THE DAY MUMBAI WENT UNDER WATER

Flooding is not new to Mumbai. Every year when the monsoon hits the shores of Mumbai there are at least a couple of days when things come to a standstill. All roads in the low lying areas like Gandhi Market, King Circle, Hind Mata are flooded and tracks are flooded so the trains either have completely stopped or are moving at snail’s pace. We the people of Mumbai (or Mumbaikars as we like to call ourselves) have learnt to take it (among other things) in our stride. If it’s raining very heavily The children will get a day or two off from school as a rainy day. Office goers will leave the office early so that they reach home safely. Or if they have an option they will work from home. That’s it! It’s life as usual!

That’s the reason maybe we were so unprepared for the day when almost the whole of Mumbai went under water. Here I tell you the story of what I faced during the Mumbai floods. I have tried to keep the mood a little light but that doesn’t mean I want to trivialise the devastating effects of the floods. I am just trying to show the disbelief that we had in accepting that it can happen to Mumbai.

It was the July of 2005, 26th July to be precise. The day started as usual. I and my husband both left for office. My mother in law and my 2-year-old son were at home. I was 7 months pregnant at that time. My friends used to tease me that I looked like a baby elephant because of my bloated looks and my funny walk. But I was working and continued to work till the end of the 9th month. I actually enjoyed all the pampering I used to get from my colleagues. Coming back to July 26th.

It was raining heavily and incessantly since morning. Nothing alarming about it. There was a warning of High Tide also. Till lunch time it was work as usual after that we started hearing murmurs of flooding. We still thought that our areas never get flooded. It’s a problem for only the people who stay in low lying areas. But suddenly by 3 pm, it was announced that the office buses are leaving. We were glad for an early day off and went in the sat in the buses. It was only when the bus left the campus and reached the highway that we realised something was seriously wrong. The road was like a flowing river. At one point under the flyover, our bus was caught in swirling waters. Water on the road was so high that it was covering almost all of its tyres. The bus swayed as it moved through the water. After a lot of struggle on part of the engine and the driver, we finally came out of it and on to the next flyover. But the poor government bus engine had only this much life in it and it conked off. Still, no issues the highway ahead of us didn’t have much waterlogging. And we thought we had left the worse behind thinking that we will keep walking towards Navi Mumbai and we will take the lift from the vehicles coming and reach home.

All the vehicles coming from Mumbai were completely full people were hanging from the doors and sitting on the roof. With no chance of getting any lift we kept walking, a group of 10-12 people we walked around 10 km on the highway that day. Yes me too with my big belly! The distance which looked so short when travelling by car felt endless to us. No mobile network too. Once when I got network on my mobile there were more than 30 missed calls from my husband. He was so worried about me. I could relay to him that I was safe but still far from home.

When we left the highway and turned into Navi Mumbai I stared at the road ahead of us in complete disbelief. Our myth that this part of the city never got flooded was shattered. The road was completely submerged.  Only the top of the divider was visible. We all formed human chains and walked on the divider. One glimmer of hope came when we saw that buses were still leaving from Vashi depot. But one bus and there are hundreds of passengers scrambling to get on it. At this point of time, I can only praise the ladies accompanying me. They shouted on the top of their voice that there is a pregnant woman (me!) with us and made through the throng of people. They managed to get me a seat also on the bus.

As the bus moved through the bylanes of Vashi we saw to our horror half-submerged cars they seemed like floating on water. The bus was actually creating waves in the road and tearing through the water. On reaching my lane I was alone walking in the middle of the road as the water was least there. At the end of the lane was a stormwater drain. The water flow was so high that I felt that if I slip and fall I will be dragged into the drain. I called out to the watchman of our building to come out and help me cross the road. He held my hand and we waded through the water and I finally entered my building.  

It was midnight by the time I reached home. I was dead tired and my two year old had cried himself to sleep before I reached. But I must say I was much better off.

My husband waded through waist-deep water for 2-3 km. And reached home only the next day. Some places were so badly flooded that the whole houses were submerged. There was a colleague whose house was filled with water till the ceiling fan. The clothes, electronics, furniture etc were all rendered completely useless as the water was very dirty and filthy. Another friend of mine told us how they walked on the roof of parked cars to directly enter the upper floors of their house. People told stories of how water started bubbling up from the drains in the bathroom and flooding the house.

At least we lived to tell our tales. The official death toll of that day is 1094. Some people got sucked into the stormwater drains. Some died trapped in their car. This is a particularly sad story. When the water level started rising on the roads many people thought that they were safer in the car. But when the water rose further the central locking system got submerged into the water and stopped working, they got locked inside the car. And then the pressure of water was so high outside that they couldn’t open the doors manually too and were trapped inside and lost their life. This shows how unprepared we Mumbaikars were, how we took it lightly at first. They must have thought that they will wait it out in the car for waters to recede. Never thought that it was a life-threatening situation.

Of course, there are many other stories of how Mumbaikars helped each other. And how the famous resilient spirit of Mumbaikars helped the city limp back to normalcy.

But what we saw that night was unbelievable. The whole city was submerged in water. And the first reaction of everyone was disbelief. How can it happen to our Mumbai? But it did and you know why? First and foremost is the combination of incessant rains and high tide. And secondly, the British era drainage systems which are taking a load of a city growing uncontrollably and destruction of mangroves that used to work as a barrier to stop water from coming in. The sea reversed the flow of the very same drains that threw sewage into the sea and brought the water on to our roads and inside our houses. It was natures warning to us.

THE RAIN THAT WASHED AWAY MY HEAVEN…

It was the month of October 2018, under the scorching heat, I arrived at the Railway station which was again half an hour away from our home. There was unusual tensions in my mind and unanswerable questions that I kept mumbling in my head. As I approached my home, my anxiety was on high alert… My home sweet home, where my heart resides. It had lost its glory.

The faded walls, the markings of the water, which hinted me the level of water, the stained doors and the lost furniture, it all just took me a few months back, when there was a natural disaster. The unending rains, that flooded our beautiful village.

It was a rainy month, every day it rained, unstoppable was the water level that was rising in the dam. Every now and then, our eyes were hooked on the television, which was flooding with the news on the disaster happening in our own Kerala. All I could see,  on TV was the flooding rivers, the demolishing homes, the landslides and much more. It was indeed causing too much pain. I wondered then, what was happening in my native. Being away from my hometown, these never physically cause damage to me, but mentally I was disturbed.

It was torrential rain, and in my Facebook group of our native place, was flooding with queries from Pravasi (NRIs) from everywhere asking about how is the condition in my place. My WhatsApp was again continuously in use, as my cousins and friends who were stuck at homes, began to message that the water level was rising. The panic was just heightening, hence I couldn’t concentrate on anything in my home.

I began to coordinate with few friends away from our place, off for jobs and all I did was just be a part of that group, wholeheartedly. We began sending location details, and even details of families stuck. I was contacted by many people from my native, who were total strangers to me, yet, we all had one mission – that was to help our people be safe. Day and night we were just worried and still praying.

My grandmom who was 96, my other relatives including kids were stuck on the second floor of their homes for almost two and a half days. We kept on coordinating and still waiting for a positive message to receive from people. The same was going on for two more days until we received messages from the control room, they had done their best and many were saved.

Lost was lost forever, the shelter homes were filled, with people irrespective of caste, creed, colour, religion and even financial status. Everyone stood up together, under these rescue homes and slept together and ate together, still, there was a smile, for their life was saved.

We were all strangers till then, but after this, we all became like a family. Even after the rescue operations were done, there was a huge demand for food and other basic amenities like diapers, sanitary pads, medicines etc. , which was again a gruesome work to be done. My FB and other social media pages were just filled with requests and shares on major requests.

Even though I was not physically present in the situation, my heart and soul were here. To some, this might seem quite less, it is indeed not much. But in such a situation, even a positive response from somewhere is also like a light in the darkness.

It was what I did.

And Pray for everyone.

Even though the loss, is never regained, as we all are still reviving from that disaster. Even after months, I am still looking at the reminiscence of the great flood, which was again a day marked in History.

THOSE TWO FRIDAYS

One was the 29th October 1999 and another was after 20years, the 3rd May 2019. Before day govt. noticed all institutions and workplaces to shutdown till further notice. Someway the workaholic life got vacation, families planned for good meal and enjoy the time together. As usual the sun rises on the east, the sky was more cloudy than normal days and the cool breeze giving the warmth of the feeling of romantic poet. A kid wakes up lately giggling such a cool and windy weather outside and holiday. The early morning day light falls through the glass window and cool breeze flows from the balcony, the young newly married couple gleams at each other, pulls the bedsheet and snuggles back to sleep. A mother wakes up quietly, covers her kid and husband making them sleep comfortable and takes her morning cup while enjoying the weather she prepares her menu chart for the day. Oh, what a package blissful moment of togetherness at once! What more a busy workaholic routine life wishes for days & years together?

Yes, mostly that’s how both of those Fridays we started but as the darkness get darkened, the fear of death engulfed gradually, we heard people screaming for help, doors and windows battering to fall down and the rain was pissing down. Huge trees uprooting and shattering down like a pile of cards, no electricity and was darkness all around, it was just one candle struggling to burn and lighten the whole house, drainage pipes are blocked, food on the dinning congealed, unidentified objects are flying all over and crashing down at our doorpost, moreover the ghastly sound of the windspeed at 260 km/h & 180 km/h was roaring like a death angel visiting every home. All that we as a family was left to do is to lock ourself from inside and praying God to save us. Thank God, He saved us, the night crossed and lo, it was another morning but life wasn’t the same at all. There was heavy waterlog, most of the riverside slums looked like a pile of wasteland, roads are blocked with broken age-old trees, electric wires and uprooted electric poles, broken hoarding flown from different ends of the city, dead body of animals and humans all around, poisonous reptiles swimming in the drain water and shifting of people to highland in boats. A couple of days back, while I was returning from school there was heavy traffic on the same road but now people are sailing boats, ODRAF, NDRF & CRPF sailing motor boats to rescue us. I questioned myself, is this my hometown? A night-mare for all of us in the Coastal part of Odisha.

29th October 1999, the strongest ever recorded tropical cyclone “The Super Cyclone” from North Indian Ocean landfalls on Paradip coast (83.2 km from my hometown) elevated the sea-level more than 20 feet, sea waves wiped away more than 100 of blocks giving water grave to uncountable people. The govt. calculation says, nearly 10,000 people died in the Super Cyclone and the private surveys estimates more than that. Then I was studying Class – VI, after a decade when I started my professional carrier, I was assigned for the Child development work in exactly those blocks/areas. As I went there, I personally meet the local people and had spent many nights with them. They always shared their stories – Father shifted the wife and children to the school roof top and when he tried to climb suddenly the wave rubble him into the depths and in a fraction of second, he went invisible from earth. After weeks as the water went down some kids found their parents rotten dead bodies being eaten by vultures. I pray, no one should ever experience such cataclysmic moments in their life.

Just two decades later, on 3rd May 2019, at 8:30 A.M the strongest summer time tropical cyclone in last 45 years “Fani” from North Indian Ocean landfalls on Puri coast (81.6 km from my hometown) elevated the sea-level to 6.8 meter, the sea waves sand painted numerous hotels of the Puri city. Though the Odisha govt. did historical human evacuation operation, evacuating more than 1 million people to safe places within 24 hour prior to the storm landfall yet it adversely affected 1,65,00,000 people in 159 blocks of 14 districts, the death rate rises to 64, more than 100 human causalities and 34 lakh livestock casualties according to the govt. of Odisha report. Away from home, the whole day I was in touch with my parents and couple of my friends enquiring about them. By God’s grace all were fine though they had to live without electric, network and scarcity of water for a week and yet in some places especially Bhubaneswar and Puri is almost in the same condition. During that time, I received a huge number of pictures and videos of Fani devastation but one picture that really broke my heart – A marginalised young man is holding his small daughter in his arm and holding his wife’s hand in the other hand and the wife holding the son’s hand and all three of them are running out of their house. At the same moment, the wind blows up their asbestos roof cracking the wall of the house. How heart-wrenching moment it must be!

Whether it is Fani/Phailin/Hud-Hud/Aila/the monstrous of all – the Super Cyclone or any sort of natural calamity it may be, in the darkness of these catastrophes one profound revelation is “The Earth is cursed & Our Life consists between the thin-line of a passing wind!

Long Bible story short, a rich man having more than of everything in his life thought, I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now, chill! Eat, drink and be merry”. But God said, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?”

Who knows what will happen to our world tomorrow? Life is unpredictable but death is certain and after death there is a life, hence where is our concern of venturing of investments – a mere transitory life on earth or the eternal existence of soul we hold within?  

AS IF, IT WAS YESTERDAY!

August 2007

Almost every year Bihar gets affected by the flood. The reason is when Nepal receives heavy rainfall, the water flows into Koshi and Bagmati rivers. The water level rises which may break the Koshi dam and Koshi embankment barrage, resulting in severe damage to Bihar and Nepal. Therefore, the gates of the Koshi dam are opened and water enters North Bihar.

I remember it was raining for days. The power was cut down in villages and so we couldn’t watch the news on TV. Radio was the only option. Many parts of Bihar were under high alert. Our was Madhubani district and luckily, it was not as much affected as neighbouring districts. We were in school, an announcement was made the dam in our city (Jhanjharpur) is on the verge of breaking. This would lead to a severe flood in Jhanjharpur.

In no time, we students sat in our respective school buses and those who had their own means of transport went straight home. It took 2 hours to reach home and when we reached, we heard the dam broke! It was raining cats and dogs and water started to flow in the villages of Jhanjharpur. That night, we couldn’t sleep as we were praying for the rain to stop but it didn’t. It rained and rained.

In the morning, we saw, the low farmlands in our villages were submerged. We couldn’t see a sign of our crops and people were crying. The water level was rising and water started to flow on roads and the thatched houses fell down.

Luckily, the water didn’t enter our house but the way it rained we feared water might enter our house. However, there was water in the compound of our house. We heard on the radio several people were forced out of their homes. Farmers lost their families, crops, cattle, and houses.

This flood is considered to be the worst ever flood in Bihar and caused thousands of death. 2008 flood is also considered to be the worst, as it flooded the areas remaining untouched by flood for years. The Koshi river picked up a different channel and this resulted in the flood.

25th April 2015

It was a cloudy day. In fact, for Bihar’s climate (during April last) it was a pleasant day. I remember it was our last viva exam of 1st year B.tech.

We gathered around the viva room and were memorizing topics. All of us were busy in memorizing as much as we could till our turn comes. The place where we were standing was more like pavement having an asbestos roof.

Suddenly, I heard a loud cry and within a blink of an eye it turned out to be so much chaos. “Run, it’s an earthquake!” Everyone was running here and there. I was pushed by my classmates, I fell down and got my knee skinned badly. Somehow, I managed to hold one of my friend’s hand and make my way towards the open area. I stood in the lawn and then what I felt was horrible. I could feel the land beneath my feet was in motion.  A very fast motion! It felt as if there was a wave under my feet.

The height of the wall of the lawn was merely 2ft and we could see it was shaking badly. It felt as if in no time the wall will fall. I must say, the tremors were quite strong and the trees in front of the lawn were shaking. The electric wires fell and there were cracks in the walls.  

This was Darbhanga, a district in North Bihar. North Bihar is very close to Nepal. On that day, a severe earthquake of 7.8 magnitude hit Nepal and many parts of North Bihar were affected by the earthquake. In fact, Bangladesh and some parts of China were also on the list. However, Nepal had heart-drenching damage. Thousands of people went missing and so many went homeless.

I called my parents because the place where I belong to (Madhubani) is closer to Nepal as compared to Darbhanga. After 3 hours, I could connect to my parents, he said it was really scary and the whole house was shaking. One of the walls in our house had cracks. My brother was in school and so my parents were very worried.

That night, we couldn’t sleep. As the area was on high alert and rain didn’t stop. Somehow we managed to sleep for a few hours. The next day was followed by aftershocks of 6.7magnitude. It was for a week but the memory still remains fresh. In fact, on 12th May another aftershock of 7.5 hits.

Those who saw the pictures of Nepal were either in grief or in shock. It took months to restore things but the mental damage remained in everybody’s mind.

Till now, when I think about the earthquake and the floods I have witnessed, I get goosebumps. I know we can’t stop natural calamities but we can take some preventive measures. This way we can save the lives of humans and innocent animals. But still, I have faith in God and I believe he is the one who will protect us from every disaster.

ENGULFED IN DARKNESS – FANI AFTERMATH

Cyclone Fani is one of the rarest of rare summer cyclones to hit Odisha in 43 years. The devastation is unfathomable and unprecedented”, tweeted Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, a day after the cyclone ripped through the Odisha coast. The powerful cyclone may be gone but its impact hangs heavy. Cyclone Fani has wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in Odisha. It has left in its wake a trail of destruction in Odisha. 

Speaking from my personal experience, the aftermath of Cyclone Fani was unbearable and terrifying!  Shattered windowpanes, sturdy trees lying flat on the roads, and downed power lines are the prominent markers of Cyclone Fani. I don’t mind stating the fact that, Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack are now bald without tree cover that they once boasted of!

The heat and humidity are more palpable than before. There is no power, to add to the woes, so the city after dusk is both dark and uncomfortable. As Odisha struggles to rise to its feet, I witnessed that water and power scarcity levelled the rich-poor divide. After six consecutive nights without electricity and tortured by mosquitoes, people were reeling in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani.

Although I’m born in summer, I cannot tolerate heat. I get those small red bumps all over my body. From morning to evening, it wasn’t that painful. I listened to FM Radio throughout the day. They gave useful cyclone updates and in between played Bollywood songs. Apart from this I played card games – UNO and Bold and Chinese Checkers with my sister and aunt and sometimes alone, when no one came to my rescue!  

But at night, right after dinner, the moment I entered my room, it was terrible! My bed is right in front of the A.C. but it wouldn’t work without electricity. Mosquitoes were incessantly kissing me, adding to my woes at night! I couldn’t sleep at night. The moment I rested in bed, I was drenched in sweat. Last month, I had purchased two hand fans made out of bamboo. Those were the only saving grace at night. My mother used to fan me for nearly 3 or 4 hours so that I could sleep, but I couldn’t. I mostly slept after 4:30am and woke up at 7:30 am. It was a nightmare! I missed hopping into kitchen and preparing something delicious and getting applauded! My mother and sister handled the kitchen, so the foodie in me had to eat whatever was served, without a grumble!

Amidst all these, there was another thought at the back of my mind! It is my Birthday month, and I was apprehensive regarding the electricity being restored! Not to have a grand celebration, but to be under comfortable circumstances on my birthday was my wish! Because we were already in the grip of a cruel summer, and the lack of power had worsened the situation. But by God’s grace, electricity in my area was restored on the evening of 8th May. I was really very happy that day and we all slept peacefully that night!

I am reminded of a passage in the Bible, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” It is only the grace of Almighty Lord, that we have survived the devastating cyclone.

Putting everything back on track is the hardest thing after any natural calamity, and the recent cyclone in Odisha has been no different. Nearly eleven days after cyclone Fani battered Odisha, normal life in interior coastal towns of the state is still crippled with no electricity during most hours of the day, little water and barely any connectivity.  While the connectivity of towns with the national highways and state highways has been partially restored, the roads in Puri and Bhubaneswar are still littered with the rubble of toppled trees and razed electric poles. The unattended debris is causing inconvenience to the people in their day-to-day commute. The price of basic commodities is soaring sky high throughout the state.

I pray, our state gets timely help and normalcy is restored soon. My sincere respect to the state government for boldly administering the evacuation and restoration process. Kudos to the helping hands who are leaving no stone unturned in the restoration process even in this scorching heat!

CYCLONE – FANI

from a place
of depression
her fury grew
colliding with the cold sea

a battle she was destined
to win ~

the conflict intensified
and she threw
a fit of rage
with her naked hands
unleashing her wrath
in a swirling mass
from her skin ~

she made landfall
on every flower
and dreams
stripping them
from their colours
into grey ~

hours and hours
of her rage
shattered their skies

the sun hung high
looking for a course

and they swaddled
themselves in the dust
she left behind ~

their weary heads wake
amidst the aftermath
of the grey skies
they held on to

eyes drowning
the ones
that were lost

as they install
new fences
knowing that
it’s just a matter
of time
for her to be back
in another name
but same form

they just wished
to have perished
in her embrace
than to build
a life again
from the leftover
dust ~

Cyclone FANI #REDALERT #CycloneFani Live Satellite View

A TALE OF TWO CYCLONES

29th October 1999

The strongest recorded tropical cyclone in the North Indian Ocean struck Odisha – a state in the eastern part of India. It was a Category 5 tropical cyclone – extremely dangerous causing widespread destruction. Later designated as BOB 06 by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and as 05B by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC), it continues to be referred to as ‘the supercyclone’ to this day.

I was in Grade 9 that time. Incessant rains started from the morning of 28th October. A cyclone alert had been sounded over various forms of media and so people hurried to finish errands and pending works so that they could quickly shut themselves indoors. By 29th morning, the wind had gathered considerable speed. I could see the rains blowing in sheets, before the windows were shut to prevent the rainwater from entering into the house.

The winds kept on getting fiercer with every passing hour. Needless to mention, electricity connections had been snapped off since morning. The noon sky resembled the sky at dusk. Curious to know what was happening outside, I tried to find some crevices or cracks somewhere in the house to peek through. I found one near the kitchen window. We were in the second floor and that gave quite a bit of a view. By then, the rain and wind speed were intense. There weren’t any big and strong trees near the place where we were staying. Whatever trees were there, had fallen flat to the ground by afternoon.

As evening approached, the wind gained a maddening speed and we were told that the wind speed would be maximum around midnight. Suddenly my mother saw water entering our house through the open grills. One wall of the visitors’ room had open grills with no covering. On other days, it gave a good view and let cool breeze into the house. But that day, there was no way to cover the huge area that could counter the wind speed. We left it as such even as rainwater continued to enter through that space and seep into the adjoining rooms.

My sister was quite small and my mother and sister sat cuddled in one corner of the bed – crying and praying alternatively. My father and I were the bravehearts – looking for weak window latches which needed to be fastened with ropes or plugging in some holes where there was a chance for water to trickle in. In the silence of the evening, all that one could hear was flying off of some asbestos roofs, crashing of walls or pillars or trees in the distance and the sound of the wind!

Just then, we heard a continuous banging sound. It was almost 9 in the night and all of us in the family were huddled in a room. My father and I stepped out of the room to find out what the noise was – only to discover that our main door’s latch had broken by the wind pressure and the door was flying open and banging shut constantly. It had to be fixed because the wind was still gaining speed. Nothing that we did could help keep the door shut. Eventually, we left it as it was.

11 PM – 2 AM was the time when the wind gained the maximum momentum. The uncanny whistling sound of the wind was terrifying, so much so that none expected to see the next day. Rains continued the next day but, the wind speed had reduced. No one dared step out of the house. From the windows, we could see the road branches, straws from thatched houses somewhere, mangled wires all strewn along the road. Few flats adjacent to ours had their parapets broken.

Electricity was restored in my area after 15-20 days. Kerosene oil, candles, dry food stuffs were distributed by Government officials and NGOs. Water tankers plied across the city to provide water as water pipe connections were ruptured. It seemed as if we were living in the days of the early man. No communication possible with anyone, except one’s neighbours because the roads were obstructed with big fallen trees and mangled wires.

Radio broadcasting services were the first to be restored and so news started trickling in. With each announcement the death toll went up. Certain places along the pathway of the landfall were devastated beyond imagination – so much so that today even after 20 years a couple of places haven’t been able to return to the earlier stage. Relief poured in from all quarters. Everyone who went in to the places that were severely affected came back with tears in their eyes and deep heartache. The sight of dead bodies all over and the stench that greeted the nostrils from kilometres afar were unbearable.

Government reports sum up the death toll at 9,000-10,000 though some other reports put them at 15,000. If I go on writing about further details, I could write for a whole week. I can only say that it was a ghastly experience. Surviving wind speeds of 250-260 km/hr is God’s grace indeed!

3rd May 2019

Twenty years after the super cyclone, the cyclone Fani struck Odisha. It was being forecasted from a week. But, none expected it to be anything more than a deep depression, especially because it was scorching summertime. The repeated forecasts and news bulletins did alarm people and shopkeepers had a hard time managing customers who thronged all shops for hoarding essentials.

I was out for some routine work in the evening of 1st May and was amazed to see the serpentine queues in all the multipurpose stores and grocery shops, so much so that the roads were jammed. Honestly speaking, the sight amused me to an extent. Come 2nd May, the same scorching summer heat. No sign of an approaching cyclone. Meanwhile, the Government was carrying out massive evacuation drives in the area where the cyclone was expected to make its landfall. Fishermen were prohibited to venture anywhere near the sea. Trains and flights were cancelled as precautionary measures.

And then it came – whammmm – on the 3rd morning. It had started drizzling the previous night, but again no indication (except to meteorologists) of an impending cyclone. News started trickling in of the rampage that the cyclone was causing in Puri, the place where the cyclone had made its landfall. Photos and videos from Puri flurried across social media sites, and then silence. Communication to and from Puri was cut off, only to be restored several days later. As of today, Puri is still in darkness. Water supply has been restored to about 50 per cent. But, the city is in utter devastation.

Two hours after making its landfall, the cyclone left Puri for other places. My city was the third in line to be hit. I won’t go on to describe the details except for stating that it was a strong reminder of the super cyclone of twenty years before. By evening, things had calmed down. All that remained was silence in the darkness.

The next morning was a sad one, especially the sight of big strong trees uprooted and lying flat on the roads, having smashed parts of buildings that were on their way. Electricity was restored on the sixth day in the area where I stay and work is still underway.

The intensity of devastation caused in Odisha has taken the state back to twenty years. Much of the developmental work of the state is now back to point one. However, the major difference between the super cyclone of 1999 and the cyclone Fani of 2019 (of the same wind speed) is the level of alertness and preparedness of the government which has learnt its lessons well. The death toll lies around 40 as of today. Considering the extent of devastation to land, property and buildings, without timely evacuation from potentially dangerous areas, thousands would have lost their lives. This has been recognized and applauded by the national and international media. Read the article – How do you save 1 million people from a cyclone? Ask a poor state in India to know for yourself.

Natural disasters are not preventable. Every part of the world is susceptible to some form of a natural disaster – be it cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, blizzards, avalanches, landslides, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis. However, with modern technology that helps predict and caution people beforehand, alertness and preparedness help save lives, if not property.

Today many people in Odisha have lost their houses, livelihoods and property. It would take a few years for those people to return to normal lives again. The scorching summer heat of over 40 degrees Celsius is adding to the misery for those still without electricity, leave alone air conditioning.

Conditions such as these bring us back to the roots of basics and create a level playing field for people of all classes without any discrimination. Read my poem by clicking it –Apoplectic Fani.

It has been a long article, but much has been left unsaid. The thing that kept echoing in my mind all through is the love of God for all people that is a constant even in the midst of challenging conditions. Only let us not measure His love in terms of the losses we suffer or the grim situations we face, because He promises to save our souls.