Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Gulf War: Part III – ‘Destination - India’

The war seemed to teach mom some lessons too. Though a nurse, she seemed quite adept at the theory of utility and exhibited excellent utility-maximizing behavior under the given economic constraints. When we ran out of vegetables, we saw the watermelon rinds (which usually belonged to the dust bin) become part of the curry for lunch and Chick peas (Channa) become pickles.

However, food was never scarce. In fact, those were days when my parents fed even strangers. We had regular visitors. Some came with supplies. Some bare handed. But mom ensured that every one returned with a full stomach.

I remember visiting my school once those days. My school was a two minutes walk from our building. It was closed. Now, that was a dream come true. Empty classrooms. Huge blackboards all to myself. Dusters and colour chalks. I was obsessed with chalks and writing on blackboards. In fact my birthday gift that year was a blackboard and a set of colour chalks. I even thought I might end up being a teacher for my love for chalks.

The play ground was empty. Our building’s watchman Ayappan Uncle, as we called him held my hand and took me around. I kept grabbing broken pieces of chalks. Once home, I felt like I had just been back from the Monte Cristo Gold mine, clutching those coloured chalk pieces to my chest.

In the meanwhile, Dad and friends were planning on how to return to India. There were stories of people leaving in buses and cars. There were stories of accidents and deaths. And there were stories of buses being checked at the borders and sent back to Kuwait, only to return to empty houses and declining food supply. Hence they chose to be on alert and hang on till we had clearance from the Indian embassy.

It must have been when all his hopes of escape died that one day he held us close and begged mom to get some poison from the hospital. To him chances were slim and killing us by his own hands seemed a better option than to be gunned down by the military or militants. I saw patriotism in his eyes when he said, “Even if we don’t make it, I’d be happy to die if my children are safe somewhere, anywhere in India”.

To me, that statement dint make sense as usual. After all Kuwait was my country. It was where I was born. It was where my school was. My friends were. Where I could drink Crush and Vimto. Eat Kitco. Watch Jhangar. And of course my blackboard and chalks were here. Unlike India – our vacation spot during summers. To me India was then, a land where mosquitoes dint stop buzzing and bunch of relatives who dint stop cribbing.

But now, I know!

Days kept passing. And then one day, dad came home smiling. He said we are leaving in 2 days. The bus had been arranged and all paper work cleared. Forty-nine of us (10 families and a few bachelors) were to leave Kuwait and head for India. The chosen day was 15th Sept, 1990. By then we had spend 45 days in war struck Kuwait.

Destination --> India.

Distance --> 1948 miles

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