LUCKNOW: Out on a global tour, little had Pollarez Patrice and his family from Toulouse city of France realised that they would be caught in difficult times of lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic and will have to take refuge in a tiny village of Maharajganj, a district in far eastern UP.
The family of five, comprising Pollarez, 40, a motor mechanic by profession, accompanied by wife Virginie Pollarez, daughters Ophelie and Lola Janniefer along with son Tom, had left their country embarking upon a world tour in their swanky four-wheeler at the end of 2019.
They entered India from Pakistan through Wagah Border on a tourist visa in February this year. Having visited many cities in India, as they were about to cross over to Nepal, they got stuck up at Lakshmipur village of Maharajganj adjoining Gorakhpur in eastern UP.
Staying in their vehicle parked next to a small temple near a forest area in the village, the family is holed up here since March 25 as Maharajganj border with Nepal was sealed due to the announcement of 21-day nationwide lockdown.
Initially, curiosity drew the villagers to this family of ‘foreigners’ and gradually the ‘instinct of hospitality’ ingrained in Indians transcended all the barriers of language and nationality making the residents of Lakshmipur village put their best foot forward in treating the guests with affection and humanness providing them all the best they could offer including food, tea, snacks, and other essentials. Of course, the norms of social distancing are intact and there for everyone to see.
“India is great and so are its people. Once strangers to us, now these innocent villagers have laid out the best they have to help us,” feels Pollarez Patrice, the head of the family. While locals try to communicate through gestures, some literate ones use broken languages.
He said once the lockdown is lifted, he wished to return to his country in his car, equipped with machines and tools used in repair work.
However, one of the villagers claimed that the French nationals had completely mingled with the local populace. “They are no more strangers to us. They are
our guests and they have learned a lot of Hindi language words like namste and dhanyawaad,” he said.
The family gets up early in the morning and share the morning tea and snacks with villagers. Sometimes they click selfies with the villagers or even dance to the tunes on mobile phones.
Meanwhile, Maharajganj district administration is also alert over their presence. “Team of health care workers including doctors was sent to examine the French family and all five of them were found to be healthy,” said DM Ujjawal Kumar.
Even the police are ensuring their security in the village. According to SDM Nautanwa Jasveer Singh, the family was being provided with all necessary items, including groceries, fruits and other eatables.
French embassy in Delhi was contacted and the tourist visa duration of the family was extended. They claimed that after serving the lockdown period, they had plans to visit Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand before returning to their country.