This year marks the 25th anniversary of the horrific events that began on 2 August, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Even after 25 years, the Iraqi invasion is still alive in the memories of those who lived through that petrifying experience. As for the younger generation, they would have surely heard about it from their relatives and others who experienced those traumatic seven months of occupation.
Mina Mendonca, who then was a 32-year-old mother, speaks about those dark days and months as a closed chapter in her life which she wishes had never been written. She remembers that the day prior to the invasion had also been the best day of her life — it was the day she gave birth to her second son, Alan Mendonca.
“The next day, 2 August 1990, took all of us by surprise; overnight Kuwait had become a territory of Iraq. I woke up expecting it to be just another summer day and had no clue that the day would mark my life forever,” says Mina.
She remembers a nurse advising her to flee. “I was terrified. I tried to call my husband, but the phone lines were dead. With all the commotion around, I was not even sure if my husband could make it to the hospital,” she says. Fear became the pervading emotion and all she could pray for was that her husband would reach alive and get her out of the hospital with the baby.
However, her husband was completely unaware of the invasion. To mark the birth of his second son, he had decided to distribute sweets to his colleagues and to do so he took a different route to work. “Whether it was sheer luck or God’s grace, it’s a mystery to me,” says Mina “as the route he would have normally taken to work was attacked and Indians travelling on that road were deported without any further questioning.”
Mina was luckily reunited with her husband and by 3 August, she was home. It was a hard period for everyone in the country. The amount of food offered, barely sufficed them and their child. Mina’s husband had to sneak out to get more supplies. No one knew how long this would last and everyone was in a state of shock. “One week before we were living a normal healthy life in Kuwait; then we suddenly found ourselves searching for basic necessitates — queuing under the hot sun, waiting for food,” says Mina.
The country was in chaos and crime became rampant. She adds, “With a child in hand, I felt frightened and helpless. Even the sacred christening ceremony was performed in secret by sneaking in from the back door.”
In October rumors were rife that Iraq would launch a biological/chemical attack against Kuwait, if Kuwait got military aid from the United States. Everyone was desperate to leave the country, as gas masks were being distributed at all public hospitals. It was at this time that Mina and her husband decided to leave the country.
“Thus began our tiresome, nerve wracking journey from Kuwait to Basra, Basra to Bagdad, Bagdad to Jordan and finally to Mumbai. We had to reside in tents in no man’s land and our meals came from the supplies provided by the government. During the journey, Alan was brought down by infection and I clearly remember a man telling me to get out of the bus because of the wailing child,” she painfully remembers.
They had to stand in a long queue to get a ticket to India and moreover their entire meager luggage was searched and any form of media available was confiscated. Mina found herself lucky to be in a group that had a doctor who helped Alan. Finally, on the 3 October, Mina, her husband and child left for India.
For Mina, the memories may have faded but the traumatic experiences of those dark days have left a deep impact on her life. Today, as Mina and her family continue to live their lives safely in Kuwait, always at the back of her head is the Hindi saying, ‘Kal kissne dekha?’ or ‘Who knows what tomorrow brings.’