What it took for me to get back to Chennai from Paris during COVID - June 2020.
So, just to make things clear.. I don't know who is reading this nor when
but I assume you would be knowing about COVID19 and all the procedures the entire world had to take to prevent it from spreading. This post is about me trying to get back to my home to see my family in Chennai during June 2020 when the city was in a lock down. I can never forget what it took for me to get back home and I would love to share it with you. So here is how it goes...
Around June 1st, 2020, me and my friend Nikin learnt about VBM, aka Vande Bharath Mission and their repatriation flights. We immediately decided to go for it despite the COVID lock down as we thought it might be impossible for us to get back home if we delay and we might have to wait 2-3 more years because we had 2 more semesters including an internship which we have to complete. Within a day, we both registered and on 8th June, Monday, we received an email from them regarding the rules and regulations for the travel along with the option to pay. The flight was scheduled to be on June 17th, Wednesday. The cost of a ticket was twice the normal rate and it was said to be given on a first-come-first-serve basis. Without any hesitation, I managed to pay for it and 3 hours later my friend paid for himself as well. All we now had to do was to wait to get our ticket confirmation.
Surprisingly, the next day my friend who paid for his ticket 3 hours later of me paying got his ticket confirmation and I didn't. I waited for a couple of days and decided to call the Indian Embassy in France regarding this. A woman answered the call and was kind enough to help me out in this situation, she took all the necessary information from me and asked me to wait till Friday and get back to her if I had not received it, I did not receive the ticket confirmation and on Friday I decided to call her. The same woman picked up the call and I told her that I still haven't received it and asked her to send me my ticket as I was pretty convinced that I should be getting it as I paid for it 3 hours earlier than my friend and it was a first-come-first-serve basis. She told me that she will make sure that I will be getting my ticket on Monday.
Easy for her to say, and I was convinced that I would be getting my ticket for June 17th. I decided to vacate my room on 14th June, I recently got a text and a call from a cool person, Sainath (coincidentally Nikin and him had a mutual friend and its a long story, haha.) who had the same problem as mine but he was asked to get a business class ticket as the economy class was full. He wanted to get back to meet his family so he had no other option other than to pay.
So, after vacating I decided to go stay at my friend's apartment for a couple of days. (If you are reading this thanks Abraar and Dhruv). I even had an exam on afternoon of 15th June, the Monday she promised I would be getting my ticket. After my exam, I realized I still haven't got my ticket and it was 16H and was worried. I decided to call them back and the same woman answered it. I asked her about my ticket and she told me that my name was not even on the list and the flight is full. She suggested that I should take the next flight on June 29th and I was so angry I had to argue with her (If you are reading this, I apologize) and state the fact that I vacated my room assuming that I would be guaranteed the ticket and at that time I was staying at a hotel paying 80 euros per day (I had to lie to convince her, I apologize again.) and she can't expect me to keep paying until 29th of June. I was confused and I couldn't understand how when it was a first-come-first-serve based ticket and me undeniably being one of the first to pay did not get the ticket! The woman told me that she understands how I feel which I cut off stating that she has no idea what I was going through. After speaking with her for about 30 minutes regarding this issue she told me that she would look on to it and I could feel her voice crack during the conversation.
Within few hours, I got an email from the flight company and attached along with it was my ticket for June 17th. The flight was full and I managed to get a ticket? lol
I got a call from a private French number and it was the lady from the Indian Embassy. She managed to get me a ticket for the flight and asked me to confirm that I have received it. The way she spoke to me was so soothing that I felt so bad that I had argued with such a kind person. I thanked her a lot and she wished me a good and safe journey. (I don't know what your name is but I am still thankful).
If you thought that I had no issues other than this.. oh oh oh-- you are so wrong.
June 17th, 20H at CDG Airport:
Managed to reach the airport with Nikin, got handed a long paper that most importantly said 'IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO YOU, WE AREN'T RESPONSIBLE' and it was very comforting. We had all the normal check-ins done, the temperature test and mask was obligatory. The flight was supposed to be departing at 22H but we still were in the waiting lounge waiting at 23H! They informed us that the flight can't take off at that moment because it had a technical issue. We had to wait for a couple of more hours. Finally, it was at 1H when they told us that the flight is delayed until afternoon of 18th June.
We had no where to go but surprisingly they told us that our food and accommodation would be taken care off by the airlines. So on our way to the bus that was waiting for us outside, we met Sainath the person who I spoke with on the telephone the day I was vacating and we both tagged along with him. They took us to Mariott, a 5-Star hotel near the CDG Airport. We got our own big lounge! (yes with a bathtub ha-ha and its the only good thing that happened to me at that time). So spent a night there, ate french foods for breakfast and got ready for the check-ins again. This time, there were no delays and we got into the flight, AT LAST!
They had pre placed foods completely wrapped with plastic covers along with sanitizers on each seat. The air hostess were completely wrapped with the COVID 19 protective suits, After 10-12 hours of travel landed in Delhi. Shifted flights.. and there were no SOCIAL DISTANCING AT ALL! Anyways, got in and after a 3 hour flight reached Chennai!! Stepped out, got our baggage and they told us that we have to be tested for COVID! We were made to follow a line that leads to the testing booth. I was wondering and joking about why people were crying until it was my turn. They inserted something both into my mouth and my nose that made me cry. I really should not have joked about that! Later they wanted us to be quarantined for at least 7 days.
They gave us 3 options,
A - Be quarantined in a governmental institution,
B - Be quarantined in a 3 star hotel,
C - Be quarantined in a 5 star hotel.
Sadly, option B was not available at that time so we had option A and C at our disposal. Literally everyone chose option C. Me and my friends were put in Taj Connemara another 5 star hotel in Anna Nagar. This time, we had to pay for our accommodation. They asked us to stay at our rooms and not leave them until advised or requested. They provided very good hospitality and services.. it is always great to eat Indian foods especially when you haven't eaten it for a year. Later, we were tested once again during that 7 day period, both of the tests came negative and after a week of us arriving to Chennai, I managed to get back home.
Thanks a lot for reading. Let me know if you have any questions or if you need suggestions.