THE CATALYST

Cover star Sonu Sood talks about his initiative to help the stranded migrants, his new-found reason behind moving to the city of dreams and what it takes to be the change in a world full of uncertainty

Words Yvonne Jacob

‘Paidal kyu jaoge dost? Number bhejo (Why will you walk back home, my friend? Share your number), Sonu Sood tweeted in response to someone who reached out to him asking to be sent back to his home state and that he would cover the rest of the distance to his village on foot. Sood’s Twitter has been abuzz with people reaching out to him, asking to be sent back home. Millions of people are left stranded on the streets since the first lockdown was announced in March. In the middle of all this uncertainty and chaos, Sood came to the aid of millions of migrants. A ray of hope was all they needed, and Sood was it. ‘It’s done’, ‘You will meet your family tomorrow, just share your details’, ‘You will be home tomorrow. Keep tea ready for me’ – Sood’s Twitter timeline is full of friendly responses assuring the migrants that they’re not alone and their home is not that far away.

When the first lockdown was announced, seeing a sea of people walk in the scorching heat with little kids hunched on their shoulders and small bags in their hands was a common sight. The fact that we watched them from the comfort of our homes felt like a sad privilege. This was what our cover man Sonu Sood witnessed as well, and what did he do? Well, he successfully rose to the occasion. “What inspired me to work for the migrants was when I saw these disturbing visuals of millions of people walking on highways with little kids. I knew this wasn’t the time to sit at home and complain, but it was actually time to do something about it. To go out and connect with the very people who made our roads and our homes, and when they wanted to go back to their own homes, we weren’t supporting them.=” said Sood, who had taken some time out of his crazy schedule to talk to us.

We are all very well aware of the great initiative taken by Sood, where he came forward to the aid of millions of migrants who were stranded on the roads and arranged transportation for them to get back home safely. Although this was no easy task to pull off and it definitely came with its fair share of hurdles, there was no stopping Sood who tirelessly continues to help the migrants. “I don’t know how I managed to get everything done, but I felt that the whole energy came from the wishes and prayers of the families sitting in villages and praying for their family to return home safely. I was just giving it all I had and it happened ya,” Sood said modestly. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. There are a few more people who are stranded and there are families that have suffered losses during the lockdown. I need to take care of a few of the families and get them employed or provide some kind of help so they can survive.”

I asked Sood if he ever felt that he was putting himself at risk by going out on the roads to make sure the migrants were on their way home. “I used to pray that I remain safe and sound, not just for my family, but also for millions of migrants as well,” he replied. “I was worried about my family because I would go out and expose myself to railway stations and bus stands and airports every day. I was worried, but I knew that I need to take this amount of risk to save a lot of lives. I couldn’t sit at home and let things go haywire.” As I said, this great responsibility comes with its own share of hurdles. His helpline doesn’t stop ringing and Sood and his team try to revert to each and every one of those distress calls. “I hardly sleep. I’m on the road for 15-16 hours and I hardly sleep for an hour. Sometimes I don’t sleep for 2-3 days at a stretch. It’s the love and prayers of the migrants and their families that make me stronger and make me want to put in those extra hours to help them.”

Over our conversation, I asked Sood about the stories that really moved him and he told me about someone who had lost his wife and he was unable to go back to his village. “I sent him back to his village on time and he sent me a beautiful message. He was crying and he told me that he will never forget what I have done for him. There was another guy who lost his leg in an accident and he was stuck in Chennai. I got him back to his father within a few hours and he was very thankful. There were 200 students stuck in Russia and I connected them to people and I got them back from there. Many people have shared their problems and somehow, I’m able to rectify a few of them. I feel blessed to be a part of these stories and now I know that I have families in all states of the country from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari.”

Sood continued to tell me that a lot of his friends came forward to help him financially. “There’s a friend named Neeti Goel, I started this whole thing with her when we had a food distribution drive. Many people came forward. Some wanted to sponsor half a bus or one full bus. So there were a lot of people who wanted to be a part of this good deed.” So what’s the first thing he would want to do once the lockdown is lifted? “I would love to connect with the people I have helped,” Sood replied instantly, without a second thought. “I want to check up on them and see if they’re back to their normal lives. It’s part of my responsibility to make sure that their life is back on track again.”

 

Coming to his career in Bollywood, Sood has majorly played negative roles but he feels it would be difficult for him to play those roles after everything he has done in these few months. “I was always infatuated by these superhero films and I believed that someday I’ll get to play the role of a superhero. I don’t plan the future. I accept life as it comes and I will continue to do my bit and help those who need me. I believe in hard work, the rest is up to the higher power to guide you to reach the place you belong to. I am really grateful to God that he gave me a place to help all these people and he made me a catalyst in this mission. I’m really blessed and I feel that I came to Mumbai only for this.” 

I asked him one last question before he could sign off to take more calls. “You’re certainly doing your bit, but what can we do to help?” I asked. “Life is all about giving. You can’t just live in your own bubble, you need to give something back to society. What’s the use of doing what you do without it having a positive impact on the people around you? Be a helping hand for someone somewhere who needs you and I think that will make you a complete person. Have hope, believe in God and stay grounded. Try to visit all those memory lanes that you were too busy for before the lockdown. Try to convey to your family how much you love them and make memories which will stay with you for the years to come.”​ ​

On this positive note, we concluded our chat. So, Sonu Sood is doing all he can and more to help, when are you going to do your bit to be the change?

I KNEW THIS WASN’T THE TIME TO SIT AT HOME AND COMPLAIN, 
BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

I AM REALLY GRATEFUL TO GOD THAT HE GAVE ME A PLACE TO 
HELP ALL THESE PEOPLE AND HE MADE ME A CATALYST IN THIS MISSION