Coronavirus: Indian parents stranded in Lisbon yearn for their kids in Dubai

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - The couple runs a business and haven't been able to oversee any of their ongoing construction work.

Dubai-based Indian expatriates Shehna Mansoor Ali and her husband Mansoor Ali Karattu Chalil have been in away from their three children for more than a month now, and are desperate to get back, the couple told Al Khaleej Today over the phone from Lisbon, where they flew last month for what was supposed to be a week-long visit.
 
Many countries around the world, including those in Europe and the GCC, began shutting their borders and suspending flights last month to contain the spread of Covid-19, catching many business and leisure travellers off guard. While some managed to leave for their destinations in time, some others weren't so lucky and have been stranded in foreign lands, away from their loved ones.

Among them are Shehna and Mansoor, owners of a contracting business in Dubai, who flew to Lisbon to process their permanent residency applications on March 3 and March 11, respectively. They left their three children - Shireen, 17, Ayman, 13, and Afreen, 7 - at their home in Dubai Hills with their grandparents Fathima Naseer, 67, and Nazir Hussain, 73, who are on a visit from India.
 
"It was supposed to be a week-long trip. We left our children under the care of my parents and cousins, who have three children of their own," Shehna told Al Khaleej Today.

Coronavirus: Indian parents stranded in Lisbon yearn for their kids in Dubai (KT23874410.JPEG)

Travel plans disrupted

"Our return flight was scheduled for March 17 from Lisbon via Budapest. Unfortunately, Budapest closed its borders and we re-booked flights through Brussels. That flight was cancelled just as we reached the boarding gate."
 
The couple are living in a weekly-renewable rented apartment in Martim Moniz, central Lisbon. Portugal has 13,956 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 409 deaths. "There is no activity outside. I can see people standing outside supermarkets in long queues," said Shehna.
 
The couple have been informed by the Indian Embassy in the UAE that there may not be any evacuation flights to India anytime soon. They've registered themselves on the Tawajudi service.

Business as unusual

The couple runs a business in Dubai, and maintain that they haven't been able to oversee any of their ongoing construction work. "Our employees have been very responsive and have been guiding our workers," she added. Adding to their woes, the credit limit of the credit card they were carrying was reduced from Dh10,000 to Dh2,000.
 
"We don't blame anyone for the situation and understand that it is very challenging. Fortunately, our neighbourhood is private and secluded, so the kids feel safe," she added. "When we video conference, I can see them put on a brave face and smile, but I know they are scared," said Shehna while holding back tears.
 
Kids hold it together

Meanwhile, Shehna's 17-year-old daughter Shireen has just completed her Grade 12 examinations and has been studying for her entrance exams. She has been overseeing matters in her house with help from her cousins and grandparents over the past few weeks.
 
Groceries and other supplies are being delivered home via online orders. "My younger sister has had a slight fever over the last few days, and my grandparents have several medical problems," said Shireen.
 
Shehna's mother is a chronic diabetic while her father suffered a stroke six months ago. Fathima said: "We shuttle between our two daughters' homes every few months. We came to Dubai in March hoping to observe Ramadan and return home to Kerala for Eid Al Fitr."
 
"Of course, we have the supplies we need, but this has been a stressful time for us all. Praying that it all ends soon so that my daughter and son-in-law can return home to us," said Fathima.

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author

Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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