In what can be called as a dreadful time for the poor and the migrant workers, the audio file of the last call of Ranveer Singh who died on a highway has been one among the painful calls.
The audio file is 42 seconds long. On one end is a loud, animated voice. Screaming, beseeching. “Ask someone to give you a lift till Morena. Hello? Hello?” Silence. Then more urgently: “Call 100. Is there no ambulance? Can they not drop you? Hello?” Still silence. Then, a heavy breath crackles through. Defeated by the lockdown that made him walk over a hundred kilometres from Delhi in a desperate bid to reach home in Madhya Pradesh. And, perhaps, the knowledge that these were the last words to his family. “Lene aa sakte ho toh aa jao (Come get me if you can).”
This was the last time they heard the voice of the 38-year-old , before he collapsed due to exhaustion and died of a heart attack Saturday in Agra.
The house is sparse his family lives is in debt because of its construction. On March 22, Mamta had spoken to Ranveer on the phone, asking him to return. “Two other boys of our village were returning from Delhi. He said he couldn’t. He worked as a delivery boy with a restaurant in Tughlakabad, and they were still open. He asked us to take care of ourselves, and that he would be fine,” she said.
Ranveer lived alone in a shanty next to the DDA colony in Kalkaji. For food, he depended on the restaurant. Between the debt for the house, and the expenses back home, there was no money. So on Friday, at 2 pm, he called his eldest daughter Deepa, a Class 12 student in a school in Ambah, 2 km from Badfara. He was coming home, he said. “How?” she asked. “Koi saadhan nahin hai. Na bus chal rahi hai, na train… paidal aa raha hoon (There is nothing here. No bus, no train… am walking home),” he replied.
At 5 pm, he was still walking, dodging police, he said on another call. At 9 pm, there were the first signs of trouble. Pinky Singh, one of his two younger siblings, remembers him saying that he had found a truck to take him a little ahead. “But he was exhausted. He said he wanted to lie down. I told him that we wanted him back alive,” she said.
On Saturday, when the family woke up after having barely slept. At 5 am, Pinky called him. “He said he had reached Sikandra Road in Agra. But he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t say anything. All he said was he had a pain in his chest,” she said.
In panic, Pinky rushed to wake up other family members, asking them to call him, pick him up, do something. At 5.30 am, Arvind Singh, his brother-in-law, spoke to him — it was that 42-second call.
In Agra, they found his body in a hospital, covered in a white sheet. The doctors and police called it a heart attack. “When I spoke to him last, I could tell he was flat on the ground and close to death. We brought his body back and cremated him on Saturday,” said Arvind.