Alisha Vasudev

Visual Storyteller
    Flying Stranded Citizens Home by Alisha Vasudev 
Flying Stranded Citizens Home
Location: Mumbai
Nationality: Indian
Biography: Alisha Vasudev is a 2022 National Geographic Explorer. A visual storyteller and geographer based out of Mumbai, her practice seeks to explore interdependencies between ecology and human life, with a special interest in weather and the atmosphere.... MORE
Public Story
Flying Stranded Citizens Home
Copyright Alisha Vasudev 2023
Updated Jan 2022
Location Mumbai
Topics Aviation, Covid, Documentary, Essays, Pandemics, Photography, Pilot, Portraiture
May 7, 2020. As countries across the world were scrambling to make sense of our collective new reality, Captain Anshul Shoran announced ‘..I know that your family, loved ones and even the whole country awaits our return eagerly. So let us keep our morale high, we are going home’.

Captain Shoran of Air India Express, flew the first repatriation flight under the Vande Bharat Mission for which the Indian airspace had been opened for the first time in seven weeks.

Captain Titli Thind remembers listening to this very inspiring message along with her grandmother, with whom she lives in Mumbai. The two of them were in her grandmother’s room, one of the last times in 2020 that they sat in close proximity to one another. Captain Thind was soon leaving for repatriation duties herself, having volunteered to fly stranded citizens home from the Middle East in end May.

A pilot with Air India Express, she recalled how over 1,60,000 expats had registered on the Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs portal in end April, expressing an interest in returning home during what was increasingly becoming an uncertain time. As of Dec 19th 2020, 3.9 million passengers have been repatriated to India thanks to the Vande Bharat Mission.

At a time when majority of people actively avoided coming in contact with others, Captain Thind had no doubt in her mind that her place was on the frontline - flying stranded citizens home at the risk of contracting the virus herself.

As she and her fellow crew members geared up to fly at a time when little was known about the virus, except for the alarming rate at which it could spread and kill; new protocols were put in place, extensive training given and PPE equipment provided by the airline. Testing protocols were extensive and took several days before as well as after flights and she often travelled with everything she would need - including bedding, towels, utensils and cutlery.

Dr. Kavita Kapoor, Captain Thind’s grandmother did worry about the uncertain times Titli was flying under but being the wife of an Indian Air Force pilot, she understood her granddaughter’s call to duty. Captain Thind did not want to look back and wonder why she did not step in, when the country needed her most.

Given the risk of her exposing her grandmother to the virus, Captain Thind maintained a strict isolation protocol at home - not leaving her room for days and sometimes emerging into common areas with a mask on, only if two consecutive covid-19 tests came back negative.

While she zoned her room into areas of rest and productivity; her grandmother kept herself busy with a design project, reading and ensuring that rations and funds were provided to about thirty underprivileged families all throughout the lockdown.

Despite the uncertain times, two brave women came forward to help those in dire need during a global pandemic.
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Flying Stranded Citizens Home by Alisha Vasudev
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