It is Aman Sharma’s dark, emotionless eyes that grab your attention when you meet him.
For the now 22-year-old who spent over three-and-a-half years in captivity, during which he was repeatedly assaulted with guns and brandished with hot rods, saw his college classmate get shot in the chest and preserved his body for two years in a deep freezer, was made to live for months in a jungle, braved the sea when his vessel sank, the look in his eyes is almost disturbing.
“When the pain inflicted on you breaks your tolerance barriers, you become numb. You stop worrying. You may not be alive, yet you exist,” he said.
A native of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, Sharma was 19 when he left for his maiden sail on Malaysian cargo vessel MV Albedo, along with a 23-member crew from Dubai. The vessel was headed to Kenya, but within 45 days, a group of Somali pirates took over the vessel.
A ransom of $20 million (about Rs. 99 crore) was demanded.
“The pirates told the owner they would kill us all if their demands were not met. On June 25, 2011, they killed my college mate Raju Rajvar. They shot him thrice in the chest,” said Sharma.
“I spent over seven months living in a jungle, more than 10 months in a town and the remaining time on another ship.
They would brutally assault me with guns and leather belts, would keep my hands and legs tied and brandish me with hot rods. The pain was unbearable. But my parents, who I had spoken to 14 to 15 times in those years, kept giving me hope,” he said.
Suddenly on May 5, Sharma and 10 others saw freedom. His captors released him into the custody of Kenyan authorities. He says this could have been after the intervention by the UN. He says he does not know whether or not a ransom had been paid.