© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Kiwi Indians desperate to see loved ones

Pierre Nixon
49983904461 238d906d13 b
Covid-19 testing stations in India.   Gwydion M. Williams

India’s Covid-19 numbers have skyrocketed as the country has suffered three consecutive days of 400,000 new cases, according to John Hopkins University research.

With the situation in India getting worse as confirmed cases have reached over 21 million, according to John Hopkins University Researchmany Kiwi Indians are worried for their loved ones. 

One Indian living in New Zealand, Raja Shekh, said it was “heartbreaking” not being able to see his family throughout India's devastating Covid-19 second wave. 

15135735 623424767864204 4090792106608385551 n
Raja Shekh in 2016 Facebook

“I feel terrible about everything happening over there, I want to go back home but I am hearing my family say the border will be closed until 2023.”

In 2015, Shekh flew over from India to New Zealand in a search for work and has lived in Aotearoa without his family ever since. 

Shekh, who works as a builder in Auckland, told Metronews two of his best friends died following the deadly second wave of Covid-19.

Not being able to see his family has been “tough” to deal with the deaths of his close friends. 

“I call my mum every single day, I make sure that my family are staying inside, I get scared if they go out,” Shekh said. 

The Shekh family is from Nainital, a Himalayan resort town, known for its lake district and tourism. Shekh said his hometown was now a “ghost town.”

“My home was a major tourism hotspot, all my friends and family are suffering, they all can’t work.”

Nainital April 2011
Nainital, a Himalayan resort town in the Kumaon region of India’s Uttarakhand state. Times of India travel

Shekh, who lives in a central Auckland all Indian flat, said his flatmate's father recently died due to India’s ongoing Covid-19 problem. 

“He wouldn’t stop crying, all day, all night, I’m glad he had us to look after him,” Shekh said. 

Shekh and his flatmates are not alone, as Indian New Zealanders are the fastest-growing Kiwi ethnic group. 

According to the 2018 New Zealand Census, 239,193 ethnic Indians were living in New Zealand, making up 4.7 percent of New Zealand's population. This was an increase of 134,610 people since 2006.

8008A754 05FF 426F 8123 B90B4D134595
Raja Shekh and his flatmates Raja's Instagram

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ’s Morning Report there would be no repatriation flights for New Zealanders in India.

With the situation in India so dire that school classrooms are being used as makeshift hospital beds, and with street-side cremations occurring, Kiwi Indians like Shekh are praying they will soon be able to see their families.