Coronavirus outbreak: Mumbai couple stranded in New Jersey say, 'We just want to go back home'

Updated: Apr 30, 2020, 07:47 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Mumbai couple stranded in New Jersey since lockdown battle medication accessibility troubles, crippling expenses

Grace and Darryl Cabral
Grace and Darryl Cabral

Even as India is awaiting announcements on the Coronavirus gameplan post lockdown on May 3, there is one Mazagaon couple which is on absolute tenterhooks about the announcement. Mumbai’s Darryl, 75, and Grace Cabral, 69, marooned in Newark city in New Jersey, USA said they "are hoping fervently that we can come back to Mumbai."

The couple flew to Australia and boarded a cruise liner late February from Sydney bound for the South Pacific islands. They were looking forward to their holiday, with no inkling of the ominous Corona cloud looming on their horizon. "We boarded the ship on February 28 and were supposed to end the cruise on March 20," they said.

They were the only two Indian passengers on board. All seemed smooth sailing at first, with the cruise ship making a few scheduled stops, but trouble started brewing as a couple of ports did not allow the ship to dock because of Coronavirus concerns. "We could not see all the places on the itinerary as the ship did not get permission to dock," they said.

Stranded now
A series of events then took place in rapid succession as the schedule went awry with nations reacting with new policies and rules as the pandemic spread. The ship docked at Honolulu after permissions were given and Grace and Darryl were taken by a chartered flight to Newark airport towards March end, along with some other passengers who were planning to reach different destinations. The Cabrals said, "We reached Newark on March 25. We booked tickets to Brussels as flights to India had stopped. We have a daughter in Brussels and we planned to stay with her."

To their shock though, at the boarding counter, they were told that the flight could take only Schengen passport holders. "We had a Schengen visa not a Schengen passport," they explained.

The couple has been in Newark ever since India was locked down. They are in touch with the Indian Consulate in New York. "We have had no flights operating to India. We had our tickets booked on April 17 as the first phase of the lockdown ended. The extension dashed our hopes," they said. Now, they have booked tickets for May 4 through a city travel agent, hoping for the lockdown to be lifted at least to rescue stranded Indians, if nothing else.

Expenses mount
Darryl, a professor of management, and Grace are living in an AirBnB apartment in Newark, with the exchange rate absolutely bleeding them. "Our finances are stretched thin, we are paying at least USD 80 dollars (approximately R6,048) a day only on accommodation. Though we live as carefully as possible, there are food expenses too," said Grace.

"It is fairly easy getting provisions here though since the shops are open. But there is a great amount of discipline when it comes to social distancing. Everybody has a mask on, in fact, shops will not allow you if you do not wear a mask. Within these parameters, we do see people walking their dogs, exercising and a few cars on the roads," she added. Even with all the measures, they have some trepidation though, as Corona cases in the USA are very high, with New York and New Jersey worse hit and the couple’s age means they fall within the vulnerable bracket.

Diabetes medication
This Mumbai duo is struggling to access their diabetic medication, "as Indian prescriptions do not work here," they explained. Under tremendous stress now, the Cabrals just wish "to return home."

They said, "It is the uncertainty that is killing. We can be quarantined on returning, adhere to whatever the rules say, but we want to return. It is becoming quite impossible for us to stay here any longer," they finished, echoing the dire straits so many Indians overseas find themselves in.

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