Air India employees recall hair-raising Gulf War 'Airlift'
Rtd. Capt. D.P.S. Dhillon, Anurag Bhushan, Melwin D'Silva, and Capt. Arvind Kathpalia during the special screening of Airlift at Lamcy Plaza, Dubai on Friday. - Photo by Dhes Handumon
Dubai - Two Air India pilots, who were involved in the operations of those flights, were flown in from India for the screening of the Akshay Kumar starrer.
A special screening of Hindi movie Airlift in Dubai on Friday raised a toast to goodwill diplomacy, patriotic spirit, and heroism of the civilians at times of crisis.
The controversial hug of Saddam Hussein and the then foreign minister of India I.K. Gujral during the Gulf War may have had different interpretations then and now after the release of the movie that was based on the evacuation of the stranded Indians from Kuwait.
But the goodwill hug that cast a temporary shadow in the career of Gujral, who went on to become India's prime minister later, had kindled an unlikely spark of inspiration in a young Indian who is now heading the Indian mission in Dubai.
The Consul-General of India in Dubai and the Northern Emirates Anurag Bhushan on Friday recalled the incident which is still vivid in his memory and influenced him to choose his career in diplomacy.
"I do not know what the factors are that pushed me into foreign service. But I am sure this was one of the incidents that helped me make a decision," said Bhushan who was graduating when the biggest evacuation by India took place in 1990.
He was speaking at the screening of Airlift organised by Air India, which won a Guinness World Record for the largest evacuation of civilians by a commercial airline for the Kuwait rescue operations it carried out.
Two Air India pilots, who were involved in the operations of those flights, were flown in from India for the screening. They received huge applause from the audience and were felicitated by Bhushan.
Rtd. Capt. D.P.S. Dhillon and Air India's current Executive Director of Operations Capt. Arvind Kathpalia, who were then a pilot and co-pilot respectively in flights that brought home the Indians, relived the memories while watching the movie that has also apparently weaved in imagination.
"While we were flying with minimum rest, our commercial staff had the most difficult time handling the huge number of people scrambling to get the first flight home," recollected Capt. Dhillon. He also remembered how disturbing the scenes of destruction were.
Capt. Kathpalia recalled the airline operating several flights a day from Delhi and Bombay to Amman. "The scale of operations was really big ... and it became the largest evacuation in terms of the number of people airlifted."
Regional Manager for Gulf, Middle East and Africa Melwin D'Silva said the airline operated for 59 days to bring 170,000 Indians in 488 flights. -firstname.lastname@example.org