Mumbai family stranded in Sri Lanka amid lockdown says, 'No one has checked on us'

Updated: May 05, 2020, 07:46 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Mumbai family stranded in Sri Lanka for over a month questions govt's delay in bringing them back; losing money, hope, patience as lockdown keeps lives in limbo

Simon Lewis
Simon Lewis

When Simon Lewis and his family — wife Irene, daughter Melissa and son-in-law Stephen Alexander — got ready for a five-day holiday to Sri Lanka, it was to be a short break from work routine.

Simon, a Dahisar native, said, "On March 11, we called the Sri Lankan Embassy in Colombo, because we did have some qualms about the Coronavirus, but the official reassured us that all was well in Sri Lanka, flights were operational, and we could certainly fly."

On March 14, the family flew to Sri Lanka. Simon said, "We had return tickets on Air India on March 20. A day before we got a message saying that the flight was cancelled and rescheduled to March 21. Then, that flight got cancelled without explanation or apology!"

The Lewis' then booked flights on Sri Lankan Airlines for March 26 which got cancelled too, because of the lockdown. They have not got refunds. They have now been in Sri Lanka for more than 40 days without a clue about when they will return.

Simon, 62, is a Marketing Director with a pharma and aerosol company. He said the family is now, "living in a house on rent in Negombo," a small beach town close to the Bandaranaike International Airport. "We are going about our daily life with severe difficulties. We do not have any contacts over here. Our expenses have skyrocketed. Bank transfers are also a problem. As a businessman, it is humiliating to beg the bank to transfer funds. I need to pay salaries to my staff and process my pending payments so that I do not incur penalties."

Multifold challenges
Simon's wife Irene, 61, said they are also "finding it difficult to source Ayurvedic medicine for psoriasis." Stress and a food allergy have aggravated her condition. Her daughter Melissa added, "We are stranded here for 45 days and have registered with the Indian Embassy but no one has checked on us even once." The media professional is concerned about being laid off from work. Sri Lanka has been in lockdown too, so it is difficult for them to access their daily provisions.

Stephen Alexander, freelance TV/film director, said, "I have lost out on a lot of projects due to the lockdown. Being stranded here is aggravating an already very difficult situation. Missed deadlines mean no income. There is no respite from the Embassy or the government." A weak internet connection adds to their work woes.
The Lewis family added that Pakistan nationals have returned home on rescue flights, Indonesians have gone home too, but Indians are stranded.

No response
There are a number of seafarers from Tamil Nadu who are also suffering here. "We read that those in the Gulf were brought back to India. Why not us? We who pay our
taxes to the government," they questioned.

An official from the High Commission of India in Colombo stated, "We have no information with reference to rescue flights. Since we have no inputs, I cannot give you any information," he finished.

No. of days the family has been stranded in Sri Lanka

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