Monday, July 07, 2014

Relieved Nurses return from Iraq

By Shevlin Sebastian 
Photo by Melton Antony 

The arrivals lounge at the Cochin International Airport was awash with two emotions: relief and happiness this morning. As cries of 'Oommen Chandy, zindabad' rent the air, 45 nurses, in their twenties and thirties, pushed their baggage carts, which had flower bouquets placed on top, through a crowd which consisted of relieved relatives, publicity-hungry politicians, curious onlookers, harried khaki-clad policemen, and TV reporters, who made desperate lunges with their mikes, looking for the inevitable byte. Most ignored them.

But, once outside, the nurses spoke freely and with relief, big smiles on their faces, surrounded by their families, happy to be alive, to be free, to be out of the maelstrom which is taking place in Iraq now between the ISIS militants and the Iraqi soldiers. Quite a few thanked the Indian government as well as Chief Minister Ooomen Chandy. There were hugs and kisses, even as tears rolled down from moist eyes.

It had, indeed, been a close shave with death.

And it was a relief to hear, from their first-person accounts, that they had not been physically harmed. There are far too many videos online, which shows the militants being trigger-happy, and killing people as if it were just a toy soldier's game.

Meanwhile, for some, there was a celebration, of sorts. Today is Nila Jose's 24th birthday and her family had thoughtfully brought along a birthday gift – a cream cake with red cherries. It was placed on a table. Then Nila was given a small knife. She cut a piece and quickly pressed it into her father's mouth. Her mother, as well as other relatives stood nearby and smiled.

I am so glad to be back,” said Nila, who was clad in a green salwar kameez. “I must thank the Indian Ambassador [to Iraq] who was so helpful and caring.”

And now, life will go on. In the midst of all the din, one question was not asked: why are Malayali nurses going to these dangerous places for work? And for that, the politician has to take the lion's share of the blame. They have not provided an economy that creates sustainable jobs within the state. So young women have to go out, to earn money, for themselves and their families, and, sometimes, unnervingly, they have to put their lives on the line.

(The Sunday Standard, New Delhi)

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