Hostel-COP. I had a phone number which was given to me so I contacted the number when I reached, one of the staff members came and opened the door for me. Everything seemed fine, everything seemed normal.
The next few days at ’City on pedals’ were pretty relaxing. I met many new people including Rowan from Egypt, Rani who is from Indonesia, Ahmed from Morocco, Alex and Sogol and many others who worked for the company. Rowan was a teacher in a school called Little Columbus in Amritsar. We instantly became friends as we were in the same room in the hostel.
I planned to travel around over the weekend as I had my tickets booked to travel back on the 18th of March. As previously mentioned, everything was pretty normal. The news of coronavirus started spreading and there was panic created among all. All the people I mentioned above, they have been in this hostel for a long time, they even came to India in the month of November and December 2019, respectively. None of us had any kind of symptoms nor did we meet anybody new during that period. There was no lockdown announced even at this point in time. I was out travelling around the city of Amritsar on the 16th of March and I got a call from one of the office staff members that I am supposed to leave the hostel by the evening. It was about 2 p.m. when I got this call. To that, my response was, “I would like to have a word with the manager.” I tried to explain the situation that it is already afternoon and this is an unknown place for me and I told them that I will find a place for myself by the morning and I shall leave the next day. I even explained the entire scenario and sent an email to the founder of ’City on pedals’ hoping to discuss the same. In the next 10 minutes, I get a call from the HR of the company, regarding the same.
On the humanitarian ground, it was unfair. I was shocked and was scared at the same time. My roommate was terminated a day before all of this happened with me. She did not get her salary by then; many things were unclear and we were definitely in a messy situation. All of us were told to vacate the hostel. We were told that they are closing down the hostel so we have to pack our bags and leave. No prior notice, no prior information and no conversation. It was a time when a human needs another human to behave a little humanly but none of that was received.
Before anything goes out of hand, I always believe that the only person that should support you or understand you is the legal authorities so I went to the nearest police station and I explained to them the situation. They came with us to the hostel. The situation was heated up, the HR of the company, the founder and his wife- who is also the Founding member of the little Columbus School; everyone was present at that moment. All the staff members of the company were also present when this incident took place.
I can’t speak Punjabi but the HR could speak and everyone just spoke in Punjabi. Everything was super confusing to me. We all stared at each other, I was emotionally shaken to even let my brain react to what was happening. I was told I should not have called the police.
I knew for a fact that I had to leave the hostel along with so many people but I kind of did not understand the behaviour that was thrown towards me. Suddenly there was a lot of hatred from people who I have never met before, never even spoken to while I was staying in the hostel. Humiliation is an understatement in the presence of the police. I was told to pack my bags and leave within 5 minutes and if not, then my bags would be thrown out of the property.
I was shaking in fear where to go next, what to do. I went inside the room and I packed up my bags with tears in my eyes, my roommates told me they will join me soon. I saw Rowan packing her bag and I knew I was not alone. one of the staff members who was still working with the company came to help me. while I was walking out of the room, he offered help to carry my bag and at that very moment, he was told that he is not a part of the company anymore simply because he offered to carry my bag and help me. I felt really bad that he had to lose his job just because he was just being human.
Before I left the property, I just wanted to have a conversation with the founder of the hostel and I remember standing outside the gate and I spoke about how amazing his staff has been to me; I said all that breaking down, feeling helpless, disheartened and also angry because I didn’t know what I would do next and where I would go in a completely unknown town. I don’t want to mention what happened next because I am sure everyone present there remembers it clearly to the person I was talking to.
Was it fair? Work collaboration, Work ethics, Humanitarian grounds these are just words we often fail to imply or understand them in our life. Being an Indian I knew that I would find my way out but keeping the time in mind, it was about 6:30 in the evening. I was worried for Rowan, Alex, Sogol and Rani. Moreover, I was worried about myself.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” we use this phrase every day in our lives but we forget what it means and how much weightage it holds. This is my part of the story and today I will like to leave this space with few questions:
- If I am evicted without notice in a situation like a Global pandemic when no hostels or hotels were allowed to take any visitors, should I not take help from the police?
- If I am alone in a city and I feel unsafe, should I not call the police to intervene?
Before all of this happened with me and to those around me, I always felt that a woman’s safety is and should be an utmost priority for anyone, but after that incident, I find it hard to believe that because I was neither given any safety nor any respect as an individual, let alone as a woman.