Man from New Jersey stuck in COVID-ravaged India after traveling to care for sick father

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- A man from New Jersey who traveled to India to care for his sick father is now stuck there as a second wave of COVID-19 ravages the country.

The U.S. on Tuesday began restricting travel from India, with the White House citing the devastating rise in coronavirus cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants.

"What an irony, he's exempt from travel ban," said wife Neha Mahajan, of Scotch Plains. "The travel ban that has gone into effect today, he's exempt from that."

When Ashu Mahajan left the U.S. in mid-April to care for his 75-year-old father, who was hospitalized with COVID in New Delhi, it was just supposed to be short term trip. Sadly, by the time he arrived, his dad had been intubated and never regained consciousness.

Now, he doesn't know when he can get home.

"He cannot travel," Neha Mahajan said. "Why? Because the consulates are closed, and there are no in person appointments available."

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The 44-year-old architect has been working in the U.S. since 2008 on a H-1B work visa, which requires an in-person appointment at the U.S. Consulate in India before he can re-enter the country.

The pandemic was not as severe when he traveled, but because of the surging coronavirus crisis, India is now on lockdown -- and Ashu Mahajan is stuck.

"Frankly speaking, I knew I would have a tough time, but I didn't have any options," Ashu Mahajan said. "But I never anticipated it would completely close."

Ashu Mahajan has been trying to for the last two weeks to get an appointment, only to face roadblock after roadblock. As of Tuesday, the website says the next available appointment is February of 2022.

"They can approve us for visas, but we can only get visas when we land in India to get it stamped," Neha Mahajan said. "Why can't they do it virtually? Or why can't we do it here in the United States of America?"

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Eyewitness News reached out to the State Department, which says applicants should continue to monitor the website for U.S. Embassy in New Delhi for updates -- the same website that has been a dead end for the family.

"For me, I've already lost my dad, I'm here all alone," Ashu Mahajan said. "I'm scared for my kids, I'm scared for my wife. I want to be with them."

All the family can do now is hope for help.

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