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Relief for homecoming passengers

For thousands of passengers who boarded planes on the day India resumed air services after over 60 days, it was a journey to remember.

Updated: May 26, 2020 01:22 IST

By HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Passengers seen wearing PPE at the departure corridor of IGI Airport (Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)

It was a special journey for five-year-old Vihaan Sharma, who returned to Bengaluru on Monday with the resumption of domestic flight services. Not only because he met his mother after three months but also because he made the journey alone.

The boy, who stayed with his grandparents in Delhi, was wearing a yellow jacket, blue gloves and a yellow mask. In one hand, he held a mobile phone. In the other, he clenched a placard saying “special category” passenger.

“He has come back alone to Bengaluru after three months,” said the boy’s mother, Manjeesh Sharma, who received him at the airport.

For thousands of passengers who boarded planes on the day India resumed air services after over 60 days, it was a journey to remember.

At airports across India, people rejoiced their homecoming, after being stuck in different parts of the country for months with the government announcing unprecedented travel curbs across the country in March-end. That they have to undergo strict state-specific security protocols did not appear to be a dampener. Others were relieved that they could travel to attend to friends and relatives facing medical emergencies in other states.

VK Tewari, a 44-year-old employee of a private company in New Delhi, was elated that he could finally visit his family in Lucknow. He has a rented accommodation in Ghaziabad and used to visit his wife, mother and father in the Uttar Pradesh capital on weekends.

“On the first practical opportunity to meet the family, I booked myself on a plane and reached here...For two months, we connected over phone and video calls. It’s nice to come here again. I never lived away from my family for so long,” Tewari said.

“I have been working from home (during and these few months have been emotionally challenging. Now, I will spend some time here,” he said.

RK Singh, 55, too, arrived in Lucknow airport on Monday, but he was travelling to the national capital. “I am going to Delhi to see my brother who is not keeping well. It’s an emotional journey for me as I met him before three months. I was trying to go to Delhi for the last few days but was not able to do so,” he said.

Amitesh Kumar Nag, a 40-year-old marketing executive with a multinational firm, returned to Patna with his wife and 10-year-old son over four months after undergoing a surgery in Navi Mumbai.

“I underwent an operation at the Kokilaben Reliance Hospital at Navi Mumbai on February 27, and was discharged from the hospital on March 18. Doctors advised me to come for a review after a week, and then the lockdown was announced and I was stranded in Mumbai,” said the cancer patient.

“Though I was staying with my aunt in Mumbai, I was desperate to return home and even arranged for movement pass by road when the government announced lifting of the embargo on domestic flights,” said Nag.

Joymati Das, a 68-year retired government employee and a resident for Assam can’t wait for her flight back home. “I came to Anand in Gujarat in November to spend some time with my daughter who works in a school. The plan was to return towards the end of March, but the lockdown happened and I got stuck,” said Das, whose flight is scheduled to leave on Wednesday.

Mohammad Ansari was happy that he could reach Allahabad from Mumbai to celebrate Eid. “I had enquired about my flight status a day before departure...I reached the airport and took off on time,” he said.

But then there were others who did not have a pleasant experience. Rishi Goel, for example.

The Shimla resident could board his Chandigarh-bound flight, but not before hiccups. “My airline first messaged me that my flight was cancelled and then sent an updated message that my flight was on time,” said Goel, who works in Mumbai. His wife delivered a baby in the lockdown period.

Ashwini Pandey, a banker and a resident of Chennai, purchased tickets with four airlines to reach Mumbai, but all his flights were cancelled. “I have to join my work urgently on June 10. Only if I reach Mumbai now, I can join my new office after finishing my quarantine period. Two flights got cancelled today and two flights that were scheduled on Tuesday too have been cancelled,” Pandey said.

Sudhanshu Pandey, who was on an official trip to Mumbai, has been stranded in the city for two months. “I had no idea that my flight was cancelled, and it was only at 6.30 am that I learnt about my flight status while I was entering the check-in area.”

(With inputs from HTC in states)


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