Published: 25th January 2020
Thousands of miles apart, Indian students in China and parents back home share the same worry
After the coronavirus outbreak in China, we caught up with a few Indian students and their families in India
When the cost of medical education skyrocketed in India, countries like China and Phillipines were safe havens for parents of medical aspirants. S Nageswaran admits to us that that was precisely the reason why his son Naveen Prasath too chose to study medicine from the University of South China in Hunan, a province close to Wuhan.
Wuhan, where the deadly coronavirus outbreak is believed to have happened is under a complete lockdown. "We last saw Naveen three months ago, when he left home to China. His NEET score wasn't good enough to get enrolled in a good medical college in India. So, we chose to send him to China, where the cost of education is around 35 per cent of what it is in India," says Nageswaran, who is a paramedic in a hospital in Kancheepuram. "His holidays are going on now, but he chose to spend them in China. But that was when we heard of the virus outbreak," he says.
The virus infection is believed to have killed around 41 people in China. Around 1246 have been affected until now. "We are all really scared," says Nageswaran. "We call Naveen quite often, asking him not to step out or eat anything from outside. We are praying constantly," he says.
Fear and confusion are the two emotions that this father and his 18-year-old son share right now. Sitting in his hostel room, thousands of miles away from his hometown Kancheepuram, Naveen messages us on Facebook. "There is no transport available here. One cannot even go to the airport, a hospital or even to the grocery store," he says. "We do not even know what information to believe. A lot of rumours are going around," he says.
The Chinese celebrate their New Year on Saturday. Owing to this, most shops in Hunan are closed, tells Naveen. "Food is the key problem here. We don't have enough groceries stocked. We'll be in trouble once we're out of supplies. A few shops are open, but no one is brave enough to go to the market," he says.
We also got in touch with a few other Indian students in Wuhan, over the messaging platform WeChat. Pramod Kalambate, a researcher at Huazhong University of Science and Technology also shares a similar worry. "I've been sitting inside my house for the past few days, fearing the virus. It is scary to think that all this is happening right outside where we are. There is no public transport available," he says. Pramod too doesn't know for how long will he be able to survive. "Food is the major issue here. All restaurants, canteens and shops are closed. This is the New Year's time and all shop owners have gone home," he says.