(Names have not been changed in this summary)
Vivek is from Jabalpur. He lives with his wife in Gurgaon. A month-and-a-half ago Vivek travelled to Morocco for work. At the moment he is stuck there, unable to return to India.
When he flew to Morocco on the 21st of February, the situation was okay. There wasn’t really a sense that something very serious is going on in the world. Vivek was scheduled to return to India only in the middle of May, but when fears about Coronavirus began to grow in Morocco, Vivek began to look for a return flight. That was two weeks back. Flying from Morocco to India, one either goes via Europe, via the Middle East, or via Africa. By the time Vivek started looking for a way to get back home, all flights to these areas had been suspended. Vivek was stranded in the Moroccan capital as the country went into complete shutdown to slow the spread of Covid – 19.
Vivek is among around 19 Indians who are currently stranded in Morocco. He is luckier than most of the others. Unable to regularly eat the local cuisine, Vivek shifted from his hotel to an apartment just before the lockdown began in Morocco. There he is able to store groceries and cook for himself. A few other Indians are stuck in a hotel, but the Indian Embassy has gotten them in touch with a local Indian restaurant, so they get their food from there. Three Indians are stuck in transit, stranded at Casablanca airport, with no arrangements for food or sleep. They are unable to enter into the city.
The lockdown in Morocco is strictly enforced. People follow it assiduously, and streets are deserted. Medical and grocery stores remain open. On his 1 km route to the grocery store, Vivek is stopped by police at three different locations. A letter from his company gets him through and back. Moroccans began taking the pandemic quite seriously early on, so hopefully, the situation will not get out of hand here. He has seen army tanks in residential areas in the past few days. He’s not sure if that’s related to the lockdown though.
Morocco is only 70 kms away from Spain via waterways. It has a population of around 3 crores, and there are some 700 cases of Covid – 19 in the country. Compared to India, the proportion of cases in Morocco is higher at the moment. But the government and citizens are taking this situation seriously, and he thinks they will be able to get it under control. Vivek doesn’t know much about the healthcare infrastructure in Morocco but based on what he has seen of the country otherwise, he guesses Moroccan healthcare is probably quite good.
View from his window
Two weeks ago, Vivek got an option to take a partially commercial flight going via the Middle East to India. But that didn’t work out. Vivek and the others stuck in Morocco are in touch with the Embassy. He gets daily calls from one of the officers there. Morocco is locked down until the 20th. Till then the Embassy is also helpless. Vivek and the others have formed a WhatsApp group and communicate regularly. They have been quarantined for 20 days already and no one is showing symptoms, so they’re quite sure none of them is infected. They now know that travelling with each other will be safe. A commercial flight will come with its own risks of infection, they hope for a special flight to take them back home. Vivek and the others mail the Embassy frequently, frequently enough to be asked to not do so. But apart from pushing and creating a sense of urgency, there seem to be few other options at hand.
People in Morocco are helpful. But even so, communication remains a challenge. Very few people speak English, and even with those who do, the Indian and Moroccan accents get in the way. Vivek tried translation apps, but that wasn’t successful. He asked for salt and an employee at the store took him to a stack of bottled water. To get to his apartment from wherever he is, Vivek has devised a system. He got someone from the Moroccan company he is working with to say the name of the neighbourhood he is staying at and recorded it. He now plays that recording every time he gets into a cab. This is all fine for now. He is in good health. But in the case of a medical emergency, he will have no way of communicating with local healthcare workers and authorities. Even though his company has shared several numbers he can call in emergencies, those numbers will come in handy only in emergencies. Abhi toh utha kar aap check nahi kar sakte, kaam kar raha hai nahi kar raha?
According to the news, India will open its airspace on the 14th or 15th of April. He is sure there will be a limited number of other countries wherefrom flights will be allowed to land in India. Any European country is very unlikely to be on the list, but countries in Africa and the Middle East might be. The uncertainty is further compounded by the fact that some transit countries are in lockdowns of their own, which might get extended. If he takes his chances and leaves for India as soon as Morocco eases its lockdown and airspaces open up, he might get stuck somewhere on the way. But if he stays put and the situation worsens in Morocco, he might be stuck for a longer time in a country grappling with a widespread outbreak. His target is to leave by the 21st, but the situation might evolve in other directions by then, he really can’t say.
His wife is working from home in Gurgaon. She has stocked up groceries and has respite from her 4-hour daily commute to and back from work. His parents are also similarly locked down at home in Jabalpur. They are well stocked with groceries, but they are very social people, and really don’t like staying indoors. Even so, they have to.
Not much has changed in his daily routine. Earlier Vivek used to go to the office in Morocco. He’d get back in the evening, call his wife, have dinner, and sleep. Now he works from the apartment, cooks dinner, watches something on Netflix, calls his wife, has dinner, and goes to sleep. There is nothing too emotional about his situation. His parents are alright and have everything they need, as does his wife. Their daily conversations are very normal. Abhi tak kisi ko kuchh issue hua nahi hai. Touchwood ho bhi na. Agar kisi ko kuchh issue hua, that’s when things will get difficult. But this lockdown has been put in place so that the situation does not get worse. If you want to worry, there are hundreds of ways to worry. Just think a lot and then fret. Waise bhi the plan was to return in the middle of May. If he gets to come back earlier, it’ll be well and good. The only problem he is facing is that he is alone. If something happens, he’ll have to handle it alone and that could be a difficult situation. But for the rest, Vivek is fine.
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