Two of the three Delhi-based 1975 World Cup-winning hockey stars who got stranded in far off places when the Corona-19-enforced lockdown was imposed on March 25 are back home with a sign of big relief. Ashok Dhyanchand, who scored the World Cup-winning goal in the final against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur, and team goal-keeper Ashok Diwan are now at home while Aslam Sher Khan, another important member of that team, has preferred to spend some more with his son in England.
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Diwan had gone to Sacramento in California to meet his son on December 19. He was to return to Delhi on April 20, but could not because of the lockdown. He finally arrived in Delhi on May 15 and went into the mandatory quarantine at a hotel along with the other passengers who were in the flight from San Francisco. Then after the rules were eased midway through his quarantine period, Diwan reached home to be with his wife and daughter a few days ago.
“I am much relived on reaching home, finally, after five months. But only I know how I spent those 11 days in solitary confinement in a hotel room. It was really tough. I, like other quarantined foreign passengers, had to do everything inside that room. Although it was an air-conditioned room, the windows were sealed and you couldn’t open it. I missed fresh air. It was like a jail; that’s why I say I am now out of jail,” a relieved Diwan told Outlook.
“I was told about the timings of the delivery of food. The person who would bring food to my room would keep the tray on a table outside the room and I had to bring it inside. Besides, I had to do everything else, like washing clothes, cleaning bathroom, and even changing bedsheets etc, which they would keep outside the room and leave. No one was allowed to come inside the room nor was I permitted to go out, so I had to do everything,” he said, narrating his tale.
So, what did Diwan, the youngest member of the Indian team at the 1975 World Cup, spend his time? “I had nothing to do inside the room, except pace around the room and talk on phone. Most of time, I would talk with my family members and my former India teammates like MK Kaushik and my senior Harbinder Singh ‘Chimni’ etc. to kill time. Only I know what I went through in those 11 days,” he said.
While in the USA, Diwan had fallen ill, complaining of high levels of anxiety and high blood pressure. The Indian Embassy in the USA came to his help after the Indian sports ministry put in a word while India’s Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu spoke to him and assured all assistance. Now, Diwan is getting some tests done at his Delhi home.
Diwan’s return to his home has come at a cost. Although he had a return ticket booked from the USA, he had to buy a fresh ticket for the special flight arranged to bring the Indians following the lockdown. “This ticket cost me around Rs.1 lakh. Now, when things will settle down I will try and see if I can get the refund for the ticket I had booked while going to the USA in December. Also, I spent Rs.48,000 on the quarantine at the hotel. So, overall my entire trip to USA and back was a forgettable one,” he rued.
On the other hand, Ashok Dhyan Chand, son of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, had reached to his ancestral home in Jhansi a day before Holi, on March 9, to spend the occasion with his family members, with a plan to return to Delhi. But once the lockdown was announced, he got stuck and to spend an extended period in a city where his legendary father once lived. He finally drove down to Delhi a few days ago.
“It so happened that I have never lived in Jhansi for so long at a stretch in my entire life. Finally, my son drove down from Delhi and we drove back home,” Ashok Dhyanchand told Outlook.
And Aslam Sher Khan has preferred to stay back in London with his son. Khan and his wife had gone to meet their son, but when the lockdown happened they had to extend their stay. Some days ago he had told Outlook that he would prefer to return to Delhi after Covid-19-enforced lockdown is completely lifted, so as to they don’t have to go through the quarantine period.
If Khan were to take advice from Diwan, his former India teammate would probably advise him the same – to avoid quarantine -- given what he went through in solitary 11-day confinement at a Delhi hotel.