Pandemic Stories: Coming home from India

Jun 11, 2020

Heather Aldridge traveled to Khajuraho, India, in March to help her friend, Mohit Shukla, feed the poor. She was locked down for three weeks due to coronavirus.
Credit Heather Aldridge

When the world   started to shut down in mid-March, Heather Aldridge was in India helping her friend Mohit Shukla feed the poor. She didn’t think much about a pandemic, until she was in a packed overnight train without much circulation.

“It started to dawn on me; oh, this could be a concern,”  Aldridge said.

 

She started looking for flights home, but everything was booked. Then India mandated a national lockdown.

 

“They had a curfew day on the 22nd,” Aldridge recalls. “It was sort of like this trial day in India. So I was quite happy to stay in my hotel that day, and the official lockdown came on the 25th, and then it was serious.”

 

“I had to stay in my hotel but I had a wonderful, nice cement terrace rooftop, 4th floor, so I could see a long ways from that rooftop, and I went up there every morning for sunrise and every evening for sunset when it was cool enough to be outside because during the day it was very hot.”

 

Aldridge said her small hotel didn’t have a restaurant, so Mohit broke lockdown every morning at 5:30 to bring her food. 

 

“If they found anybody on the street that didn’t have an official pass, they would take their batons and hit the person and tell them to go home,” she said. “Mohit got hit and had welts from the police two different days from coming to bring me food.”

 


The nationwide lockdown caused anxiety, frustration and even questions about Aldridge. 

 

“As time went on in the lockdown the local people got pretty fearful of foreigners,” she said. “Mohit told me, ‘Don’t go to the edge of the roof where people can see you because people are starting to be like, ‘Why is she here? Why is this foreigner still here? She should leave.’ “

 

Aldridge finally got a pass to travel to Dehli, then it was another six days isolated in a hotel waiting for a flight invitation.

 

“When I finally got my invitation, I felt like I won the lottery,” she said.

 

Aldridge flew to San Francisco, and everyone was wearing a mask for the 15-hour flight. From there it was on to Chicago, then Traverse City.

 

“When I touched down in Traverse City it was another stage of relief,” she said. “Each portion of this was a stage of relief. Getting to Dehli was a stage of relief, getting the flight was a stage of relief, and each portion of the flights home a little bit off my shoulders.”

 

Aldridge has been home in Frankfort since April 13. 

 

“I got home and there was a huge relief,” she said. "Since then there’s been a lot of well, what do I do now?”

 

Aldridge wanted to go back to private caregiving and nursing for the elderly, but no one is hiring at the moment. She’s still trying to figure out where to go from here.