DUBAI: When Aswathy Nair let her 18-month-old daughter Vyga Sachin to fly home with her parents a week before her planned visit to Kerala in March, the Dubai resident had no clue that it would be prolonged indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than four months have passed since the mother and daughter got separated. As her efforts to get her child and parents are yet to bear fruit, Nair is living a life of guilt.
“I have been feeling very guilty about sending my baby away. My only relief is that she is with my parents. They have their entry permits. But, still there are no flights for them to return,” Nair told Gulf News.
With guilt turning into despair and helplessness turning into agony, she said she was searching for ways to bring them back. She has joined a new social media group of Indian mothers who got separated from their children during the pandemic.
#takemetoMom through social media
The group that uses the hashtag #takemetoMom was formed on July 3 by a group of mothers like Nair who were in distress and wanted to make their voices heard, according to the group’s administrators Dr Nita Salam and Priya Feroz.
“In 48 hours, we were able to bring together more than 200 mothers hailing from different parts of India. The movement has gone viral on social media. We have written to authorities and are preparing to file a petition for the children’s evacuation, in the High Court of Kerala. Most of the members hail from Kerala.”
The duo stressed that with changing deadlines on operating regular flights for Indians who are residents of the UAE but currently stranded in India, desperation is mounting.
Dr Salam, whose son Azin, 13, is stuck back home in India, said many are taking up the cause of UAE residents losing jobs and those who are in financial distress. However, little has been spoken about the emotional trauma of separation that many families are facing.
“For mothers whose children are stranded in India or for children who are awaiting their mothers to return from India, the psychological impact is deep. Everyone was patiently waiting for the lockdown to get over. Now we are running out of patience,” she said.
Feroz said the UAE’s decision to reunite families and ease the approval process for entry into the country is commendable.
“Children from various countries have travelled back to their families in the UAE. However, we are still waiting endlessly,” she said.
The desperate mothers have taken to Twitter to draw the attention of the relevant authorities to get them reunited with their children.
“I never had an account on Twitter and created one for the sole purpose of reaching out to the authorities, out of desperation to do everything to bring back my child,” said Nair, who has sent numerous emails to various authorities in vain.
Nair said she has been breaking down very often due to the uncertainty over reuniting with her child and parents.
The situation is no different in the case of Nicheta Bhatnagar, who has been separated from her four-year-old son, Neel Vishesh Vats, for more than four months.
He had gone to Delhi with his father in March.
“The travel that was meant to be for only ten days has now become a separation for more than 100 days with no hope in sight. I know he is in the able hands of his grandparents, but can someone ever replace the love and warmth of a mother? I plead to both the Indian and the UAE governments to please listen to our prayers so that the families can be reunited,” said Bhatnagar, a Sharjah resident.
Anxiety about safety
While some mothers are battling the emotional trauma of separation from their small children, some others are fighting anxiety and concern about the safety of their older children as well.
Bhrigu Malhotra from Abu Dhabi is concerned about the safety of her daughter Kavya Malhotra, an 18-year-old student stranded in Delhi where coronavirus is spreading fast.
“She has been staying with relatives in Delhi. With the rising numbers of positive cases there, each added day becomes a trauma for me. She is trying to stay strong and keeping me in good spirits too. But her patience could soon run out as this is the third time the flight ticket that I booked for her got cancelled,” said Malhotra.
“She is supposed to fly to Abu Dhabi on July 17. With the new extension of flight suspensions, it has become doubtful again. I am a very private person. But in an effort to bring my daughter home, I joined Twitter, Instagram and every other social media platform and I am tirelessly writing emails, messages, tweets to every possible authority,” she added.
'Take me back to my kids'
While most mothers in the group have their children stuck in India, it is the other way around for Akhila Shinu from Ajman, who has been stuck in Kerala.
“I came to Kerala for an emergency medical issue for ten days. Now it is more than 100 days. My two daughters Maria and Anna, aged six and eight years, are with my husband in Ajman. We miss each other very much. It is difficult for my husband to handle both the children and my office work is also pending,” she said.