On March 6, nearly 10,000 farmers embarked on a long march from near Nashik to the Maharashtra Assembly in Mumbai. By the time they reached Maximum City on March 12, walking about 25 km a day to cover the 180 kilometres, their numbers, by some estimates, touched 40,000.Men and women of all age groups walked in searing heat — the temperature peaked at 38 degrees Celsius on some days. Some were in their late seventies, and many walked barefoot as they tried to draw attention to their distress in a silent, dignified manner. En route, hey cooked simple meals for themsleves and refilled their bottles with water from tankers. By day, they kept up their spirits with slogans enunciating their rights and the strength of unity. At night, many relaxed with music and singing; some even had the energy to dance. Walking at the crack of dawn, they were off again by 6 a.m. every morning.As they neared Shahapur in Thane district, residents came out in support and provided water and refreshments. As they reached Mumbai’s border on March 10, the long strip of red evoked a poignant response from a city that is usually insular to reral distress. On March 11, , as they reached Vikhroli, residents showered flower petals on them and provided water. A nearby gurdwara cooked poha and served it to the marhcers. For the rest of the way, scores of people chipped in with refreshments at regular intervals.The original plan was to start from Sion on the morning of March 12, Monday, and gherao the Assembly. But that was dropped to avoid disrupting life in the city, particularly when schoolchildren are in the middle of exams. Displaying an empathy rarely seen among protesting groups, the farmers found secret reserves of energy to attain their goal and let the city go about its business. They marched through the night after just a few hours’ rest and assembled peacefully at Azad Maidan before daybreak. In the process, the farmers, with their tired limbs and steely resolves, not only won over Mumbai’s heart but also left the Chief Minister “humbled”. By evening, the government yielded to most of the demands of their long march, and special trains were arranged to take them back to their fields.