Mona Ramkissoon travelled to India’s Himachal Pradesh state on February 20 to be a volunteer English teacher in Andretta – a Himalayan Village and artists’ colony. What started as a chance to explore a new country and volunteer, is now a terrifying experience.
She is stuck in the middle of India’s covid19 national lockdown and faces uncertainty on a possible timeline to return home as international travel restrictions expand.
Speaking to Newsday via WhatsApp she said, “Everything was going super well until the Indian government imposed a lockdown on the entirety of India to curb the spread of covid19.”
India’s lockdown includes a curfew on all activities, a ban on international and domestic flights and the closure of all state boundaries. The number of confirmed cases in the country – which has over 1.3 billion citizens – surpassed 900 on Saturday.
“I have worked as an English teacher in several country for the past 26 years. I have never witnessed such fear and panic.
“I was a teacher for 10 years in the Gulf State of Oman when the bombs were raining down on Libya, Yemen and Syria. I never witnessed such mass hysteria.”
Physically healthy and trying to maintain good spirits, she worries India’s lockdown which is scheduled to end on April 15 will be extended. Even in leaving the country, there is uncertainty on returning home.
TT indefinitely closed its borders starting midnight on March 22 and her connecting flights pass through London and the Indian state of Delhi – as some Indian states may keep their borders closed.
“Maybe it will happen, maybe it will not, God knows,” she said of the possibility of returning home soon.
While she has reached out to TT’s Embassy in India, there is little that can be done.
“The TT Embassy is also in lockdown and is no longer answering phone calls, but I did register my data with TT’s embassy in March before the total lockdown.
“We all have to sit this out, I’m hoping for the best but it’s not all dark. I can still look out of my window and see the majestic snow-covered Himalayas.
“I know nature is still beautiful, sustaining and nurturing. We can get through all of this,” she said while looking for a silver-lining in the situation.
Ramkissoon is the latest TT national to be stuck in a foreign country amidst the covid19 pandemic. Like Ramkissoon, nine TT nationals are also stranded in India after returning to New Delhi on March 23 after a tour of Nepal. The nine nationals were expected to transit through Dubai but were barred from doing so as part of the UAE’s covid19 response. Elsewhere, 32 TT nationals have been stuck in Suriname after this country’s border closure.