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Of lonely days, mushroom soup and search for anti-diabetes medicines: Notes from a stranded Indian in Singapore

A stranded traveller narrates his tale of getting stuck without diabetes pills and rising hotel bills

April 29, 2020 / 04:48 PM IST

Vikas Goswami*

May 3, will mark 45 days of me stranded in Singapore.

I had come here on work, to meet clients. I work in a full service investment bank and brokerage house based in Mumbai.

I was hoping to get back home to Mumbai, after 10 days. I was booked on a  March 23 flight, but four days before itself, India had imposed restrictions on international flights.

It was initially for a week, but then the first lockdown was announced on March 24. Then it got extended to May 3.


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May 03, is  the last day of the lockdown in India. Am hopeful that it will be the last day, and there won't be another extension. Even if there is, the government could let airlines operate flights to bring stranded Indians back home. I have heard that about 50,000 Indians are stranded all over the world.

May 3, is also when my booking with the hotel here in Singapore, gets over. I'm not sure, and I fear, that the hotel will not extend the booking further. That uncertainty is really bugging me.

I don't understand why the Indian government has to wait till May 2 or May 3 to tell what it plans to do further. If it announces before hand - and it could be a lift of the lockdown, or extension, whatever - at least we can plan ahead. If the hotel closes after May 3, then I can look for a hostel, or another hotel.

Fortunate one

I know I'm fortunate. I'm from a well-to-do family. Unlike so many other stranded Indians who are without a job or money, I can pay the hotel bills.

It is expensive. Already, the hotel bill is close to Rs 5 lakh. Few hotels remain open in Singapore, and the tariffs are high.

It's practically empty, the hotel. It has 400 rooms, but just 20 are occupied. Today, I heard, two Malaysians left. See, their country is getting them back.

There are just about two receptionists and a couple more for house keeping. They do serve food, which I have to go down and pick. It's not much of a choice for a vegetarian like me. It's usually mushroom soup and soybean burger. I can get takeaways, or have food delivered.

But I have few options. I'am a diabetic, and the problem is I have run out of my anti-diabetes medicine. I had got stock for 10 days, for my stay here. The local pharmacists don't accept Indian prescriptions.

The only option is to get admitted in a hospital and get tests done. But am scared of going to the hospitals as the number of those infected has risen to 15,000 in Singapore. It has risen rapidly since the beginning of the month.

So the only way to control my sugar levels is by being careful about my diet. I have no idea the harm all this is doing to my body. I'm just hoping that I can go on this way, till May 3, after which I could hopefully fly back home.


I have never been away from home for so long. Not till I went overseas to study. I have parents, wife and two children back home.

I do video calls on Zoom or WhatsApp, but it's not the same. I worry if something happens to them, and am not there to help. And what if something happens to me, here, who will help me?

I do have friends here in Singapore. But neither can I go over, nor can they come to the hotel to meet me.

There is no restriction in going out for a walk, or a jog. I step out to do my laundry at a launderette.

I spend most of the time waiting, to hear from the Indian government on what will happen after May 03.

Plan ahead

The Indian government has done a good job of managing the lockdown. But what stops them from arranging flights to get stranded Indians back home?

It's not that we are asking for free flights. We will pay for them.

So, many other countries, including the US, UK and most in Asia, are already bringing their citizens back home.

If the fear is that the stranded Indians could spread the disease - and there  have been instances of carelessness - please quarantine us and test us.

I have been in constant touch with the local Indian consulate. The officials are polite and respond to every query. But their answer is the same, that they are helpless and can't do anything till the lockdown is lifted.

It's best to bring back Indians now, say have four flights a week, rather than all of them rushing back at the same time and creating further stress and chaos. That should be the last thing that the government wants.

Right now, I'm simply helpless and am waiting for the government.

*Name changed

As told to Prince Mathews Thomas
Prince Mathews Thomas heads the corporate bureau of Moneycontrol. He has been covering the business world for 16 years, having worked in The Hindu Business Line, Forbes India, Dow Jones Newswires, The Economic Times, Business Standard and The Week. A Chevening scholar, Prince has also authored The Consolidators, a book on second generation entrepreneurs.
first published: Apr 29, 2020 04:48 pm
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