By Ismat Hena:
Recently I went on a trip to Lansdowne, Uttrakhand with my family for three days. Little did we know, as we were comfortably seated in the bus, that there would be heavy downpour accompanied by strong gales on the very morning of our arrival. As the shared jeep dropped us near Gandhi Chowk in Lansdowne, we felt helpless as we had nowhere to go and see. There was dense fog and we couldn’t even see three meters ahead of us, the reason why we saw the Gandhi Chowk on the second day, though we had been dropped near it on the first day itself. The three day stay was a thrilling experience for us, though we got thoroughly wet the minute we ventured out of the hotel, our umbrellas kept blowing backwards and we were shivering in the strong, cool winds.
However, on the third day, I started getting calls from my friends with messages such as ‘take care’, ‘be safe’ etc. Unaware of what had happened, I switched on the TV and got to know of the situation around us – a cloudburst in Kedarnath and floods in many adjacent places. We left the place the next day for Delhi. Thankfully, with Lansdowne being a military regiment area, we encountered no problems on the way, since the roads were well-maintained.
On the way back, the bus passed Muzaffarnagar (or some other adjacent town), and we got a glimpse of the flood, wherein the fields lay beneath the water. Occasionally, we saw a submerged hut or two. Some people struggled to take their cattle out of the water, as we saw a line of 10-12 cows walking in water, with only their heads visible. We continued to look out of the windows at the devastated town, and for that matter, the devastated people who sat on the edge of the road, looking mournful.
On the way, the bus had to pass a bridge over the river Yamuna. As soon as the bus got on top of it, we saw a lot of people noisily roaming here and there. I mistook the crowd (as any person with a sensible mind would) to be a lot of rescue workers of some sort and the rescued people.
However, what the situation actually proved to be was incredibly ludicrous. All the people were basically tourists who had come to see the overflowing river Yamuna! Most of them, from time to time letting out a shriek of excitement and were peeking down the bridge into the deep waters. Almost all of them seemed cheerful and out of their breaths owing to the excitement of having seen a flood-hit river and town. Some were clicking pictures for their folks back home. To top the entire not-so-hilarious nuisance, a dozen were getting their own pictures clicked! One guy that caught my eye, was standing right next to the railing of the bridge. This guy in question, wearing a checked shirt and black jeans with shades, the kind Ray-Ban makes (though I’m not very certain if he was wearing the original), was posing happily for the camera, that his friend was clicking the picture with. There is a great probability that he intended to make it his profile picture on Facebook, considering the popularity of the social networking site in India. Maybe it was in order to show it off to his friends and colleagues.
While the death toll continues to rise and while thousands are stranded in Kedarnath and other areas of Uttrakhand, to make a flood-hit area, a place where people have lost lives (may it be their own, or of their loved ones) and property, a place of tourist interest and shout with excitement while the people of the town continue to cry over their huge losses is a ridiculous thing to do. And to click your own photos with a smiling face to make it your Facebook display picture, or for whatever damned reason, surpasses it all!