Dodging bullets and trudging through the shadows while teenage boys brandished arms, 40 former Army personnel from Uttarakhand and Darjeeling have made it back home from Kabul in Afghanistan after a week-long journey.
“A weapon is a weapon, we learnt in the Army. The smallest error can kill. We saw these huge guns in the hands of young boys, barely 15-16. They were firing in the air,” said Nitesh Kshetri, 47, who retired from the Indian Army as a havildar in 2011 and went to work in Afghanistan as a security personnel with the Danish Embassy the following year. “We hid behind a wall of cement bags outside the airport until they stop firing.”
This was on August 18, the day the group of ex-servicemen who worked at various embassies reached the airport after a four-day march.
They had started on August 15. “India was celebrating the day it got independence and we were worried if we would lose ours,” said Sachin Bisht, 39, from Dehradun. Bisht had retired from the Army in 2018 and was also working at the Italian Embassy since 2019. “It was the last time I ate well, had a bath. The week that followed was mayhem.” It was also the day Kabul fell to the Taliban.