'She was the mother of all Indians abroad'

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BETTER FUTURE: Garima Aggarwal and Balaji Naidu during their days in the hospital in Dubai. - Supplied photo

Dubai - A tweet to India's then Minister of External Affairs turned things around overnight for the mother of one from Gurgaon, Delhi.


Anjana Sankar

Published: Wed 7 Aug 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Aug 2019, 1:40 AM

Garima Aggarwal had lost all hope of reaching her paralysed husband in Dubai when her emergency visa application had not come through.
But a tweet to India's then Minister of External Affairs turned things around overnight for the mother of one from Gurgaon, Delhi. "My husband was in a hospital in Dubai after a paralysis attack on January 17, 2018. I was in India at that time and unable to get a visa to fly to the UAE. I will never forget the moment when I got a call from Sushma-ji herself. Tears were rolling down my cheek when she assured me that I would fly to my husband on the same night," Aggarwal, 39, told Khaleej Times over phone from Gurgaon.
She said news about the sudden death of Sushma Swaraj, who was 67, brought back a flood of memories to her and her husband Balaji Naidu, 42, who is currently recuperating in India. The couple has an eight-year-old daughter.
"It is a personal loss to us. She was like a motherly figure. We are forever grateful for her intervention when my family was going through the worst crisis in our life," said Aggarwal. Recollecting how Sushma's prompt response changed their lives, Aggarwal said her husband - who was a senior manager at a e-commerce company - had a paralysis attack on the morning of January 17 and did not turn up at work.
"When his boss called him, he was making some strange noise trying to convey something. When I called him, too, he was neither able to talk nor message."
To make things worse, Aggarwal did not know his new apartment number, making it impossible to send medical help.  "It was a terrifying situation. His company had to take printouts of his picture and ask around in the building to finally locate him. When they opened the door, he was sitting on the couch with the right side of his body paralysed. He was rushed to the Rashid Hospital in Dubai."
What followed were two days of "nightmarish wait" for a visit visa to the UAE. "I had put in my application on a Wednesday. By Thursday evening, I was panicking as his condition was deteriorating and doctors said the swelling in his brain was getting worse. Each minute mattered to me and, finally, I decided to tweet Sushma Swaraj."
And that made all the difference. According to Aggarwal, Swaraj called her on Friday and told her that her office was working on the case from the minute they saw the tweet.
"Then, everything happened as though by magic. I got a call from the MEA official on a Friday afternoon, and they asked me to reach the UAE embassy in Delhi within two hours with a fresh set of documents. By 4pm, I had the visa in my hand." Aggarwal flew to the UAE the same night. "We want more ministers like her. She was a caring mother who took care of the entire Indian diaspora. We salute her for her kindness and dedication to her work."
Aggarwal said her husband, whose condition has improved tremendously, was messaging her, expressing his shock and sadness after hearing the news of Swaraj's death.
"He has speech and language issues. But he told me he will always remember her gratefully."
How Sushma intervened...
Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018:
>10am: Balaji Naidu's company calls him when he did not turn up at work
>12.30pm: Company calls and informs Garima
>3.30pm: Company staff locates Naidu's apartment
>Before 3pm: Garima applies for UAE Visit Visa
Thursday, January 18:
>Around 4.30 - Garima tweets Sushma Swaraj
>Friday, January 19:
>9am: Garima gets a call from Sushma Swaraj
>12pm: MEA staff calls Garima
>2pm: Garima reaches UAE embassy in Delhi
>4pm: Garima gets her visa and flies to UAE the same night

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