Be a lamp unto yourselves – the advice the migrant workers followed

Migrant workers

Tasmātihānanda, attadīpā viharatha attasaraṇā anaññasaraṇā

Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. 

(The Mahaparinibbana Sutta)

When the migrant workers across India started walking to their homes, they knew that they could trust only in themselves and in no other, certainly not the government. They had been cruelly left in the lurch with a sudden and hasty lockdown which seems not to have taken their case into consideration at all. 

They knew to follow the one advice that could not go wrong, one which did not depend on the whims and fancies of false gods and fake prophets. They had to be lamps unto themselves. 

Every avenue of their sustenance and survival was suddenly taken away from them. The workers knew, deep in their hearts, that their deliverance lay in their own hands – and their feet. So, even though the path ahead was long and difficult, they betook themselves on the road to work out their own salvation and redemption. 

They knew in their heart of hearts that the road to hell was always paved with good intentions. They had been shown one. So, they decided to chart out their own path. In its own grim way, it was like a  Pilgrim’s Progress, from the City of Destruction to, hopefully, the Celestial City. 

They also knew that long ago, a wise man had led his people away from a Plague onwards to the Promised Land, even parting a sea for them. This time around, for their Exodus, they knew they had been abandoned by all so-called Leader of men and women. They knew they had been condemned to wander the desert on their own, without even manna from the heavens. 

But, they had nothing to stay back for. They had nothing to prove, no lamps to light in the homes they were leaving behind. They had already burnt their candles at both ends.

The author is a socially-concerned citizen, based in Delhi. He believes in solidarities with global struggles, such as the working class, indigenous and other marginalized peoples’ struggles around the world.



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