"This initiative is the most important phase of my life. I'd never thought that it will go to this level. I thought I would help few hundred and then I wanted to help a few thousands, and then I wanted to help everyone," says actor Sonu Sood, now tagged as 'Messiah of Migrants'. He has been helping thousands of migrant workers stranded in Mumbai due to the lockdown, to get back to their homes.
Talking exclusively to FilmiBeat, the Dabangg actor explained what triggered him to take up the initiative. He said, "What drove me to help these migrants to return was those visuals of people walking with their kids, with their elders and those unending journeys. Imagine a father telling their kids, Bihar Zaldi Aa Jayega, UP Zaldi Aa Jayega and they have to walk thousands of kilometres with their little kids. And when these kids will grow what kind of memory they will have in their minds; that they saw their parents walking miles struggling to go back to their homes. I never wanted those kids to grow with those memories. So, I thought I will have to come forward and help these people."
'I Had No Formula To Do It'
"I had no formula to do it, but the only intention was I won't let them walk on these highways", the actor added.
Thousands and lakhs of migrant workers are jobless and penniless since the lockdown was imposed in March, leaving them with no other option than to walk thousands of kilometers to their states. Speaking about the journey, Sonu Sood said, "The first time I spoke to migrants travelling to Karnataka and there were almost 350 of them. So I got all the permissions ready and I sent them on bus. That was the first step. And then it started from Karnataka, to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh."
'When I Took This Intiative, I Knew That There Can't Be Any Numbers'
"I started my contribution by giving my hotel to all the nurses, paramedical staff and doctors, which is in Juhu, so that they can come, rest, go back, and give their maximum time on duty, so they can save more lives. And till now, they are there. So, I think it was a small bit. And when this migrant intiative started, I knew that there can't be any numbers till the last migrant reaches his home", Sonu said.
'We Have Almost Sent 18,000 To 20,000 People Back To Their Families'
Sonu Sood and team have almost sent 18,000 to 20,000 people back to their families till now. Talking about the process, he said, "First I have started on my own, then lots of people stepped in. Very close friend of mine, Neeti Goyal and we were doing a food drive, distributing food, once travelling through a highway, we saw these migrants and then we thought why not get into this whole issue and try to save and convince these people that you please stay. And once I had send the first group of people, the word spread. And then the trust factor came and people started calling me and I started sending them back to their home. Many people who had planned to walk, they stayed and waited for me to get those permissions and send them back. So I knew that the trust factor is very important and there is responsibility on my shoulders to get them back to their homes."
'I Wish Today I Could Have 30 Hours'
"I started a toll free number, then I started getting all my chartered accountant and all my friends on my team and there are almost 15-20 people who are just making those numbers right, segregating who is travelling to which districts. I had a team of 50-60 volunteers who are just feeding people. So this is the support system that really helped me to move ahead and still miles to go", he further added.
Explaining about his continuous effort to help migrants, the actor said, "This initiative is the most important phase of my life. I never thought that it will go to this level, I thought I would help few hundreds and then I wanted to help thousands, and now I want to help everyone. So it happened automatically, and I am blessed that God chose me as a tool to help them. I think this is my duty now. It takes almost 20 hours of my day and I wish today I could have 30 hours, so I could spend more time with them."
'The Journey Is On And I Will Leave No Stone Unturned'
Overwhelmed with the love and blessings of the people, he said, "the best thing I have heard from the migrants so far is, they called me and they said that they named their kid as Sonu Sood Srivastava, and I asked them that how it can be Sonu Sood Srivastava, it must be Sonu Srivastava. But they said, no sir, not in my family but in many families you will have Sonu Soods'. So, I think that was very special. And that will stay with me forever. I just wish that I could reach to more and more people and make them reach their home. The journey is on and I will leave no stone unturned to make my parents proud who are sitting in heaven, and guiding me."
'You Are Successful Only When You Can Help Someone'
He ended the interview with a thoughtful line said by his mother; "You are successful only when you can help someone". "And I am trying to do my bit and I will walk on the footsteps of my mother", concluded Sonu Sood.