It is 3 years since the massive earthquake in the deep seas triggered a Tsunami that killed lacks of people on the shores of the Indian ocean. Please share the experiences, feelings that occupied your mind during the event.
When i hear about it frst i have very little knowledge about it as other have. Also i have heard about this kind of clamity in my past so was as immune of this as others. It was a like a another clamity on one of the part of country as always.
At most i thought of contributing through fund raise as i had done in past like in gujarat. But i got a chance to be a part of its relief work we collected and travelled from bangalore to a Nagapatinam, town which was worst hited.
I was amaze to see its impact and trauma what people go after such calmity. After this activty i started looking any disaster from a relief person point of view than just a fund raiser.
Today after three years i can say i am glad to be a partof this activty and would take any such activity in future.
"If something has to be done, it is you who should do it".
I was watching Swades when a message from one of my classmates flashed on a mobile phone next to me. "Pray for those who have died on the Indian shores today", it read. We were caught completely unprepared. A happy evening, watching one of the best-made films in recent times, turned into a dark gloomy night.
Walking back home from the theatre we were wondering if it was sufficient enough to pray. We had little information then. But the next two hours revealed to us the horror and the destruction the Tsunami had brought to the shores. I was lucky to have been aware of this natural phenomenon. I was able to understand what happened there. But all that we read was to prove to be the tip of the iceberg. We read about the massive damage and that the relief work has not been able to gather pace.
By Midnight, we had spoken to many hospitals in Chennai and enquired if there was any blood shortage. We had also spoken to all the top journalists who were there. The phones in the government offices just rang and rang.
There we were at 1:00 am at night. Restless... feeling so useless.. wanting to do our little bit for our brothers and sisters. One good thing that happened that night was that we did not wait or stop. We decided to leave immediately for the disaster-hit areas. The idea was that there is no possible help we can really offer unless we know what exactly has happened. And for that, someone needs to be there in the real place.
By 3:00 AM a Sankalp Volunteer had left for TN. The destination was not known but the direction was. In the morning, when the bus reached the city of Selam, the newspapers were telling the tale of the dance of death at Nagapattinam. The choice of the bus and the destination from there was simple, we were heading to Nagapattinam.
What consumed the brain at that time was the potential ability of a few mortals to do anything useful in a calamity of this magnitude. But we moved on determined to do the little we could. Back home in Bangalore, the Volunteers had already started collecting food, medicine, clothes, and some funds for the victims.
Nagapattinam was a devastated town. As the bus moved into the town, I saw fewer and fewer people around. The streets were deserted. Any vehicle that was moving out of town found travelers. Not a single shop was open.
At 5:00 pm in the evening, a few steps inside the gate of the base hospital of Nagapattinum unfolded the worst-ever scenes my eyes had seen. About 3500 dead bodies were piled up like clothes one over the other. Most of them had very few clothes on them. You could not make out which limb belonged to which body. The air smelt of the dead. Life stopped for a few moments.
It took a while for me to understand what was going around. Had the sense to do a little for the survivors not been so strong as it was, I would have collapsed. But in a few minutes, I was busy interacting with the doctors to find out any blood requirements. There was none. The Tsunami had not injured people. It had simply killed them. There were a few people who had injuries that require a blood transfusion.
After a few minutes of talking to doctors and familiarising myself with the situation, I got to know that there was a meeting being organized at the DM's office. I took a lift to this office which was 3 km away.
The meeting was basically focussed on issues like clearing the roads and restoring suppliers. But there was also one strange topic doing rounds. This was a VIP visit. The town seem to be preparing for someone big who was coming. The red cross chief was sitting beside me. In a discussion with him, I told him who we were and what we wanted to do. I told him that I wanted to serve in the best way. He offered to join in with him to ensure the smooth disposal of the dead bodies. I agreed immediately.
Our essential job was to log all the vehicles that were being used to transport the dead. At the same time, we were also serving the need of a help desk where people were looking for their loved ones who were lost in the disaster.
We maintained a register to note down the details of the missing people. But after some time I realized that what we were doing had no meaning. I rarely understood a word of what people were speaking, but the chief asked me to keep scribbling without a question. I realized that we were only trying to comfort the people by listening to them and allowing them to speak. Apart from that, finding a person sitting, when you are sitting next to a mound of 3000 dead bodies was impossible. We had water packets and food packets with us. When someone came crying to us, we gave them these things and diverted their attention toward the basic needs of life. I did not know then, but now I know that I was actually giving them psychological help.
I abstained from eating the food material that was kept there. Firstly it was sambhar rice packed in polythene sheets, which I hated. Secondly, I felt that this food is for the victims and I was no victim. But there was no shop that was open. At 10, when we were walking back to the small hotel, the Red Cross chief carried a packet of food for himself. I thought that I can stay hungry.
It was smelling of the dead. each corner, each inch of that land was filled with death. very few places were lit. I could only see darkness. And on top of this was the horrible smell. something that reminded you every second that you were in a land of ghosts. Strange feelings were coming to mind. I had never seen destruction like this before. I was questioning every force that is responsible for the working of nature. It was a mixed bag of feelings I cannot describe.
The room that we were staying in was a small one with green-colored walls which added to the gloom. I lay down on the bed and stared at the roof. I was hungry. I had not eaten anything substantial since last night.. in about 30 minutes I wanted to go and grab a packet of that sambhar rice. But there was something keeping me from doing this. I did not want to go close to those dead bodies. After some time hunger won over fear and with small steps and a minimum number of breaths I walked toward the base. I did not want to smell the dead. But they were there everywhere. There was no one on the streets. Only a few policemen here and there.
When I reached the hospital, everything in me was shivering in a strange way. I picked up a packet of rice and ran back. As soon as I was back in the hotel, I started hogging on that terrible rice. There was no choice.
Before sleeping, I took care to hide my purse and my watch under my pillow. I did not trust the chief or anyone else.
I slept well for a few hours but got up early. We washed and then went about a kilometer off to have some breakfast. Then, we were back t the base hospital resuming our work. It all went fine till about eight. But at 8 we suddenly had the gates of the place where the dead were being brought closed. Many patients were discharged and all the bedding in the hospital changed. Newer people, who were not even that sick were put on beds, and enhanced medical attention was offered to them. I knew it. Someone big was coming.
She came. The leader of the INC. She visited the new improved hospital and also spoke to the press. What a scene it was. I had a lot of respect for Ms. Romila Dutta(name changed). But she was there only to cover Ms. Gandhi. She came and went away with Ms. Gandhi seeing the hospital after it was dressed up for VIP visits. Sitting on a pipe in a corner I was wondering about the utility of the VIP visits in the hours after the disaster.
It was around this time that Mr. Rajiv Ranjan, a famous defense reporter came to me and asked for an account. I told him what I knew and he spoke the same on the National Broadcast. I was happy to hear the country being told the truth.
I got an opportunity to go to the coast at around 11:00 AM. An ambulance was heading that way. I always wanted to see the sea but what I saw that morning was horrifying. Even though we were standing at a place about 500m from the sea but many times I just wanted to run back. The waves were ferocious and they beat against the coast which made me look at them as though they were bloodthirsty monsters. I stood there and watched. between me and the sea were hundreds of articles that once made the place where people lived. The entire locality was wiped clean and what remained were the broken parts of people's dreams. We could see footwear, utensils, and much other stuff strewn all around. I did not want to spend an extra moment there.
By 12:00 noon I had the news of my friends from Bangalore coming in with relief supplies. I eagerly waited to see the, there are times in life when you want to see the same people you are spending your life with so eagerly that it becomes completely senseless. I guess this is what was happening to me. They came with relief supplies. They came with clothes, medicines, and food. Not much. Just around 6-8 bags of the same.
We decided to go to the remote town of Nagore. They told me that Nagore has a very famous dargah. When we reached Nagore, we saw boats on the streets that water had thrown half a kilometer from the sea. Almost all the people there were lining the street and watching the relief vehicles go in absolute silence. After a point, we had to walk towards the shoreline. The same view of the articles strewn on the ground caught my eye. It was horrible.
Here I saw something that came back to me for many nights to come. I saw a cloth that seemed to cover something on the side of the road. As I approached, I could see the body of a young girl about 5 years of age. I can never forget that one sight.
Water had cut the village as a sharp knife cuts through butter. There was a clear line beyond which everything was wiped off. We called a few community leaders there and offered to provide necessary medication to the ailing Soon we had a line of about 200 people. The problems were simple. Body pain, fever, and bruises. Luckily we had medicines for all three and we gave those away. Then we went on to distribute some clothes and food. In no time all the supplies we had to go disappeared.
We came back to the base hospital. We had already decided to leave back for Bangalore. Another set of volunteers was on their way to this place but we had made all arrangements for them. The very thought of having to board the bus all the way back was disturbing. Luckily we found Rajiv once again who offered us a lift to Chennai. We happily agreed.
At eight, we started back for Chennai. The Mission was over The job was done. It was time to return home.