The Indian subcontinent is hit by dozens of note-worthy cyclones each year.
The world is hit by thousands of natural phenomenon which are termed to be of 'disaster proportions'.
Most of these strike in areas of limited or nil inhabitation or dissipate in the oceans that make up 70% of Earth, and remain only as a matter of academic interest to scientists. A few of them do damage worthy of being discussed by the world. Each time a populated city is struck, our world turns grisly. Thousands are killed, property worth Billions is destroyed. The human spirit often prevails and life comes back to normal in a few weeks or months. Once in a while it takes years. A really bad natural disaster may spell doom for the region, and in cases like Pompeii which was destroyed to an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, civilization in that region is wiped out.
Last year on this day, HudHud visited Vizag. An 'Extremely severe cyclonic storm' hit a highly populated city for the first time this side of the world. We lived through it, and are richer for the experience. Yes, it was terrifying. Yes, windows were shattered at home, our office sustained much damage. The city we love so much became a rubble. Comforts like running water and electricity took a few days to restore. Drinking water became difficult to find, climbing up the stairs a dozen times a day pushed us out of our comfort zones. Schools were closed for two weeks. Monumental loss of property happened. Some folk living next to the sea lost everything. It was inconvenient to provide medical assistance because of the conditions of the roads. Communication was non-existent, and relatives and well-wishers outside of the region were more worried about us than we ourselves as they did not know our situation.
Thankfully, there wasn't any loss of life. A couple of stray incidents and freak accidents apart, Vizagites were all alive. Thank you, mother nature.
I began writing this post 11 months ago. It has been in the drafts folder of my blog ever since. But somehow, it never got published. And I'm glad for it. Much has been spoken about the way the government has swung into action, about the different agencies which selflessly contributed their time, resources, energy into clearing our city and getting people back onto their feet. When we're grateful, it isn't for the present, but also for the future. One year from that date, we remain grateful. Thank you, Odisha disaster rescue teams. You were the shining beacon among nature's carnage. The way you came in on your yellow and orange jeeps with your own equipment, and even your own water and food, was a lesson for the country to emulate. Self-contained disaster rescue units are a Godsend for those stranded. Thank you, employees from all the departments all over the state who drove in on ordinary RTC buses and made camp near Naval Coastal Battery. We saw you cooking your own food in less than desirable conditions on the streets, and sleeping on city bus bench seats and on the pavements. We are grateful. Thank you, Army, Navy, Air Force. You work behind the scenes eternally. The real contribution you've done will never be covered by the media, but you go on. Thank you, Govt machinery and ministers, led by our dynamic CM. You camped at the collector's office till things got as close to normal as they could in the conditions. Much praise has been heaped on Mr. Chandra Babu Naidu, and he deserves it all and more. The sirens of his protocol car could be heard late into the night, every night. Citizens of the city slept just fine. We cooked and ate timely and fresh meals. Power and water came back real soon, and we did fine. But these people worked tirelessly. They slept little, and stayed away from their homes for days and weeks. NGOs, various corporates, religious organizations, impromptu teams of youngsters, thousands of you all came in by your own transportation, did your bit, and left without waiting for your 15 minutes of fame. Thank you.
Yes, work slowed down after the initial hurdles were surmounted. What should have taken a week took a month after the initial burst of rescue operations. Even today there is much damage that is visible which hasn't been repaired. We have lost our beautiful beach to the cyclone, and it may never go back to how it was earlier. Plantations were taken up on a war footing, and many of the plants have withered away, leaving empty eyesore rusting contraptions that the plant-guards have now become. People profited from the disaster stooping lower than any human being should. But then, this post is not to rant about what could have. It is to feel thankful for what has.
We are guests in nature's realm. The world runs on its own rhythm and dances to its own beat. Each generation of people come aboard thinking they want to change the world and leave their footprint on it. The strongest footprints are washed away in an instant, and the world just shrugs off all change - unless it likes it and makes it its own. I'm of the firm opinion that we are not powerful enough to actually impact our environment in the long run. Together we are billions of people doing incredible damage to our world, but one shrug and it'll all go back to however nature intends for it to be. Hundreds of known civilizations have perished in these shrugs of nature, and thousands more will. Then one day nature (or call it God) will decide that it wants a fresh slate to redraw, and will wipe everything off. Dinosaurs ate up more than they should have, and have become fossils to warn future generations. We haven't learnt from it. A few thousand years hence, a human fossil will be seen with awe by whichever species is around at that time. Or we may just become pieces of nothingness floating in space. What we call disasters are but little specks on the canvas of time. But in that speck are our entire lives! Everything we have managed to accumulate and hoard away, all the layers of society we have so carefully created and maintained, our very lives are a minute part on that speck. Like the tiny people living on pollen on Horton Hears a Who. One sneeze and we're gone. These sneezes fling us back to where we belong. They tell us that there are much more powerful forces at play. Large trees which survived in the Andhra University campus for hundreds of years were uprooted and many of us shed real tears looking at them. But what about the millions of trees which we uprooted and built our homes on? Where has all the wood we're surrounded with at home come from? Newspapers sensationalize and put up headlines like 'Nature's fury' and stuff. But all the trees uprooted by HudHud are cut down in a day in a logging forest in the Amazon! We cried about roads being washed away. We dig up a hundred HudHud's worth of earth under the guise of mining and exploration every week! Crocodile tears we shed! Blaming God for a disaster is foolishness. Poor man. We destroy a thousand times more than all the disasters around the world in a year, and we go back and crib on him :).
The real takeaway, the real magic, is the human spirit. That is what allows us to go on with our lives till the day we're gone. That is what we pass on to our next generation. Not those pieces of stationery we fondly call as currency. Not the gold, not the land. What worth would we put on giving a bottle of water to a family the day after HudHud? How would we attribute value to a squad of people from a neighbouring state who came of their own accord and got to work of their own initiative and showed our people the way without expecting anything in return? Where can we find the thanks for the hundreds who left their problems at home and came following their bosses' orders, and worked tirelessly day and night without being even able to call back home and enquire about their wellbeing? We can't. Deep down inside, we are all awesome people. We enjoy tranquillity and harmony in our surroundings, and will strive for its upkeep. The sad thing is that it takes 'Nature's Fury' to bring out the best of us. We have made our world an attention-seeker's paradise, and the cacophony of media channels searching to make instant heroes out of ordinary people have destroyed our normalcy. A donation of a cycle to a child of poor parents becomes a newspiece. A dozen people stand behind a stage and the child and his parents receive the tricycle, with a backdrop of a 'charitable organization' and under the spotlight of cameras. Thousands of selfless acts much grander than this are performed every day across our world. Neither is the doer interested in fame, nor does he remember the act later. That is true humanity. And that is how nature intended for us to live - together; in harmony, and lending each other a hand. At Vizag, we have been fortunate to witness innumerable acts of love from strangers who came in to our fallen city and set it right again. We salute you all. We are no longer strangers.