Dubai: Unprecedented problems call for unprecedented solutions, say two Indian teen brothers who were stranded in Kerala since March and travelled from Calicut to Dubai via Delhi and Chicago to join their family here in 46 hours.
Why did Bilal Bin Sahad and Basil Bin Sahad have to embark on such a long journey that would have ended in just four hours during pre-pandemic days?
Their father Sahad Sattar said: “I decided to bring them home by taking this adventurous trip with a lot of risk because I wasn’t getting visit visas for them from India,” he told Gulf News.
One of those stressed Indian parents who have been anxiously waiting for children stranded back home to join them in the UAE, Sahad said he opted to make use of the US visas of his children, which they had not used before, because he found out that Indians arriving from some states in the US can get visit visas while they could not avail the service when in India.
Born and brought up in Dubai, the boys had studied here till two years ago and then moved to a boarding school in Kerala.
Bilal studies in grade 12 and Basil is set to join grade 11.
The eldest among six siblings, the teens were supposed to join the family in Dubai in March.
Like many other people, they also could not fly in because their visit visas were auto-cancelled when countries shut borders and suspended flights to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Long struggle, anxious days
Since then, it has been a long struggle for the teens in Calicut.
“We were alone. Making food was difficult as we don’t know cooking,” recollected Basil.
He said they either made noodles or bought food from restaurants.
“For the past four-five months we didn’t eat any proper food. Everything was like junk food.”
When COVID-19 cases went up in India, particularly in Kerala, both the boys started panicking and were feeling depressed, said Sahad.
“I wanted to end the ordeal of my kids and our anxious wait.”
Being a travel manager in Dubai for the past 25 years, he checked all the COVID-19 travel guidelines and protocols in place to arrange their flight from Calicut to Delhi and from there to Dubai via Chicago.
He then asked the boys: “Are you ready for an adventurous and risky trip to join us?”
Definitely it was a ‘yes’ from the teens who were ready to take any route and endure the pain as their aim was only to reach Dubai at the earliest.
“We didn’t find any other way to come from Kerala to Dubai. This was our only chance. So we thought of taking the risk,” said Bilal.
Sahad said he then secured the 90-days’ tourist visas from Dubai for the children by providing their place of departure as Chicago in the application.
The unforgettable journey
The teens started their journey from Calicut at 8pm on July 22. After three hour’s flight, they landed in Delhi where they spent another three hours in transit.
They said they were scared that they won’t be allowed to fly to the US from Delhi.
“They asked us why we wanted to go to the US when there are many cases [of COVID-19] over there. Once we explained the reason, we were given immigration clearance. At Chicago also, we had to explain that we were not visiting the place but only transiting to fly to Dubai,” said Bilal.
The boys said they faced intense moments in Delhi where the airport was crowded.
Their flight from Delhi to Chicago took more than 15 hours.
However, they had a smooth layover for 10 hours at an airport hotel in Chicago.
Though they were in their dream destination, the boys did not regret not being able to enjoy the US visit. They only wished to join their parents and younger siblings—Maryam, Zainab, Sarah and Ammaar.
Finally, they landed in Dubai at 8pm on July 24 after completing “an unforgettable journey of their life”.
However, the family decided to delay their reunion for some more days though the boys had tested negative for COVID-19.
“Even though the authorities are not asking for quarantining them I decided to keep them quarantined in a hotel near our flat in Abu Hail for a week to be on the safer side,” said Sahad.
The parents then made sure the kids get what they were missing the most—homemade food from their mother, Nadiya Sahad, for every meal.
Bilal continued to attend his online classes during the self-imposed quarantine period which the brothers ended on Wednesday night.
“We decided to bring kids home to be with us for the Arafat day fast and celebrate Eid together with us. We had terribly missed them during the Eid-ul-Fitr. We are grateful to the almighty that they are finally here safe and sound with us for Eid ul Adha,” said the happy father.
How a 4-hour journey became a 46-hour journey
Calicut to Delhi – 3 hours
Transit period in Delhi –3 hours
Delhi to Chicago—15 hours
Layover in Chicago –10 hours
Chicago to Dubai—15 hours
Departure from Calicut at 20:00 on July 22
Arrival at Delhi at 23:00 on July 22
Departure from Delhi at 02:20 on July 23.
Arrival at Chicago at 07:00 on July 23
Departure from Chicago at 20:45 on July 23
Arrival at Dubai at 20:00 on July 24