Amit Jain from Mumbai left with his family of seven for Turkey on March 14, 2020. Till then, his holiday destination had reported only two cases of coronavirus. While on the trip, they were informed that Indians there were not allowed to return to their own country. Since then, the family has been stranded. After being unable to avail hotel accommodation, they rented an apartment in Turkey and have been living there since.
Amit is among the 200 Indians or more who have been stuck in Turkey for more than a month now, as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus there exceed 1,50,000, as per reports.
As a Jain family, Amit, his wife, three children and parents, are cooking their own food at their rented flat, he told indianexpress.com. Meanwhile medical supplies they carried from India for the elderly parents have been exhausted, so now they have to pay double the price to purchase the medicines. “Our average daily expenditure amounts to 100-110 dollars,” he said.
While the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced evacuation flights as part of the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back stranded Indians, Turkey is yet to make it to the list of the countries, even in the second phase of the operation (scheduled for May). Its neighbouring country Armenia, however, has been included in the evacuation mission.
“We have already spent so much money, so travelling to a neighbouring country does not make sense,” Jain said. His travel insurance has also been renewed twice. “Besides, there too you may have to be in quarantine for 14 days,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rishab Kalra, another Indian stuck in Istanbul, Turkey, unfortunately could not attend his father’s last rites who passed away on May 1, 2020. Rishab and his wife travelled to Turkey for their honeymoon and have been waiting to return since. After being vacated by hotels twice, they are now staying at an airbnb.
“There was a flight that went to India on April 28 from Turkey, to evacuate Turkish nationals stranded in India. We have been pushing for an empty flight,” he said. Indians in Turkey are now in close contact with each other for support as they eagerly wait for a positive response from the embassy.
He added, “There are senior citizens above 80 years of age and kids who are two-years-old. Most of them are ready for charter flight as well. With my father passing away, I suffered the biggest loss of my life and yet I cannot go home.” As for their return tickets that were first booked for March 25, and then re-booked for a later date, the airline has informed their money will be refunded soon.
With the travel ban on international flights, Supriya Das (name changed), a PhD student in New York, currently living in Brooklyn, could not return home in March as planned. “My flight got cancelled and the travel ban kept getting extended. It is really tough right now because it is very uncertain. I am in very close touch with the embassy,” she said.
As for the evacuation flights, Das added, “I was really hoping to get on one of them that was going from New York to India. But they were going to Mumbai, Delhi and not Kolkata, where I am from. As a student, I will receive priority but on the other hand since my final destination is Kolkata, where flights unfortunately are not going, I am not being considered because the embassy does not want me to get stuck in any other city. But I am really hoping the situation clears up soon and I get to go back home. For now, I am just trying to take each day as it comes. At this stage, the embassy is the one real hope and we just have to keep checking till they can give better news.”
In India too, with domestic travel being restricted, people have been unable to reach home. Manoj Agarwal, who is studying MBA from China, was in Amsterdam when the coronavirus pandemic spread rapidly in China. Instead of going to Shanghai, he flew to Delhi. But the lockdown had been announced by then, so his plans of meeting his parents in Kolkata have been stalled for now.
Meanwhile, Debasish Roy, who left for Kolkata from Delhi on March 19, is yet to back home. “I usually travel six to 10 times a month. My son broke down the night before I left because he could not spend any time with me owing to his studies and then I was leaving. I assured him that I would be back soon as I had back-to-back meetings in Delhi just a week later,” he recalled. But soon after, the flights got cancelled.
“Luckily, when I had heard about the Janta Curfew I had stocked up on enough rice and moong dal along with spices to last me a good six months. My family was distraught though,” he said. For now, he is spending his time exercising and pursuing his long-lost hobby of painting at his living quarters in Kolkata.
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