It was almost past midnight on 23rd September 1990, when we boarded the flight to India. We landed at the Bombay International Airport (now Mumbai) at an odd time. And the first thing everyone did was rush to the nearest phone booth and call up relatives and confirm to them about one's existence! After all, we couldn’t blame them if they felt we would not make it. It had been almost 2 months, since they last heard from us.
The Government of India had made all arrangements to welcome the ‘long lost sons and daughters’ back into their soil. The arrival was crowded. There were Tamilians, Marathis, Punjabis, Sikhs, Gujaratis, Goans and there were Mullahs, Nuns, Priets and Poojaris. We felt we knew each one of them and they welcomed us as if they had been waiting for a life time to see us. My mom broke done seeing how people fought to feed us, help us and to take us home. For a moment, heart welled up too and I realised I was proud I was an Indian.
We went to a hotel. I remember watching the street lights and colourful bill boards decorating the streets of Bombay through the side window of our car (the side seat was something we always fought for furiously). We had a warm welcome at the hotel. We were served chicken biriyani at our rooms. But we chose not to touch it, as the cockroaches also seemed to devour the food. I was surprised that dad and mom dint complain.
There was a special train to take us to Kerala the same day afternoon. Or was it a few compartments reserved for us? I don’t remember exactly. What I do remember is every where we went; complete strangers welcomed us like friends. Their warmth and love made us feel wanted. At every station the train stopped, we had men offer us food packages, fruits and water through the windows. They seemed genuinely concerned about us and assured us that we were safe now. It was a unique experience, to know that people could actually love you and not the suitcases you bring along with you.
I don’t remember if it was me or my brother (I think I have forgotten quite a lot… I must be growing old!). We managed to deprive a girl of her spectacles, in the train. As we played, we banged her so hard by mistake, that her specs flew off through the window and fell on the tracks. Someone said we could pull the chain and stop the speeding train. But no one dared. Perhaps, losing one’s spectacles was not good enough a reason to stop a train.
Meanwhile, dad and mom celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary in the train on 25th Sept, 1990. The next day morning, we stepped down at the Palghat railway station, Kerala. It had been 11 days since we started from Abbasiya, Kuwait. Anxious relatives awaited us. Everyone hugged. Prayed. Smiled. Shed tears of joy. Then, joked about the entire thing. Only to hug and cry again. The process went on for a while.
As for Geethu…
Well, I felt good to be back in India. And to my surprise, for the first time ever, it felt I was home. The relatives dint seem to crib. And the buzzing of the mosquitoes was not so bad after all!
In a few days, everyone got over the fact that we had just survived a war.
Life went on...
Beautiful as ever.