25th October, 2014. And there’s a world of difference between the cyclone just two weeks ago. I open the tap and am glad to see running water. I switch on the fan and am relieved that I won’t have to go without power. I don’t want to eat Maggi anymore, because that’s what we had all of last week. Almost.
Thankfully, we didn’t lose much. The house, being an old-time construction withstood the strong winds. Trees though, were less fortunate, snapping like twigs in the face of the 220kmph windspeeds. Modern homes with huge glass windows suffered. Fishermen lost their boats. Businesses were badly hit. Villagers are still without power. Vizag had never seen something like this. And after the storm bore its fury on us, the streets of the city on Monday morning looked like they were out of a Hollywood war story. Electricity poles strewn about, trees split into two, billboards everywhere, upturned autos. More importantly no milk, no water, no power, no candles, no phone, no Internet, no biscuits and a mad rush for all these.
Adversity is a great teacher. That one day and the week that followed taught much more than I could imagine.
It takes a calamity to make you understand what nature’s fury means
‘Nature’s fury, the great leveller, the maker-the breaker’, these were just fancy phrases for many like me till 12th morning. It was one thing to hear statistics of 220kmph winds going to hit Vizag. It was another to experience them. It was one thing to know that the waves would be 4-meter high and another to see boats- a fisherman’s livelihood washed away. It was one thing to hear that loose objects would fly about, quite another to see a hotel billboard flying like a kite in the sky.
Everything had a price
There are many who make hay when the sun shines. There are others who do so during calamities. During the cyclone week in Vizag, there were people who made money. They would bill you Rs. 50/- to get your cell charged. Sell a packet of milk for Rs. 100/-. Water for double the price. Black-marketing of relief supplies started. There were people who would make money in any situation. In fact, there were some who were standing in the storm, picking up the fallen billboards and selling them off instantly.
But humanity was alive
And then there were people who went all out to help. Youngsters formed groups, used social media or friends networks to reach out with help. Many handed out packets of food and water, despite the negative experiences of being looted of those at some places. They wanted to really reach out to the needy. A tea vendor outside our house took on the role of supplying milk and water to houses in the neighbourhood. He really didn’t need to do so, but he did. There were stories of humanity flowing in from every street of the city. People were coming forward to do their bit. And every bit added up.
Necessity is the source of invention
We were all holed up. Candles were all sold out. And we learnt to make a diya from the maid servant’s mother. The diya using water, oil and a thick wick would burn all night. We had no source of water. And we learnt rainwater harvesting, filtering the pour-down from the cyclone into usable water. The kids had no TV or video, so they got together too with inventive games.
We notice certain things only after we lose them
Trees and birds are something we had always taken for granted. But after the storm what hit home was the fact that there wasn’t a single tree left. Entire hills had simply changed their colour from vibrant green to lifeless brown. The huge family of crows living on the mango tree near my house has dwindled to one-fourth. And I miss their cawing.
Political machinery works!
The government put into action laudable efforts. The CM stayed in Vizag, slept only four hours a day, literally working round the clock to clear the streets by Diwali and get us back on our feet. The government machinery worked and how! For once, red tapism was out. Efforts were made to control black-marketing. And when that machinery worked, the city reciprocated, in kind. Vizag had its very first cracker-free Diwali.
That the first thing you need to do is help yourself
It was tough to realize that no one would come and get you what you needed. Till then, everything had a process, but nature had suddenly broken protocol. We had to devise new ways to get what we needed and more importantly we had to ask and seek help. The calamity brought the community together and we came to know of neighbours we hadn’t before.
About Jaya Murty
Jaya Siva Murty is a senior feature writer for a leading lifestyle magazine in Vizag, a freelancer, a social volunteer, and a mother of two mischievous kids. She has also authored her first novella titled ‘Canvas of Dreams’ with Indireads Publishing and is now working on her second book.