Five-year-old Divisha Lal has lost count of the days she has been away from her mother. “It must have been five months,” she says. Her grandmother corrects her, “It’s been one month and 10 days!”
Divisha, her 10-year-old brother Tanmay and their grandparents, who live in Delhi, had travelled to Pune on March 17 to meet her aunt Shalini Mundada and spend a few days away from the scorching Delhi summer. They were supposed to return to Pune on March 23, but the nationwide lockdown has extended their brief visit to an extended and enforced holiday, which is partcularly hard for the five-year-old girl, who has been away from her mother, Rachana Lal, for a long time.
“We were celebrating my husband’s 50th birthday. So, my parents decided to surprise us by making an unannounced visit and also brought along my younger sister’s son and daughter. My father returned to Delhi on March 19. My mother and the children had tickets for March 23,” says Shalini.
First, the airline sent them a message about the flight being ‘rescheduled’, without informing them about the rescheduled date. On March 24, the national lockdown came into effect.
While 10-year-old Tanmay understands the situation they are facing, Divisha started getting restless after the first few days of the lockdown, says Shalini. “Understandably, she gets cranky. Away from her mother, she refuses to eat and is sad most of the time. My sister Rachana video calls her five-six times every day. She tells her bedtime stories over the phone. Sometimes that consoles her, other times it doesn’t,” she adds.
Meanwhile, 1,400 km away from her children, Rachana, who has been spending sleepless nights, says Tanmay and Divisha have never stayed away from her for so long.
“When we are on video call, I can’t show the children how troubled I am by this,” says Rachana, a lawyer. “I try to keep Divisha entertained by calling her every day between 3 and 5 pm. I also plan some special surprises for her such as making a conference call with her best friend in Delhi, so that she has something to look forward to,” she adds.
Due to the lockdown and the pandemic, the children have not even been able to go outside the building. “The situation is such that I can’t even treat then to outside food or even ice-cream, because I don’t want them to develop a cold, which may affect their prospective plans to travel,” says Shalini.
Rachana says that in her desperation, she has sent out requests on Twitter tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, but has not received any response yet.
Divisha’s father Ashesh Lal, who is also a lawyer, has been trying to get a transport pass, so that his children and mother-in-law can come back to Delhi. While the Maharashtra government readily agreed to let them travel following a request on April 22, the trio can’t hit the road since the vehicle will have to pass through four other states, and they don’t have a permission from each of them yet.
“Our request to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was granted forthwith. However, we will have to obtain a pass that will be valid for four other states as well. I’m hoping that the Maharashtra government will find a way… I have also contacted other state governments with a similar request,’ said Lal.
While the Union government has indicated easing of the national lockdown post May 3, The state government is likely to continue the stringent restrictions, especially in Mumbai and Pune, where COVID-19 deaths are among the highest in the country.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines