MUMBAI: After spending days sleeping on the Mumbai airport floor and then at a migrants’ camp in Andheri, a 68-year-old Spanish national finally boarded a flight for home late on Thursday. Mariano Jose Cabrero, a retired teacher, was aware of the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain but said he wanted to be with his family. Besies Cabrero, three other Spanish nationals boarded the special recovery flight for Europe from Mumbai.
Cabrero landed in Mumbai in December 2019 and stayed at a guest house in Colaba. He then travelled to several parts of North India on his own. “I spent 40 days in Udaipur and also visited Delhi, Agra, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Amritsar, Jammu, and several small cities in Punjab. I found it more comfortable to travel by road, so I took buses everywhere instead of trains. But there were patches of very bad weather. It rained heavily when I was in Kurukshetra and later when I was at Jammu. There were plenty of problems but I travelled in all conditions,” he said.
On March 22, Cabrero returned to Mumbai to fly back home but the Janta Curfew was on and his flight did not take off. For the next 12 days, he slept on the airport floor and used the airport restroom. “I had money in my pocket but there was lockdown in the city and I couldnt go back to the guest house in Colaba. I couldnt go looking for accomodation by myself so I preferred staying back at the airport,” he said. Eventually, the airport had to be shut down and the police, brought him to a migrants’ camp in Versova run jointly by Home Guards headed by DG Sanjay Pandey and several non-profits.
At the camp, Cabrero was given a breakfast of tea and biscuits and dal khichdi for lunch and dinner, just like the other 285 migrants. He was given a clean bedsheet, blanket and pillows. “When I found out there was a foreign national brought to the camp on Sunday, I spoke to him at length and offered to sponsor his accomodation at the YWCA in Colaba,” said Abraham Mathai, founder of the non-profit, Harmony Foundation. The non-profit and the Home Guards got in touch with the Spanish consulate in Mumbai. On Thursday, he was moved to a hotel and the consulate arranged for his flight tickets.
“We are grateful to the generosity of our European colleagues who organised a special flight and put Cabrero on board. We also appreciate the work of Maharashtra Police and organisers of the camp,” said Consul General of Spain in Mumbai, Jorge de Lucas Cadenas. He confirmed that four Spaniards boarded the flight from Mumbai on Thursday night.
Cabrero said he would return to India in 2023 as he wanted to explore Kurukshetra further.
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