Soundarya Jayamala still stuck in the UK, after trying to return home
Actress Soundarya Jayamala She is currently pursuing her BSc in Zoology at Swansea University in Wales. I was back in India when COVID-19 pandemic caused the country to close its borders. Forced to return to the UK and now living away from home, Soundarya told us about the experience so far. Excerpts ...
What was it like, when the pandemic started spreading in the UK?
We hear about it Coronavirus but were not afraid initially. By mid-February, social media started buzzing with news about this global pandemic and we heard that one of our professors was a victim of the virus. Till this point, we were not informed by the UK government about the severity of the situation, and people were still moving about. They had stopped testing sick people, and NHS was only advising us to self-isolate and take paracetamol if we had any symptoms. When panic struck, people had emptied shelves to a point where we could not find even basic grains in supermarkets.
Tell us about the terrible experience of trying to go home ... I was planning to get home to be with my family while the flights were still available. Bur's universities took a long time to adapt and provide fair assessments to our curriculum. We were concerned that we would not be able to return for our exams. But things got worse and on March 21 we were informed that India would close its borders on March 22. We received a green signal to leave the UK on the last flight to Bangalore, via Dubai. But upon arrival in Dubai, we were told that after we took off from London, India put students, particularly from the UK, on the no-fly list. The airlines were unable to help us and the return tickets were extremely expensive. We decided to wait for Embassy to rescue us
We had on masks and gloves, but there was no social distancing decorum. People were lining up almost next to each other. The airport was like a refuge as there were hundreds of people whose flights were cancelled that day. They were sleeping on the floor all over the airport and the seats were all taken. We were sleepless for over 24 hours and at 8 am, the Embassy came to our rescue and put us on a flight back to London that evening. I then travelled back to Swansea on a five-hour train and have been in self-isolation since.
What is the situation in Swansea now?
My best friend, a Kuwaiti citizen whose borders are also closed, is helping me with food and supplies. Now the panic buying has stopped and we are getting the essentials. People obey the rules and stay.
Students have a WhatsApp group where we review each other. None of us shows symptoms and we feel blessed to have been able to re-enter London at least. How is your mother dealing?
My mother, like many other parents, was in a state of panic and fear. He appealed to the government to return us to safety. Initially, when the borders were open, she urged me to come home and we had even arranged for me to be quarantined on our farm, where I would not be in contact with anyone.
How do you spend your time in self-isolation?
I have been taking care of myself, eating Vitamins and drinking hot water. I don't leave my apartment for anything. I have received a lot of help from my fellow Indians and the Embassy officers. My university is helping us with financial aid if necessary, and our assessments are all online with a fair grading system. I also made new friends at the airport - Namita from Kolkata, Akshay and Venkat from Andhra Pradesh. We stuck together and came out of it successfully.
Any plans to make another Kannada movie?
I have no plans to act again; The world of the academy has swallowed me whole. I want to make a difference for society, which I hope to achieve with my title. For now, my prayers are with my country, that we can overcome this difficult time as soon as possible. I look forward to going home to my family and friends.