NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – A woman from New Westminster says her husband has been stranded in India for more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, unable to secure a flight home to his young family.
Tanushree Pillai says her husband Pal is a photographer and had travelled to Mumbai for a job that was abruptly cancelled as global commerce and travel began to shut down.
“He left on March 9 and was supposed to be away for about two months. But then a day or two after he landed, his assignment was cancelled and they went into lockdown immediately, and so did we,” she tells NEWS 1130.
“After that, when the government of Canada started announcing repatriation flights, he wasn’t eligible because he’s not a citizen. So he’s been sitting and waiting for other options to open up.”
Pillai says her husband is a permanent resident of Canada and blames that status for his is inability to secure help in getting home to New Westminster. She claims they’ve reached out to the Canadian consulate, India’s aviation ministry and Government of Canada for help.
“Basically anyone and everyone. We haven’t heard anything, no one has responded, no one has gotten in touch. It’s definitely frustrating just not knowing what’s going to be happening.”
Since being stranded, Pillai says her husband been staying with family in Mumbai, but under strict isolation measures in a virus “red zone.”
“We’ve been very used to being away from each other – he’s a photographer so he travels a lot and it’s always been like that. But for every time he travels, we always know when he he’s coming back,” she explains. “God forbid there’s an emergency. I know he is not going to be able to come back. Or if he has an emergency on his end, I’m not going to be able to visit him.”
Pillai adds it has also been difficult explaining the situation to their young son.
“We have a six-year-old who is just waiting. He used to make a calendar to know when Daddy is coming back and he’s stopped doing that. It’s really heartbreaking to see him everyday like that,” she says.
“He sort of understands some things – there’s a lockdown, he is not able travel, there are no flights – but he doesn’t understand what it means to be a citizen or a permanent resident or the complexities of the situation. When he hears us talking about Canadians coming back, in his mind we are all Canadians. It’s hard to explain that to a six year old.”
Pillai feels their hopes now lie with a resumption of regular commercial airline service.
“Apparently some carriers are starting to fly but we don’t know if the government is actually going to allow them. There’s a lot of back-and-forth there between the federal government and the state government,” she says.
“There is a big question mark. Even if we book a flight, we actually don’t know if it will be allowed to take off or if they would allow him to board the flight because that would depend on the airport authority. He is trying to book a flight, but we are trying to be realistic.”
In the meantime, she says they remain separated because of the pandemic, looking forward to the eventual reunion of their young family.