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Traveling with Caution

((TRT: 9:58))
((Banner: Traveling With Caution))
((Reporter/Camera: Deepak Dobhal))
((Map: Washington DC; Mumbai; Aurangabad))
((Main character: 1 male))
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
My name is Deepak
Dobhal. I am a reporter with this show Connect. You
may have seen some of my stories, but not me.
In Connect, reporter is always behind the camera,
but we are breaking this rule for this particular story.
Actually, I want to show
you what it’s like for someone in the US to travel

internationally during a pandemic. My mother lives in

India and she’s not well. So, in four days, I will be
traveling from Washington, D.C., to a city called
Aurangabad in India. This was not an easy decision.
Every time you step out of your house, your chances
of getting COVID increase and I have to travel 18
hours by plane and then eight hours of cab ride
plus time at
the airport. There are many things that I have to do
before I fly. So, let’s get going.
((BANNER: Wednesday))
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
The first thing that I want to do is to take COVID test.
((NATS: CVS Phone Message))
Thank you for calling CVS pharmacy.
To schedule a test, please visit
Appointments must be made online as we cannot
accept them over the phone at this time.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
We have an appointment for tomorrow.
((BANNER: Thursday))
((GPS Audio))
Your destination is on the right.
((CVS Pharmacist))
In the bag, you are going to see a test kit.
((CVS Pharmacist))
That one, yeah.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
This one? Should I open it?
Okay, let’s do it.
Okay. Thank you very much.
((CVS Pharmacist))
You’re welcome. Take care.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
((BANNER: Friday))
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
when I go to India, I spend time buying gifts for family
and friends.
But this time, the priorities were different. So, when a
colleague of mine offered me a mask, which is
considered much more safe than the one I had,
picking it up seemed better use of my time.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
Definitely, it feels much more safe.
I hope all these things work.
All this is not just for my own safety. It’s also to
protect people I will come in contact with, including
my mother.
((BANNER: Saturday))
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
I just got a text from CVS and my test results are
ready. It has been less than 48 hours, so not bad.
Let’s check.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
You have negative COVID-
19 test result. So, that’s good.
((BANNER: Sunday))
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
It’s Sunday morning. I have to leave within a few
hours and I’ve
just received an email from Indian government which
says that my application for exemption from institution
al quarantine has been rejected
and the reason is that no authentic RT-
PCR lab test report is attached. I did attach a report
which I got from CVS.
They are saying ‘no authentic report.’ So, I guess,
the CVS report I sent them, they didn’t find it
authentic. Maybe they don’t know what CVS is.
((Popup Banner: CVS is a large, US pharmacy
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
This is another layer of uncertainty when you’re going
from one country to another
and there’s no phone number given.
There’s nothing here where I can find what to do.
At this point, there’s nothing I can do. So, I’m going
ahead with my plans. I will try to convince Indian
authorities that I have a genuine test report and I
hope that they will let me go to my final destination.
But it’s all up in the air at this moment.
Also, it’s not just this one thing. It’s international
travel and during these
COVID times, there are so many things that can go
So, there is no point stressing. I have done my part
and we’ll see what happens.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
The airlines is giving me the option to change my first
domestic flight because they’re saying that it’s fairly
full. Although I don’t want to travel with too many
people, but I have a connecting flight, so I don’t think
that this option will work for me.
This is new. The Indian government now requires
passengers traveling from the US to give their contact
details. I think it’s for contact tracing purposes in
case of any COVID exposure.
I think United was right. Although the airport is mostly
empty, this plane seems full.
((United Airlines Announcement))
Masks are required to be worn for the entire duration
of the flight covering both mouth and nose entirely.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
The first leg of my journey
is over. It was very concerning to sit in a small
packed plane. Thankfully, it was a short flight.
I hope my second flight to Mumbai is not so full. It’s a
15-hour flight.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
Another form. All passengers have to fill Indian
government’s self-reporting form.
Without it, you can’t board the plane. It has questions
about pre-
existing medical conditons, symptoms related to
COVID, plus the form says that you agree to follow all
the procedures. Otherwise
legal actions can be taken against you.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
There are more people in the plane than I was
But, at least, the middle seat is empty for most of the
passengers and some people are really prepared.
Although most of the people in the plane were
following the rules and wearing their masks,
but when the time came to exit the airplane, the social
distancing went out of the window.
Now, the biggest thing is to convince Indian
authorities that my COVID test result
is authentic and I should be exempted from the seven
days mandatory quarantine before going to my
final destination.
After passing through immigration and
customs, this is where the officials are checking
COVID-related papers. Let’s see what happens.
Strangely, no one here asked me
about my COVID test results or mentioned that I have
to quarantine because my application for
exemption was rejected. Instead, I have been
handed this paper. It has
all my contact details and the
officials here have told me that I have to get it
stamped at the city office in Aurangabad, the
city I’m going to,
and then quarantine at home.
((NATS in Hindi / English translation))
((Aurangabad collector’s office))
I’m calling from Aurangabad collector office.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
From Aurangabad collector office, okay. What’s your
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
As I was leaving the airport, I got a call from the city
office where I was supposed to go and get the paper
stamped. Once I
explained to them that I have a valid negative test
the official asked me to just send the report to him
and he would contact me if there’s a need.
((Deepak Dobhal, Reporter, VOA Connect))
So far so good. Now it’s seven to eight hours journey
home. The long trip is almost over and now I can just
focus on my mother.