Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Peace amidst pandemonium

Photo courtesy: www.ibnlive.com

When it rains, it really pours. Flash floods caused by unprecedented rainfall at this time of the year have taken a heavy toll on god and man alike.

Hundreds have died, thousands are homeless and missing, and an equal number, mostly pilgrims, are stranded in the North Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, geographically, located at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. Hundreds of houses, schools, hospitals, temples and shrines, and entire infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and railway tracks, have been destroyed or washed away by the monsoon fury. The destruction of over two-dozen bridges has cut off access to hundreds of villages across the two states.

Photo courtesy: AFP

Some of the worst-hit areas were the revered temple towns of Kedarnath and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand where most of the pilgrims are stranded. Mud and slush, caused by overflowing rivers, submerged several temples and shrines and the deities they adorned. The pictures show a submerged statue of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity, in Rishikesh, which bore the brunt of River Ganga’s fury.

The central (federal) government has ordered its disaster management authority to carry out relief and rescue operations on a war footing. The army and air force and paramilitary forces are already assisting the respective state administrations in conducting search and rescue missions. Whatever they do, it'll never be enough.

In decades at least, neither has India’s annual monsoon struck with such ferocity nor has it rained so terribly in the month of June. With the rains usually stretching to September, people living in rural areas and along the cyclone-prone coastlines are joining their palms in silent prayer.

Will Lord Shiva open his third eye (or inner eye) located in the centre of his forehead and bring succour to the hopeless millions?

20 comments:

  1. This sort of puts my worrying about whether or not I've enjoyed a book into perspective.
    I'm lucky, my family reside in a fairly safe locale, in regards to extreme geological and climate variables.
    Thanks for reminding me.

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  2. Oh wow, I'm sorry to hear of this. Floods seem the most devastating natural force of all many times. We have seen some here, but not on this scale. So much suffering.

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  3. So sorry to hear of this. Be safe.

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  4. Col, Charles and Patti: I appreciate your concern. The catastrophe in North India is far more serious than first imagined. The count of the dead, injured, homeless, and missing is running into the thousands and officials can only guess the number of villages wiped out in the floods. Even now more than a lakh of pilgrims and tourists are believed to be trapped and stranded and are awaiting rescue. This disaster is entirely man-made due to large-scale deforestation and reckless development, something that Indians are living with and suffering in silence.

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  5. Sending best wishes from afar... This is terrible. I had seen some images on the news, but not these... Keep safe, Prashant.

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    1. Thank you, Fleur. The rains have stopped, albeit temporarily, and rescuers are grappling with a disaster scenario they hadn't expected much less prepared for. The two affected states are far from where I live, on the west coast of India. Mumbai has had its share of natural disasters. A few years ago, a massive cloud burst that lasted over two days took hundreds of lives and washed away many and they haven't been found since. More than 50 per cent of the city's working population spent two to three nights in their offices.

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  6. Terrible floods, Prashant. It's made the headlines of the news here.

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    1. Sarah, I repeat, it's far worse than anyone thought. I'm glad it's getting coverage in the western media. The rains are back and they're hampering relief and rescue. Now the new worry is an epidemic.

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  7. Prashant, I follow news so little in any medium, so many things happen like this and I don't hear about them for days. This is so sad and so devastating. Here we have wildfires and earthquakes, but the damage never hits the level of this tragedy. My thoughts are with you.

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    1. Thank you, Tracy. I'm very far from the scene of devastation. The average Indian, when unaffected by a calamity, is a mute spectator whose only contribution to alleviating the suffering of the victims is to donate a day's salary and saying, "What can we do? We are used to such tragedies." Aid is flowing in from NGOs and social organisations as well as from foreign governments.

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  8. Lord Shiva looks so serene but this has really been a tandav.

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    1. Neer, I think Indians owe their resilience, in the face of both manmade and natural disasters, to their strong belief in karma. As one fellow commuter told another in my train last week, "It had to happen. You can't avoid it. We have to suffer for our sins." We look for reason where there isn't any.

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    2. But that Prashant is the greatest fear is it not: that there is no reason behind this universe? Fatalism is both a curse and a blessing. Sometimes I feel like reading the Vedas and Upnishads to see what out philosophers and thinkers have said about the universe and its mysteries.

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    3. Neer, I couldn't agree with you more. For all their spiritual wisdom, even learned seers have no answers to the question why certain things, bad things, happen the way they do. They attribute it to a power infinitely higher than the finite mortal. Many of the answers to life's intractable questions are to be found in scriptures of all religions. We only need their application in our lives.

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  9. Thanks for the timely post, Prashant...The flood situation there seems truly terrible, and my heart goes out to all those people affected. I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and out of the way of this disaster.

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    1. Thank you, Jeff. We're, indeed, out of harm's way, the affected state of Uttarakhand being nearly 1,800 km (over 1,100 miles) from Mumbai. The number of casualties and those trapped or isolated continues to go up every day. This tragedy is unlike any we have seen in many years, though the country has had its share of cyclones on both its west and east coasts. What we lack is effective disaster management not caught in political red tape and cheap promotions.

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  10. What a tragedy Prashant and the images can only convey an idea of how hard this must be on the ground - thanks very much for the post mate and glad that you and yours are doing well.

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    1. Thank you, Sergio. Those away from the affected regions can scarcely imagine the death and destruction in north India. Rebuilding and rehabilitating lives and businesses is going to take a very long time. Thousands of locals and pilgrims and tourists are still unaccounted for and the Indian Army, which did an exemplary job of rescuing people by the hundreds and thousands, is close to winding up its rescue mission. I hope the tragedy serves as a wake-up call for the government which must now take a decisive stand on sustainable development, and not just development for the sake of development, and ensure its implementation across the country.

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  11. What a terrible time for your country, Prashant. I am so sorry that so many are suffering from this onslaught of heavy rain and flooding. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family to stay safe (I'm heartened by the news that you are very far away from the destruction), and with the thousands who are in peril. Sad times, my friend. Sad times. Mother Nature can be relentless.

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    1. Yvette, it certainly has been these past few weeks. The government is now on the verge of calling off rescue operations and divert its vital resources to relief and rehabilitation in the mountainous region. It's going to take years. This disaster has more to do with man's greed than nature's wrath. Hopefully, some lessons will have been learnt. But at what cost?

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