April 27 bled into April 28, the fabric of time fraying at the edges. The airstrip, itself a testament to the isolation and desolation of the place, offered no navigational aid or fuel, and the darkness was so complete that the landing lights normally found on such airstrips were rendered useless. The IAF crew, however, found solace in the poetry of their electro-optical and infrared sensors, which whispered secrets of the runway's emptiness and the absence of hidden threats.
And in that darkness, they made a choice—guided by night vision goggles, they performed a daring tactical approach, slicing through the night like a blade. Once the aircraft touched the ground, its engines continued to hum, as if unwilling to abandon the comfort of movement. Eight IAF Garud Commandos, shadows themselves, emerged to protect the passengers and their luggage, ushering them into the metal belly of the aircraft.
With everyone secured inside, the aircraft prepared to leave the silent runway behind. Using the night vision goggles once more, it took off into the unforgiving black sky. The two-and-a-half-hour flight to Jeddah would be remembered as a moment of audacity and precision—a feat akin to the Kabul evacuations after the Taliban's rise in August 2021.
This mission, woven into the tapestry of the Indian Air Force's history, marked the beginning of 'Operation Kaveri.' The rescue of these stranded souls from Sudan was but one thread in a larger pattern, each individual finding their way back home, returning to the stories that awaited them.