When Greeshma Patel sent her toddler Prisha to stay with family in Gujarat, she did not foresee that she would not get to see her daughter for an entire year.
In August 2019, young Prisha was sent to live with her grandparents in Gujarat shortly after Greeshma had her second child. Prisha’s much-awaited return was planned for the end of March 2020 for the family to be together once again. Unfortunately, border closures wreaked havoc on all their plans.
Greeshma was able to reunite with her daughter at last only through the kindness of strangers.
“I had applied 5 times for my parents’ exemption (to come to Australia) but they said I have to nominate only one person. I didn’t want to separate my parents, so I started to look for another way,” the anxious Greeshma told Indian Link.
There were repatriation flights and all kinds of permits to take into consideration, and it was an ordeal to be separated from her two-year-old. How could Prisha be brought back home?
Through a Facebook group, the mother from Port Lincoln, Adelaide was able to connect with newly married couple Neha Soni and Sailesh Thorat, who were travelling back to Australia from India.
“I explained my situation to them before I got a chance to talk to them. They then video called us, and we discussed requirements such as all the relevant documentation,” she said. To Greeshma, the couple were the only source of hope at finally being reunited with her toddler.
The newlyweds Neha and Sailesh had only recently gotten married in Brisbane in January. Shortly after, Neha travelled to India to visit her parents in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh – and found herself stuck there since February.
Her husband Sailesh joined her there later. “I managed to fly to India on 20th March 2020. The very next day, Australia imposed a travel ban,” he reported.
After trying to arrange tickets back to Australia, and getting to know about the Patels’ situation, the newlyweds travelled to Delhi. They met Prisha, accompanied by her grandparents, at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
“We were amazed when Prisha hugged Neha tightly at this first meeting,” recalled Sailesh. “She even bid adieu to her grandma and grandad at the hotel, saying, ‘Plane maa jaaau che, uncle aunty ke saaath! (I’m going on the plane with Uncle and Aunty!)’”
It wasn’t an easy flight, but it was smooth sailing compared to the uncertain wait they had all left behind.
When their flight finally landed in Adelaide, it was a big relief for everyone involved. Welcomed warmly at the airport, Neha and Sailesh had not realised until then that their little act of kindness was something really special.
They were thrilled to see Prisha rush towards her mother, whom she hadn’t seen for a whole year, to hug her tightly at the airport gate.
“It was something that we will never forget,” Sailesh said with a smile. “It’s important to do our bit in these troubled times.”
Mother Greeshma is currently in quarantine with Prisha at the Pullman Hotel.
To her, this experience of empathy and compassion from complete strangers is certainly one she’ll always remember.