How many of you have watched the Hindi movie ‘Airlift’ – starring Akshay Kumar? It was completely based on the Gulf War that happened in August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait on the 2nd day of that month. I was 7 years old and enjoying my summer holidays with my 5-year-old brother until one of our family friends had come to inform my mom of the disturbing turn of events. My dad was in India.
Yes, it was a terrifying sight when military trucks, tanks and BTRs were prowling all over the country in the days to follow. All small shops, hospitals and government offices were shut and some citizens were also shot at sight, by the invaders. We Indians were quite safe like that but couldn’t take a chance in such situations, and when hungry Iraqi soldiers swarmed our homes for food and water, it was even scarier. Our essentials were reducing and all of us wanted to get back to our own country; for me, it would be the first time.
I was one of the 170,000 Indians that the Indian Government evacuated from Kuwait. Little did I know that this would be known as the world’s largest civilian evacuation in history. I wanted to write about my experience around the Gulf war long ago but wondered how to put it into a way that helped others. I didn’t want to just write about the terrible times but also wanted to jot down what we learned from such a catastrophe.
The big supermarkets were open and we would meet soldiers on the way when we went to get our essentials. In a few days, we took all our food and required clothing and left to stay at a cousin’s place. A couple of weeks later, we loaded ourselves into a bus and headed for Bagdad, Iraq. We stayed in tents, at the border, for a few days until we were again loaded into another bus and taken to the border of Amman, Jordan. Some cold baths, tuna fish tins and tent experiences later; we were airlifted by Air India and taken to Bombay on 4th October 1990. Ours was just one of the 488 airplanes that Air India operated for the airlift between August and October 1990.
I met my grandmothers and grandfather for the first time. I realized I had plenty of cousins, aunts and uncles who I never knew existed. I met my dad after a year.
However, this event made us realize and learn a few things that I could think of and put in words only 30 years later, i.e. now, during a worldwide catastrophe (when my daughter is 7).
For us kids, it was like a reality check but for the adults, the journey was a fight against fear, obstacles and insecurity until we reached home. Unless one is in a bad situation, one would never understand the depth and emotion related to it. So, as humans, we can merely be a shoulder to cry on, a confidant to confess in or support to free the mind.
I hope you look at the current pandemic in a positive way and learn a thing or two from it. Stay home and stay safe. Most importantly, do not be afraid to take that step to free your mind during difficult times.
Check out another blog I found online on how the invasion changed lives.