Covid-19: Stranded Indian expats look forward to resumption of UAE flights

Dubai - The prolonged travel ban keeps many anxious UAE residents on tenterhooks.

By Saman Haziq in Dubai and Joydeep Sen Gupta in New Delhi

Published: Wed 30 Jun 2021, 4:38 PM

Last updated: Wed 30 Jun 2021, 5:40 PM

India’s brush with the second and more lethal Covid-19 pandemic is taking a massive mental toll on several UAE residents, who are stuck in their native country following a travel ban and suspension of flights that came into effect from April 24 due to the raging viral outbreak.

They are braving the odds while battling the emotional crisis triggered by the unprecedented pandemic for the second year in a row.

Consider the case of Shailaja Thakur, a Dubai resident and a businesswoman, who lost her father in her hometown Chandigarh in northern India on May 2, but couldn’t fly back home immediately as she weighed in on the consequences of the travel ban from India.

However, when her mother’s health started to worsen, she threw caution to the wind to be by her side.

“When I realised that my mum’s health is also worsening, I thought nothing is more important than parents. So, I travelled back on May 21. My mum was afflicted with mucormycosis, or black fungus, a side effect that has come to light during the second wave of the contagion among a section of patients and had to undergo a major surgical procedure. Doctors told us that if we were even a day late, we could have lost her overnight,” she told

No sooner did her mother overcome her life risk, she was busy battling another crisis. Her husband, who is in Dubai, has taken ill because of eating out for over a month.

She is desperate to fly back to Dubai.

“I’m facing multiple challenges. I'm losing out on business and work. Besides, my husband has taken ill. It’s imperative that I get back to Dubai at the earliest. Alas! The travel ban has put me in a quandary,” she said.

She is acutely aware about the rules in Dubai, her home-away-from home for several years.

“I had done my homework before flying to India. I’m fully vaccinated and was hoping that I could come back at the earliest. I’m also ready for quarantine as per the norms. I’m aware that the current travel ban is for the larger good of the community," she added.

She pleaded to get back at the earliest because “the financial impact of the mounting losses would be hard to recover”.

Similarly, it’s been six months since Muzaffer, a Dubai resident, saw his family -- his wife and their over 11-month baby daughter Aida -- owing to the travel ban and are stuck in their native Bhatkal in coastal Karnataka, a south Indian state.

Muzaffer, who has been constantly on the phone with his loved ones back home, missed the ‘milestone moments’ of his life.

Aida, a toddler, has started taking her first baby steps and unfortunately Muzaffer, the doting father, couldn’t be around because of the unprecedented circumstances.

“My wife told me that Aida started taking baby steps four days ago. It’s tragic that I couldn’t be around. Fortunately, my wife captured the moment, and the videos are what I’ve been watching in a loop,” said a forlorn Muzaffer.

“Aida will turn a year old on July 6. However, I can’t be around. This breaks my heart, as we had big plans for her first birthday celebrations,” he said.

Muzaffer is optimistic that this, too, shall pass soon even though the milestone moments in life are lost forever.

“I'm looking forward to her calling me 'Abba' (father). I hope that moment is round the corner,” he added.

For instance, Usha Sharma, who has been a Dubai resident since 1995, has been stuck in Gurugram, located on the outskirts of India’s national capital, Delhi, since March.

The year started on a tragic note for Sharma, who works as a General Manager (GM) for a freight logistics company in Dubai, after she lost her father in Canada.

She herself has been stuck in India since March and eager to reunite with her son Kabir Sharma, 20, a student of law in Middlesex University Dubai.

Kabir has been living all by himself for over five months, as Sharma is looking forward to returning to Dubai, which she considers her home even though she is comfortable in Gurugram.

She, too, was afflicted with Covid-19, and fortunately overcame the viral challenge.

Sharma is all praise for the UAE authorities’ untiring efforts to keep the community safe.

“I tick all the boxes as a law-abiding UAE resident. I hope the flights will resume soon, as I’m worried about how Kabir is coping with the challenges of living all by himself,” Sharma said.

Syed Irfan, 36, a resident of Umm Al Quwain (UAQ) and hails from Hyderabad, Telangana in southern India, who was born and brought up in the UAE, came to India on March 9 and was due to return on April 25.

But as luck would have it, the travel ban came into force a day earlier, and his plans went for a toss.

Irfan, a marketing professional and a father of three children aged five, three and a year old, respectively, is keen on his return, as he plans to start life afresh.

Irfan has lost his job in the Covid-19-induced economic downturn.

“I’m under a lot of financial stress. I’ve to pay my bills even though I’ve been away since March. I hope the situation improves sooner than later,” said Irfan, who was born in Sharjah and shares an emotional bond with the UAE.

All these Indians, who are UAE residents, are bound by a similar fate and are anxiously looking forward to the resumption of flights to the country that has been their source of sustenance for long.

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