“Now is not a good time to die,” said Raju K, a driver, who has just returned home after a funeral of a close relative.
The relative, in his 70s, died of cardiac arrest. But his two children, settled overseas, couldn't be present. It was relatives and neighbours who had to help with the final rites. “The children are settled in the US and UK. Given the lockdown, none of them are able to travel,” Raju explained.
Raju, who is a Chennai resident, had great difficult travelling and getting permission. The funeral happened in a small town four hours from Chennai.
India is seeing dozens of cases where the children of the deceased are unable to travel with the country under a 21-day lockdown and domestic and international airports shut. This is significant given that close to 17.5 million Indian live overseas, a 2019 UN report revealed.
Take for instance Malini K’s case. Malini’s sister is settled in London with her husband, Shankar K. On March 30, Shankar’s father passed away in Bengaluru. “Now they don’t know what to do. He is the only son. With airports shut, there is not much they can do,” said a distraught Malini.
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While they are arranging the final rite through video call, Malini reasoned that it would have been nice to be able to see your parent one last time.
In another instance, husband had to perform his wife’s final rites as his son in the US could not make it.
Thousands of Indians in the country, and overseas, are in a similar conundrum. They are unable to travel due to the sudden lock down. Some state governments are trying their best to help stranded people.
The Tamil Nadu government had launched a helpline number 7530001100 for stranded people. As per reports, of the 8,500 requests that came in, only close 114 were approved. The Karnataka government is also taking initiatives to help people who are stranded and get back.WeddingsIf attending funeral are issues, marriages present their own challenges.
The 21-day lockdown is one of the most unforgettable events in M Karthick’s life. The family had gone from Chennai to a smaller town six hours from the city to attend his niece’s wedding 10 days back. It was before lockdown was enforced and the plan was to return on March 29.
However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of a 21-day lockdown, starting March 25, made it impossible to return. So now, Karthick’s family and his brother Madhan M family are stranded in the small town.
“What makes it even harder to live is the hint of hostility and suspicion with which the locals regard us,” pointed out Madhan, the bride’s father.
As soon as the announcement about the 21-day lockdown came in, the owner of the service apartments they had rented, coerced by the neighbours, evicted them at 10 pm. But even earlier, the lady who supplied them food during their stay became cautious and wanted to know when they would leave.
The family was able to get accommodation in a relative’s house and are likely to stay there till the lockdown period ends. However, things are not smooth there either. For, here too, neighbours are wary of new comers.
“We don’t want strangers to come and give us this disease. Who knows where they have been to,” complained the neighbours, where the family is staying. Though they have not been asked to vacate, Karthick agrees that he would stay there much longer.
“We are thinking of other places to stay already. With travel restrictions, we don’t know where we will go,” he added.Follow our full coverage here…