Travel in the time of COVID-19

Dehonians visiting with the family who helped them soon after crossing the border

India has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Much of the country is under travel restrictions. Br. Thambi Joseph, SCJ, shares some of the challenges he and fellow Dehonians faced during a trip from Tamil Nadu back to Nambur  in Andhra Pradesh:

Two days before we started our journey, we learned of the new rules for our fifth lockdown in India. We no longer needed an e-pass to enter our state, but states still had the authority as to whether to accept federal rules. We brought along a copy of the latest rules of the central government, assuming that we would be allowed to enter our destination of Andhra Pradesh.

At 4:15 a.m. we left our house in Chennai with a car full of luggage. We prayed the rosary together, praying for an easy border crossing from Tamil Nadu. An hour later we reached the border. The officer asked for our e-pass.

We said nervously “Sir, we don’t have any e-pass.” He asked us where we were going and we told him Andhra Pradesh. After seeing our state ID cards he allowed us to continue.

But we only got about 500 meters. At the border of Andhra there was a wall of 15 policemen. We approached them and were told to stop our vehicle along the side of the road. Once again we were asked for our e-pass. We told the officer that we did not have an e-pass because the central government said that they were no longer needed to enter one’s own state. Unfortunately, Andhra Pradesh had not adopted these new rules.

Although the policemen were very polite with us, we were stuck. We could not enter Andhra and we could not go back to Tamil Nadu. Fr. Hruday remembered that there was a lawyer in the parish at Nambur. He contacted the lawyer and asked for suggestions; the lawyer asked for 20 minutes to look into some possibilities. True to his word, a phone call came from authorities asking that we be allowed to cross into Andhra. With a sign of relief, we left for Guntur.

On the road, the phone rang and it was a relative of the lawyer who had just assisted us. He knew that we had a long ways to travel still and that little was open along the way due to COVID-19. We spent over an hour with his family, enjoying a generous breakfast and prayer before resuming our journey.

It was a challenging journey but at the end I once again realized that God is always with us, helping us in difficult times and allowing us to see the beauty in our lives.

This is how we had returned to Guntur, and after experiencing both the good and bad in our journey, I have come to realize that God helps us in our difficulties and makes our lives run smoothly. He does beautiful things in our lives.

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