SINGAPORE - On Tuesday (Nov 30), Mr Gold Poovan Devasagayam will finally see and feel the warm embrace of his mother, whom he last saw nearly two years ago before he left for France.
Little did the 43-year-old Singaporean know that when he left his mother, 74, at her home in Kuala Lumpur to fly to Paris to study French in February last year, Covid-19 would force them apart for 21 months.
His course in Paris was disrupted due to lockdowns and he returned to Singapore in March this year to continue his studies online. But he could not visit Malaysia as it had shut its borders to international travellers.
On Tuesday evening, however, the freelance marketing trainer will finally board a Scoot flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and is expected to have a warm homecoming a few hours later at his mother's place.
"She was very, very happy to hear that I am finally coming back," Mr Devasagayam told The Straits Times. "She said she will cook for me every day, I haven't had her food for so long."
He will also get to see his sister, nephews and nieces, whom he visited on a monthly basis before the pandemic.
Mr Devasagayam is among the thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans in the Republic who will finally reunite with their families because of the quarantine-free air and land vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) between the two countries, which open on Monday.
Pre-Covid-19, Singapore-Kuala Lumpur was the busiest international air route in the world, with about 40 flights daily and an average of 7,000 arrivals a day at Changi Airport.
Similarly, the Woodlands Causeway was reputed to be one of the world's busiest land border crossings before the pandemic. The Causeway and Tuas Second Link served about 415,000 travellers daily.
Mr Devasagayam, who is not married and is close to his mother, Madam Pathmavary Valunmailum, has missed important family events including the death of a close family member.
"That was tough. My mother was devastated and I was sad because I couldn't be with her to support her through it all, while managing (funeral) logistics remotely and dealing with my own challenges," he said.
Like a lot of people with families across the Causeway, Mr Devasagayam was constantly monitoring the Covid-19 situation in Malaysia, keeping tabs on the latest news and evolving protocols, and hoping for the borders to reopen soon.
When the Malaysian government finally allowed foreigners to enter - subject to written approval or having a specific long-term travel pass - Mr Devasagayam submitted an application on Oct 22 for a visit and it was approved about a week later.
Days after that, Singapore announced the air VTL between the two sides and he immediately booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Devasagayam said he will stay with his mother for more than a month.
"I've been counting down the days after getting the VTL flight. I am going to hug my mum tightly and cry when I see her."