airlift

Akshay Kumar: ‘Airlift’ is a real story of what India did for her people

It’s been over 25 years since 1,70,000 Indians in Kuwait were brought back home over 59 days in 488 flights post the Iraqi invasion.

The biggest evacuation in history recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records unfolds on screen in director Raja Krishna Menon’s ‘Airlift.’ In this Republic Day weekend release, Akshay Kumar plays Ranjit Katyal, a rich businessman of Indian origin in Kuwait. He says, “Airlift is a real story of what India did for her people.” He introduces us to two evacuees — Joanita Figredo and Moortuza Borsadi — who lived there and Michael Mascarenhas, the erstwhile Dubai-based regional director of Air India.


Joainita, then a 24-year- old nurse at a hospital just a road away from the Kuwait-Iraq border, recalls, “It was heart-breaking to see the Iraqi soldiers kill Kuwaiti patients.” It took her a week to get from Kuwait to Amman Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan to take the flight back to India. “There was acute shortage of food. We had to queue for four hours to get an egg,” she says.

Moortuza, then a 15-year-old boy, remembers an instance while he was playing cricket with his friends in the school compound. “When I went to pick the ball, one of the Iraqi soldiers pointed a gun at me. That scared the daylights out of me,” he narrates. He adds, “When we were on our way to Jordan, the only thought on our minds was to reach India safely.” Mascarenhas says, “The Guinness authorities asked us for passenger manifest and many documents. Maybe they wanted to retain the Berlin airlift, in which 48,000 people were flown out of the German capital over two years. That was like a tea party compared to our operation,” he says.

 

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