When Deathbeds Turn Into Tourist Spots: A 14-Year-Old’s Personal Account Of The Floods

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.

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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!

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18 Responses

  1. Raj

    No offence to your parents, but I think it was very irresponsible of them to go (and to take you along) to such areas in the middle of the monsoons. I’ve been to all those areas you mentioned and my parents were pretty adamant that we return before the monsoons started.
    And what’s with the “age-dropping” ? :P There was another article by someone else that also had the person’s age in the title.

    Reply
    • Ismat Hena

      It wasnt irresponsible or anything, We didnt know there could be so much rain. We’ve never experienced rains in the hills before, nor dangerous rains like that. Delhi is no place for that.

      Haahaaa, age dropping lol ! Ahh, you have the option of writing a short bio of yourself, And I wrote one and mentioned my age too. So they just used it for the title. :D

      Reply
      • Raj

        Even I’ve lived in Delhi and toured Uttarkhand,Himachal etc. but never during the rainy season. In fact my parents would ensure we started back before May ended, every time we went.
        Regarding age-dropping :D , there was a rather good article which also had the author’s age in the title :http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2013/05/had-i-been-born-poor-i-doubt-what-this-country-would-have-done-for-me-a-14-year-old-girl-speaks-out/
        I always thought girls didn’t like to reveal their ages :P #notbeingsexist

      • Ismat Hena

        Well, about the first part, I dont know what to say.
        Well, ok good. You did that, next time I’ll take care too.
        Btw, you started back before May ended, we go anywhere when May ends ! :D Summer vacations, you know.

        About the second part, No, it doesnt matter anymore, the age that is. Not for today’s gen.

        Ps – read that article too, Liked it (Y) . Its good, very good rather.
        And yeah, your comments too :D *behappy*
        And yes, you got good english. Of course, your article might get selected someday too ! So keep writing. ( My first article got rejected )

      • Raj

        Actually I was the one who used to insist that we should stay in the hills during the rains since the scenery was great. But my parents were insistent since rains play havoc with roads due to cave-ins and landslides.

        No I think my articles got rejected more due to the controversial content than english skills :P But it’s OK , commenting is fun too :)

      • Ismat Hena

        Yeah, t’is fun :)

        And yea, once we went to Nainital during rains… Great greenery :D
        Controversial content ? LOL!

  2. Yash

    even by the standard of a 14 yr old this is so ridiculous! lansdowne didn’t even have the kind of rains that can cause floods! it has nothing to do with it being a military area! and yamuna only had its water level increase because water was released in it from a dam! it wasn’t flooded because of the rains! nobody drowned in it! and muzzafarnagar is absolutly dry now! no drownings there either! u didn’t go to, and you didnt write about any flood-affected area! neither did u care to check up in news or anywhere else about what you saw.
    why do people write just about anything for the sake of writing about current issues! i came here thinking its a first hand account from someone who actually escaped the floods!

    Reply
    • Ismat Hena

      You are no one to judge whether I actually went there or not. But FYI I did. And all that I have written is exactly what happened.
      Well..
      1. I I never said Lansdowne had the kind of rains that could cause flood. My exact words are “…..got to know of the situation AROUND us..” (there’s a difference between ‘in’ and ‘around’ )
      2. It has everything to do with being a military area. I have already mentioned in the above article “…..thankfully, with Lansdowne being a military area, we encountered no problems on the way, since THE ROADS WERE WELL MAINTAINED..” ( I hope you know that rains cause landslides, because that is what we feared, but because the area is maintained by military people, we encountered no problems on the way..)
      3. I never said anybody drowned in Yamuna, it was just a thought.
      4. Muzzafarnagar might be dry now, It might have been dry even then, since I said ”…..our bus passed Muzaffarnagar (or some adjacent town)”

      Lastly, — ” u didn’t go to…….. check up in news or anywhere else about what you saw. ” Thats a rather contradicting statement. First you say I didnt go there, then you say I actuallly saw something (without going there) but didn’t check it up with the news or elsewhere.

      For next time, read carefully, comment carefully. :)

      Reply
    • Ismat Hena

      Ps – As the heading suggests, this article is neither about how any flood occured, or how I escaped any flood. Its about tourist insensitivity.
      So its not what you came here thinking of, because apparently you didn’t read the heading.

      Reply
  3. yeshaswini

    this somethin really shockingg n unexpected.its a shamefull behaviour… n i wonder wat wud have been dere situation if god forbiddin any of dere lovved ones was on of those drowning in the floods … a shame on indias front!

    Reply
  4. Ishika

    Well it is what happens in india… People dont understand the senstivity of a serious issue… They continue taking it lightly and then finally then everything becomes a mess they say it is the government’s fault… How will the govt. work if we continue to be like this?

    Reply
    • Ismat Hena

      Yeah. I wish indians change their mentality and start looking at serious situations with some regard rather than make a tourist spot out of it.

      Reply
  5. Rhea Kumar

    this reminds me of slum tourism in Mumbai and tourists forcing Jarawa women to dance in exchange for food. disgusting and shocking!!

    Reply