A lady who wanted to reach the beauty parlour, a child who wanted his mother to be reached to her grandmother, a man who wanted to reach the liquor store – Sonu Sood, who has taken upon himself the responsibility of ensuring thousands of wage-earning migrants return home, receives such strange requests on an hourly basis. The actor, who turned 47 today, laughs these off as part of the territory. “They are part of the whole movement. There are youngsters who want to be with their girlfriend/boyfriend. I respond to them in a lighthearted manner to keep their spirits high. There’s a bond that I’ve formed with all these migrants. We’ve become a part of one big family,” he says.
How does Sonu’s immediate family feel about his passion for the migrants’ home-travel? “You know I get no time to spend with my wife and sons. Once in a while my children come and hug me and grumble that I’ve no time for them. Sometimes days pass before I am able to meet them. I am constantly monitoring all the travel plans of the migrants. I don’t even have time to look at my family. But they are my biggest support system. They know the importance of what I am doing. That every hour lost probably means a hundred more migrants unable to get home.”
When asked if Sonu feels morally obligated to get these migrants home, he pauses for a moment and shares, “It’s a promise from me to take them home. They trust me. They depend on me to get them to their homes. If they are all set to walk or cycle to their homes thousands of miles away and if I tell them to wait a day or two so I can arrange for their travel, they stay back.” Sonu adds, “It then becomes my responsibility to get the necessary permissions and see to it that they get to their loved ones. So yes, it’s a responsibility. But I am more than up to it.”
The sense of satisfaction that comes to Sonu from helping these distressed migrants is beyond words. “I’ve been a part of the film industry for twenty years and done about 100 films. But nothing I’ve done so far has given me this kind of inner peace and satisfaction. I now feel that I migrated to Mumbai to be an actor so one day I could help these migrants. I feel this was something I was born to do. I feel blessed that God has chosen me for this mission,” he mentions.
Sonu never thought he would one day be part of such a massive migratory movement. “Thousands of people walking with little kids and elders… I never thought I’d see this in my life. When it happened, I couldn’t sit at home making videos and discussing digital content. I wanted to come forward and hold the hands of these distressed migrants and tell them, ‘Boss, you are not alone, we are with you. You build our homes offices roads and you are the heartbeats of our country and there’s no way I can let you down’. I promised them I’d do my best to see them reach home.” Referring to the strangest travel requests he has received, Sonu says, “Well, there was a man who wanted me to get him to a liquor shop. I told that was not possible but if after downing several drinks he needed help to return home. I could look into that. Then there was a couple grumbling they can’t stay locked down together anymore. I suggested they take a trip to Goa together after the lockdown.” He quips, “I think that’s what my wife and I need to do after this is over.”