The first time we briefed our parents about our plan to immigrate to Australia, not just for a few years but to settle, my mother-in-law said, “what if something happens to us and you can’t come?”
My instant thought was we would be one flight away, even though it would take us 20hrs, we would still make it, if there was an emergency. Plus the fact that our parents were surrounded by family and neighbors, seemed very practical to my 30-year-old self. In my naivety, I said, “We could be on a vacation overseas when an emergency happens, and it will take us 24 hrs even then.”
As an immigrant, we take it in our stride that meeting our family and loved ones overseas is going to be different than when we are in physical proximity. Technology comes to the rescue and we make our peace with video calling and instant messaging.
Most of us get accustomed to meeting our families maybe once a year, once in two years or more often, depending on our financial situations and jobs. To avoid using up all our leaves, we get our families to visit us. That way we get to spend more time with each other.
Parents and siblings accept the frequency with which they can spend time with you. Grandparents make the most of the time they get to dote on the grandkids. The blueprint of meeting families overseas has been designed and ingrained in immigrant families since eons. When one decides to move to another country they take this blueprint along with them.
I have known people who found this blueprint unacceptable and moved back to their home country. But I presume they are far and few.
Irrespective of the travel schedule, we were always one flight away from each other.
It all changed. The pandemic has affected travel in a severe way.
It has had its obvious side effects on the aviation and tourism industry, thereby affecting millions of people whose livelihood depended on tourism and travel.
For immigrant families, it is more than travel and sightseeing that has changed.
There are two primary concerns we are working with, along with the other factors the pandemic has brought upon all of us globally.
More than anything, it is the perturbation, fear, and concern for the parent's health during the pandemic that affects us. Thanks to technology we can talk to them and see them and appease our worries.
However, every time I talk to parents I reiterate the need for them to be safe, to not go outside, and be careful. For one if they were to fall sick, I will not be able to go. It is a worry that lingers. My sentiment is echoed by most of us.
Even if we could go, we would need to be in quarantine for 14 days. Based on which country we are flying to, the rules of quarantine are vastly different.
For eg: If I need to visit India, since I changed my citizenship to Australia, I am no more considered an Indian citizen, I am not allowed into the country right now.
The concern for our families health is directly proportional to how bad the situation is in the country they are living in.
Some of us have loved ones experiencing mental health issues and being locked up isn’t helping anyone.
Parents of immigrants are used to dealing with emergencies on their own or with the help of family and friends, but there is solace in knowing that we can go, albeit a bit late, but we can. This certitude that we can do nothing if something was to happen is crippling.
Lockdown in itself is causing anxiety and emotional upheaval in all age brackets.
Isolation isn’t easy to deal with, some parents are single and by themselves, some are caring for an ailing partner.
To add to it families are now wondering when they next get to see each other. The uncertainty of everything clubbed with the certainty that meeting your family who is overseas, is nowhere near in sight is causing both ends their fair share of angst.
How international travel will look in the coming months is hard to decipher? Health and well being of yourself and your loved ones will play a pivotal role in making a decision to travel, even if some borders were to open.
Everyone is doing the best they can to cope with the current situation. So are we.
I am completely aware of the fact that millions of refugees and immigrants have been dealing with this pain. The severity of it only hits home when you catch a glimpse of that pain.