Thursday, February 04, 2016

First Person: Surupa Chatterjee recalls the day, Saddam Hussain stormed Kuwait

The year was 1990. It had been a few months only since I began to live in Calcutta, as I stepped into my early months in College, pursuing a Bachelor's Degree. My parents had come down from Kuwait, which had been my home for a few years. They were scheduled to go back on 3rd August when a sudden storm hit our lives. In a totally unexpected and shocking turn of events our lives were turned upside down as just past midnight, Iraq invading Kuwait on 2nd August 1990.

All of a sudden, it meant a series of uncertainties.

The internet age had not quite set in then and we were left with routine means like Newspapers, Television and a few odd calls from friends, and friends of friends who were either stuck in either shore - India or Kuwait - as the case might be. Overnight my father became almost unemployed and a worry wart as all his funds was stuck in Kuwait. 

At that time, Kuwait was a prosperous oil rich state and the invasion by Saddam Hussein's young army of recruits, did create a huff around the world, when, they landed overnight with guns and other lethal warfare and threatening all citizens alike.

Indeed, I was fortunate that my parents, escaped by the skin of their teeth, the unpleasant situation of being stranded in Kuwait and not really knowing which way their fates would take them. We heard stories of our very close friends being paraded in open desert and looted at gun point. Some were kicked and slapped around while most prayed for the Indian High commission in coordination with Indian government to work a miracle and do a rescue mission.

There were a few worries among the Indian expatriate population for antagonizing the sentiments of the local Kuwaiti population as news coverage showed the then External Affairs Minister Shri.I.K.Gujral embracing Saddam Hussein as old friends. Thankfully, after many days of fear and tension most of our friends in Kuwait did manage to get Airlifted back to the safe shores of India albeit the shock and trauma of the sudden invasion.

My fathers’ office was blown to smithereens, oil wells set on fire, our residential building had bullet holes and our abandoned apartments were thoroughly looted and left in a messy rubble of rejected items.

Yes, things did look up after eleven months when my father was called back to duty and he rejoined a new office building but the fire that had set in the quietness of the small peaceful state never really got back the earlier air. Some things had changed. Yes my father did get UN compensation, yes he was lucky to have escaped direct confrontation with the then enemy, while his state was being occupied and it still left a deep impact in our lives.

Surupa Chatterjee was born In Digboi, Assam and lived in Duliajan, an oil township in northeast India. Her fathers’ work took their family to Bhubaneshwar and then Kuwait. Surupa grew up in Kuwait and schooled there as well.  She is presently based in Kolkata, where she works during daytime and makes delicious dinners for the evening meal. 

Also read: Events that Lead Up To The Film Airlift

MoEA GoI expresses strong reservation against Airlift story line HERE

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