Hoshiarpur, May 1 

On a bright sunny day amidst the scent of wheat harvesting in the fields, Aijaz Ahmad Shah boarded the Punjab Roadways bus to Lakhanpur situated at Punjab-Jammu border. The only sentiment he felt was an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude for the big-hearted people of Punjab. He vowed that he would pray for Punjab and its benevolent people for helping him during the Coronavirus lockdown.

In the hustle-bustle of departure, Aijaz Ahmad Shah took out the time to send up a little prayer for the Punjabis who had come to his rescue during the desperate times brought on by the sudden Covid-19 lockdown. So, when the bus headed from Hoshiarpur to Lakhanpur, the journey turned enjoyable and full of prayers. 

Aijaz along with his 15 friends were staying in a small house at Mahilpur village in Hoshiarpur district, where they had been coming every year to sell shawls from Kupwara.

The 40-year old, shawl seller from Dahama Vilgam in Kupwara was not alone in his prayers, his friends also joined him to thank a good samaritan and the Hoshiarpur district administration for reaching out to them with rations and LPG, when they were left with nothing to eat.

“April 21 was a terrible day. We had eaten nothing for two consecutive days. All of us (15 men) in one house were making frantic calls to friends from Kashmir also residing in different cities of Punjab to help us out. Suddenly, a local NGO reached out to us and provided rice, oil, dal, and other basic ingredients to cook food.” said Aijaz adding that the administration even took their contact numbers to keep in touch and provide continued assistance.

“It was like a godsent moment. That evening, we ate to our heart’s content and ended up thanking Allah and the people who helped us. They refused to share their identity but, I will pray for them in my Ramzaan prayers. For us, Punjab is home. Punjabis are large hearted people and they love to volunteer for public service. May almighty bless Punjab always,” he said while leaving for Kupwara.  

His friends also echoed the same sentiments. “We cannot express the joy of finally reaching home. Ramzaan has started and it is not easy to observe a month-long Roza without some basic requirements. We eagerly wait for this time of the year, when we had almost sold our shawl stock and earned revenue. However, this time things took a bad turn. Thankfully we were able to overcome all obstacles – all thanks to the Punjabis,” said Farooq.

Notably, the Hoshiarpur District administration arranged 23 buses to ferry as many as 567 stranded Kashmiris to Lakhanpur, the place where Punjab ends and Jammu territory begins.

Aijaz said that when he spoke to people who helped them and asked that if he could do anything for them, the only answer was, “Bas aap Hamare liye Ramzaan mai dua karna (Just pray for us in your Ramzaan prayers). Inshaallah, that reply left me teary-eyed and I could sense the same from the other end of the phone too. The joy and contentment on both sides were similar,” he quipped hoping that he would be visiting Punjab soon and host these people in Kashmir one day.