Kalyan resident Akshay Gajare, who was rescued from Kathmandu by the IAF on Saturday, says he considers his 64th birthday which he celebrated yesterday a rebirth
When he and his wife felt the first tremor and ran down from their hotel in Kathmandu on April 25, Kalyan resident Akshay Gajare was not sure whether he would live to celebrate his 64th birthday yesterday. "I consider this birthday to be my rebirth," he told mid-day.
Akshay Gajare and his wife, Bharti, during his birthday celebrations yesterday
Recalling what they went through, Gajare said he and his wife, Bharti, had left for their first trip to Nepal on April 18. When the first tremor hit Kathmandu on Saturday morning, they were packing their bags to leave for the airport to take a flight back to India. The couple immediately rushed out of the hotel and stood on the road.
"As soon as the ripple effect from the first tremor seemed to abate, we got our bags and dumped it in the bus that was supposed to take us to the airport. But the situation continued to remain scary, as we could feel tremors every few minutes. The tourists staying in the hotel decided that we should move to a safer place as there were buildings all around us," said Gajare.
"We heard that there was an open ground nearby and my wife and I headed there. To avoid taking any risk, we stayed there, with many others, for five hours. We finally left for the airport around 5 pm. Covering the five-km distance took us more than an hour and we got there only to find the main gate shut," he added.
The couple then joined hundreds of people outside the airport, who were waiting for the gates to open so that they could fly back to their countries. "My only source of information was my son, who kept giving me updates. The signal was very weak, however, and I had trouble getting the messages.
It was only around 8.30 pm that we got to enter the airport, and then we began struggling to find out how we could fly back home." The Indian Air Force came to the Gajares’ rescue. "We were among the 110-odd people who were able to fly back in an IAF Hercules aircraft around 11.30 pm, and we reached Delhi around 12.30 am on Sunday. That was when we heaved a sigh of relief," said Bharti.
Gajare said, "Since we had gone to Nepal through a travel company, it arranged our return flight to Mumbai. We took off from Mumbai around 8.15 am." "I thank God and consider myself lucky that I was able to live to see my 64th birthday today. Given the devastation we saw and the hardships we faced, I wasn’t sure whether we would reach home safe."