Gulf War – 20th Anniversary

2nd August – The date rings a distant bell in the minds of many who were in Kuwait during the year 1990. It was the day when many lives were altered, the start of a new era in the Gulf. This was the day when the historic Gulf War began, a war triggered by the annexation of the Kingdom of Kuwait to Iraq, as its 19th Province.

I remember that day very clearly. It was during my summer vacation. I woke up in the morning to find my Dad home, in front of the TV. I wondered why he was still there – usually, he left by around 6:30am every morning. And he says – “Kuwait has been invaded by Iraq.” To a 7 year old (i.e. the one and only me), those words meant nothing more than the disruption of the usual cartoons at 3pm in Channel 2 of Kuwait TV. Instead, the programmes were replaced by something being transmitted from Iraq.

Slowly, the gravity of the situation began to percolate into my mind. Dad had stopped going to work, Dad and Mom started storing up food in the freezer, and began to gather together stuff that could be sold in the black market. I also had cousins staying close-by, and if either families were to visit the other, they usually stayed the night if the visit went past a certain time in the night. We could hear gunshots sometimes, and sometimes a huge blast-like sound had us wondering if that was a bomb blast ( most of the time it was our imagination working overtime). We also began hearing news of a possible gas attack and had us all sealing up the window cracks with brown cellophane tapes.

Then, the elders started talking about fleeing Kuwait. Of course, there were no flights (or if at all there were any, it was next to impossible to get a seat on them). The only way to flee the country was via Iraq and that too by car. Thus started the exodus on 23rd August 1990 (I remember this date too as it was brother’s 2nd birthday). There were several families accompanying us – all relatives, distant and close ones. Clearly, we believed in the strength of numbers, and the more, the merrier. Our destination was Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, via Basra.

There were several checkposts on the way to Baghdad, where Iraqi soldiers stopped us, checked the vehicles and then let us through. Finally, we were in Baghdad. next came the search for a hotel and we found a beautiful hotel by the side of a river (atleast thats how I remember it). There was a white swing which attracted me to it and I was busy making plans to come and play on it everyday, when the elders decided that the hotel was not to their liking (I guess it was too expensive).

Then we came to another hotel. I think it was closer to the Indian Embassy and cheaper. So, it met the approval of everyone in the party (everyone that mattered, at any rate). I don’t remember how long we stayed there, but the one thing I recall with clarity is the distinctive scent of the Dining Hall and the breakfast they served there. Every morning, they had dry Nan, with honey and some other sauces to go with it.

We, the kids in the party ( i.e., me and my two cousins), spent the days playing, while the elders went around frantically trying to get the papers in order and flight tickets out of Iraq. And finally, we were there, in Baghdad airport, with flight tickets to Amman, Jordan. Once in Amman, we got flight tickets to Bombay (as Mumbai was called in those days). As soon as we reached Bombay, there were reporters standing by to take down the names of people returning from the Gulf, so that the names could be published in the local newspaper there.

Next stop, Bombay railway station. There we booked coupes for all the families and we were finally on our way home to Kerala. Thus ended our exodus from Kuwait.


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