As the Covid-19 crisis has unfolded, billions of people in the world have learned just what the word “lockdown” means and the immense difficulties that it has had on all of our lives….

Here is an amazing story by Tarseim Kanwal of Ekta Unity, who writes about her rare experience which was full of tension and divine intervention, together with the challenges and concerns that she and her family faced after being caught up in the lockdown whilst on holiday in India. Tarseim’s account of what she and her family went through is both motivational and inspirational.

Tarseim Kanwal writes:

Our journey to India began on the 8th March 2020, when we boarded the Air India plane to New Delhi. We reached New Delhi the next morning at 11am and after the usual immigration and Covid-19 clearances, we caught a taxi to take us to a hotel in Tilak Nagar, where we had booked a room. On reaching the hotel, we found out that NRI’S were not to be allowed inside because of corona virus. We tried a couple of more hotels but none of them would accept any bookings. By this time the taxi driver was getting restless as it was a prepaid taxi but my husband assured him that he will be paid handsomely. Eventually we decided to go to a friend’s house, who was also going to sew some of my suits. We reached her house in Ramesh Nagar and told them about our ordeal at the hotels. Our friends invited us to stay with them as they had a spare bedroom. We paid off the taxi driver and settled in the friend’s house.

We had booked train tickets to go to Punjab the next day in the afternoon at 4.30pm. We reached the New Delhi Rail Station at 3.30pm and boarded the train – ‘The Shatabdi’ to take us to ‘Phagwara’, which was a four and half hour journey. The shatabdi is an excellent train with great comfortable seats and they serve really good snacks during the journey. We were in the first class coach where the service and snacks were a bit better than the other coaches. We reached Phagwara Junction Station at around 9pm. Our nephew was there to greet us and take us to his village Gowaher, which is nearby.

The Next day, we hired a taxi to take us to Sri Bhaini Sahib, which is about 15 miles from Ludhiana on the Chandigarh Road. The occasion was the celebration of the ‘Hola Muhalla Purab’, which is celebrated with great fervour and devotion under the divine presence and patronage of Sri Satguru Uday Singh Ji. We enjoyed the devotional music and ‘parvachans’ of holy saints for 2 days and on the third day we returned to the village.

We had booked train tickets to go to Raipur in Chhattisgarh on the 19th March, where my husband’s sister and sons reside. Before that we visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Baba Bakala gurdwara near Kartarpur, Gurdwara Ber Sahib at Sultanpur Lodhi. This gurdwara is the most important gurdwara in the Sikh world, as Guru Nanak meditated here for over 18 years and it is here that he vanished in the River Vein and re-appearing after three days. It is said that He visited the abode of the ALL Mighty and was enlightened. He re-appeared and uttered the Japji Sahib, the first Guru Bani. We also visited Kartarpur where a great museum has been built namely ‘Jang-e-Azadi’, which depicts the freedom fighters of India. I would strongly recommend the visitors to Punjab not to miss this spectacle.

On 19th March, we boarded the train for Raipur, a 30 hour journey. We reached the next day around 1.00pm. Our nephew was there to receive us to take us to his lovely house. On the way we saw one ‘bazaar’ completely closed as a girl with corona virus was diagnosed early in that area. Some other bazaars were open but a day after on 21st March everything was under a strict lockdown and we were stuck in the house with nowhere to go or do.

Previously we had booked to go to Udaipur and Mount Abu, but Rajasthan was the first State to apply the lockdown and ban all air and rail travel. We had no alternative but to stay in Raipur till the 29th March as all our air bookings were cancelled to Rajasthan. On t23rd March there were rumours that ALL Air and Trains are to be cancelled throughout the country. We decided that we will be better off in Delhi so we booked a flight the very day at 7.30pm for New Delhi. There were only 2 flights that day and we booked in the first flight, reaching the airport at 5 pm. Our nephew stayed in the outside car park waiting till the flight was to take off. While we were in the lounge after check in, he rang us and told that ALL flights after this flight has been cancelled and we were lucky to have taken this last flight.

We reached Delhi around 9.30pm. The airport was completely deserted and in semi darkness. Outside the taxi stand was empty. A private taxi ‘vallah’ approached us and asked where we wanted to go. We said Ramesh Nagar and the driver said it will cost 1700 rupees, when the usual rate is 400 rupees. In the meantime we received a couple of telephone calls from our friends and relatives, who told us that they will not be able to accommodate us as all roads and lanes to their houses were barricaded by police and they were not allowing anybody to go in or come out. The hotels wouldn’t have us and now there was no taxis either. We were flabbergasted….We did not know what to do. While we were in a deep shock and pondering, a car came and a young taxi driver got out and asked us where we want to go. We said we cannot go to our friends or relatives and no hotel is ready to give us a room. He said he will get us a hotel, which will cost 4000 rupees a night and he will charge 1000 rupees. We agreed and he took us to a nearby hotel. The rooms were quite nice and neat with AC. We thanked the young taxi driver whose name was Chandra and took his contact number.

We were confined to our hotel room and for next 5-6 days that room served as our only recreational room with a telly and nothing else. The quality of the food served was of a poor nature as most of the ration in the hotel was getting scarce. However, after some time we came out of our room and lounged on the terrace. The situation was grim and we could see from above that all roads were completely empty with occasional Police siren going off. This was like a jail now. We applied to the British High Commission for a repatriation flight and lodged our details with the Embassy in Delhi. There was nothing else we could do except wait and pray.

Looks like our prayers were answered and we got a phone call on the 2nd April in the morning, that there was a flight to London early morning on the 3rd April and would we like to be on it? We agreed to the flight for which we were going to be charged 80000 rupees each. We called the taxi driver-Chandra again to take us to the airport as the hotel taxi driver was making some lame excuses to derive more money out of us.

The taxi driver-Chandra drove us to the airport, where we were stopped at the gate. We showed the Police the copy of the air ticket and they let us through. My husband copied the ticket on Chandra’s phone so that his return journey would be made easy.

We boarded the plane and it took off at the right time at 2am. The plane was half full as distancing of one seat was in operation. We reached London about 7am in the morning and we got out to go to immigration. We were the ONLY 2 people who were London passengers, the rest were all Canadian passengers who were in transit to Canada. Heathrow Airport was in semi darkness and deserted just as the Delhi Airport was. We were on our way out to the taxi stand, when we met a taxi driver carrying a placard with a name on it. We asked him where can we get a taxi and he replied there were no taxis available if we had not ordered one in advance. And he left us and went inside to collect his passenger. In the meantime my husband was trying to ring Uber but his credit card had expired and during this period his phone battery went dead. We did not know what to do as there was nobody around and we were shivering in the 4 degree English weather. Suddenly the taxi driver with the placard came back and asked us if we had found a taxi. To our negative reply, he said he would ring his company. He asked where we wanted to go. We said Coventry and he was a bit surprised but his company agreed and charged us £160, which we paid. We sat in his taxi and he dropped us in Coventry at 9.30am. We asked him what had happened to his client, whose name was on the placard. He said his plane never arrived and he (the driver) was not informed. We thanked him and told him that he had come for us as an answer to our prayers.

No one thought that life could throw such a hurdle in 2020, where we would need to isolate ourselves to stay safe from the unknown and dangerous Covid-19 virus. Every television channel these days is just talking about this virus which is spreading all across the globe today and has surrounded everyone from all directions leaving many unwell and causing untold fatalities.

Life has changed completely. The future is uncertain and to meet it we all have to survive and remain healthy.

‘Our Miraculous Journey’ came to end with the grace of GOD.

Tarseim Kanwal
Ekta Service User