‘Enough... not going back’

After a tense wait, emotional reunion for families at Mumbai airport

Updated - November 28, 2021 07:39 am IST

Published - April 03, 2015 05:03 am IST - MUMBAI

Latha and Jaya, sisters from Kanyakumari, at the Mumbai airport.

Latha and Jaya, sisters from Kanyakumari, at the Mumbai airport.

“Everything is fine. We are in Africa. The plane will take off soon ... ,” 28-year-old nurse Latha Munappan’s voice crackled on the phone at 3 p.m. on Wednesday from Djibouti. On this side, hundreds of miles apart, in Mumbai, her sister Jayalakshmi and brother-in-law Moorthy Pillai heaved a sigh of relief hearing her voice and looked forward to a reunion.

However, the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster 2, scheduled to land at Mumbai a little after 8 p.m., with 190 Indians evacuated from strife-torn Yemen, got rescheduled — first to midnight and then into the early hours of Thursday.

The hold-up in take-off, due to some pending paper work, was enough to give Jaya and her family a few anxious hours at the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport.

“I think she is fine. She called me during the day. But I will believe it only when I see her myself,” she smiled briefly. Though her expression was stoic, her body language gave away her restlessness. What was keeping the plane so long, she wondered. Jaya did not speak much. Her gaze was beyond the security barriers, trying to perhaps catch a glimpse of her sister through the security glass.

A crew of mediapersons, railway officials and some politicians lined up at the exit of the terminal to welcome the stranded Indians. “It was from this city that she left for Yemen [City of Aden] four years ago [to work as a nurse/x-ray technician],” recalled Mr. Pillai, a driver at a professional firm in suburban Mumbai, who hails from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu.

The flight finally landed around 3.30 a.m. and camerapersons and security personnel swung into action. Initially, there was no sign of the evacuees but gradually they started trickling out.

Not a single photo-op was missed. However, there was no sign of Latha. Jaya’s anxiety was growing. And at last, a few minutes later she caught sight of Latha, visibly tired from the ordeal, but delighted to see her elder sister. She ran towards Latha and the sisters from Kanyakumari were finally united; after an emotional hug, Jaya planted a kiss on her sister’s cheek. “Every day was full of fear … bomb blasts, firing. I was very afraid. Enough. There is no way I’m going back there,” she said. She said the evacuation was smooth.


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