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‘Need to be mentally strong, being behind mask for 24 hrs not easy’

Chandigarh-based 57-year-old Gunjan Bhardwaj said how just within a gap of 12 minutes, they got to book their evacuation flight from Australia to India and how almost those 24 hours of travel were a nightmare.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh | Published: May 25, 2020 5:25:09 am
coronavirus crisis, covid 19 mask, flight home, Punjab news, Indian express news Bhardwaj preferred to go in for her quarantine at Gurgaon hotel. She reached the hotel on May 22. (Representatioanl)

Wearing mask for continuous 20 hours, fear of contracting the virus but the urge to go home as survival on foreign land is not easy, Chandigarh-based 57-year-old Gunjan Bhardwaj explained how it is not an easy flight journey now as it used to be.

Bhardwaj said how just within a gap of 12 minutes, they got to book their evacuation flight to India and how almost those 24 hours of travel were a nightmare.

“Australian government had no plans of giving away extended visas like Indian government was doing. We like many Indians were badly stuck and then came news of evacuation flight. We waited but urge to come back home and due to depleting funds as medical survival on foreign land is very expensive, we decided to take the evacuation flight.”

Bhardwaj preferred to go in for her quarantine at Gurgaon hotel. She reached the hotel on May 22. The flight was around 14 hours but the travel time before and after the flight time was separate and horrendous indeed.

“We just got one call and in 12 minutes online gap for submitting money for Indian airline, the amount was double Rs 80,000 per head. Also, we had to catch flight from Sydney. Our turmoil began as we were not able to get domestic flight at such a short notice because Brisbane was in green zone and Sydney was in red zone. There was no taxi available and with great difficulty we got a flight from Gold Coast to Sydney. And for that one and half hour flight ,the ticket was Rs 57,000 for two which normally is Rs 10,000,” she said.

About flight experience, she said that at airport, social distancing was being followed really well but inside the flight, things were really tough.

“In the flight, there is no gap and all the corresponding seats were full, I don’t call it distancing. There was a woman in the flight and she was coughing badly. The air hostess came as someone had already complained. I too added up but all she did was to give her warm water, ask if she has fever and told the woman to wear mask and then she disappeared. Later, her husband took her to a seat at a distance,” she said.

About travel, Bhardwaj said, “I just want to tell people who will be travelling to be ready to see fully clad staff in flight. You are allowed to take off your shield for few minutes only when you are eating else not. Your need of tea cannot be fulfilled but as told by fellow passenger she was carrying tea bag and took hot water from the staff. Once in India, we were asked to upload Aarogya Setu but we have not been able to do it..maybe it’s not working.”

The couple said that it took them two hours for buses to take them from the airport and things became difficult as her husband is a diabetic.

Now as they are in quarantine, “My husband has sugar issues. We are locked in a room. There is no facility to go out in open even for 10 minutes. Windows are sealed and there is no exercise, no fresh air. It’s like we are in prison. I understand the concern but what is our fault in this?” Bhardwaj added.

The couple said that they have spent Rs 3 lakh already, including hotel stay and stress is separate.

Explaining how one has to go through emotional turmoil, she said, “One needs to be mentally very strong, being behind mask for 24 hours is not easy but then if it’s to be done, it’s to be done. The feeling when we got to know that India has announced evacuation flight cannot be expressed because survival on foreign land, especially during these times of pandemic, is really tough.”

She added that they were wearing a face shield which they did not take off even to have food. They ate it from under the shield, removing the mask for sometime.

Expressing gratitude to the government and authorities, she said, in the present situation, they could not have survived on the foreign soil for long.

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