Last morning, 100 students arrived in Chennai from Moscow, courtesy Sonu Sood. The actor, who has been helping several people reach their homes since the pandemic broke out, took the initiative and arranged for a chartered flight to bring these medical students — who were stranded in various Russian cities — back to their homeland. The youngsters are now in quarantine at different hotels in the city, and tell us they can’t put in words the sense of relief and happiness they feel on being back in their country.
Dr TR Sakthi Priyadarshini, a graduate from the Kursk State Medical University, says, “We were waiting for the Vande Bharat Mission flight. But unfortunately, it was scheduled for a date before our final exams and graduation in July. We thought we could return during the subsequent phases of the mission, but there weren’t any more flights from Russia to Chennai. We had our visas extended till September 15, but we wanted to get back to India before the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in August-end.”
Another student, Dr Periyannan Somasundaram, adds, “There was only one direct flight to Chennai, a 460-seater by a private operator. We didn’t take it because we weren’t sure of its authenticity. We were around 180-plus students who wanted to reach Chennai directly from Russia as flying through other cities could be risky.”
Periyannan says he then mailed several government officials, and also Sonu Sood after reading about him helping stranded Indian students in Kyrgyzstan. “None of them except Sonu sir replied,” he says, adding, “I sent him a mail on July 22 and I got his response the next morning. It took a few days to get the required permissions. Finally, by the time the flight was confirmed, there was only half the number of students. Yet, his team didn’t cancel the flight. He had a video call with us a few days before the departure and assured us that we would be brought back.”
Sakthi says, “We paid only for our tickets; the rest was taken care of by Sonu sir and his team.” Periyannan adds, “He even arranged hotel rooms to be quarantined at for cheaper rates. Also, on special request, one student was allowed to disembark in Delhi while the aircraft halted for refuelling.”