“Earning about ₹300 per day, she was happy.”

It is a relief to know that at some point she was happy. 

Before a virus ruined it, before the reality of being poor truly hit her, before passing away.

The woman I am talking about is Arveena Khatoon. You might know her.

Scroll/Image for Representation

A few days ago, the nation’s conscience was shaken again, by an unfortunate video where a child was seen playing with the cloth covering his mother’s dead body.

The family had reached home. Almost. It had travelled from Ahmedabad to Mazaffarpur in Bihar. But the hunger, it followed them and ultimately, so did death.

The woman lying dead on the platform was Arveena and the child was her 18-month-old son Rahmat.

She was travelling on the Shramik Special Train with her two kids and brother-in-law Wazir, who saw her passing away in front of his eyes.

But who was Arveena before she became a symbol of nation’s grief? Her family tells Indian Express.

Speaking about her life, Arveena’s mother Shairoon shared:

She was our third daughter and we had got her married to a man from UP’s Bareilly seven years ago through a broker. Her husband, Mohammed Islam, took her to Bareilly only twice and divorced her two years ago, when she was pregnant with Rahmat.
The Indian Express

Adding that bringing her back after the divorce was not really an option for the elderly couple.

We have no agricultural land and my husband cannot do any strenuous physical work. It was getting difficult to keep her with us. There is hardly any job for women here.

It was then that her brother-in-law stepped in and offered her to stay in Ahemdabad with her sister, nephews and him.

She agreed.

CFR/Image for Representation

All of them stayed in a rented flat that they could afford because of Wazir’s job at a construction site, that got him ₹7,000 a month.

The lockdown turned everything ugly, though, and after days of not having work, they decided to move back.

Except this proved to be Arveena’s final journey.

The reason behind her demise and why a postmortem wasn’t performed, is still unknown, as the family blames the authorities and vice versa.

But till the time things are figured out, if at all, there is some monetary help from the government and the opposition to keep her kids and parents afloat.

Kids remind me of little Rehmat. He probably doesn’t even know the kind of tragedy that has fallen upon the family. I think it’s better that way, for now.

Hopefully, the horror of being in ‘that heartbreaking video’ will never catch up to him. Hopefully he will live a life Arveena imagined him to, or better.

Because she couldn’t.