Aila, the storm was real. Damage caused was real. I thought of mixing a little fiction with this real ugly face of Mother Nature. But I feel this story, which I claim to be a fiction, must be close to one of the 78 people who died in it. YES! 78 are the number of people who lost their lives in this fierce storm, and no one knows where the count is going to stop.
AILA, as the name sounds so beautiful, not so was the storm which was named after a dynasty of rulers in India.
25th may 2009, MONDAY
12.00AM- Seema had just had little rice soaked in water, which was left over by her children. Seema is a widow and has a 13 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. They stay in a mud house covered by a tin roof, in the slum near the Howrah station. After dinner, which was just enough to keep her alive, Seema went off to sleep.
1. 00AM- Seema wakes up and checks if her son’s fever had gone down. Her son was down with fever for the last few days but she did not have enough money to go to a doctor. Seema is a daily wager who gets Rs50 per day as a domestic help. The fever had not gone down, tensed Seema went back to sleep.
5.00AM- Seema woke up noticing that the rain had not stopped since last night. It was almost morning; she could not wait for the sun to come out as she had to reach the other end of Calcutta by 9 am. She went to the Ganges, had her bath, and changed into her torn sari. Giving charge of her son to her daughter she leaves to face the reality and hardships of this world. Little did she know what was about to come.
10.00AM- She reaches her work place. She was an hour late. She had to change 3 modes of transport to get to her work place. She started from a local train then got on a bus and then changed to another bus. Many times she travelled without tickets to save money. Today was an unlucky day and she was caught and fined, that’s why she was late. But how unlucky its gonna be, she must have not dreamt of in her wildest dreams. After getting scolded from Mrs. Basu (the lady she works for) Seema gets on with her work.
01.00PM- Mr. Basu returned home and said today all the offices were closed, and also asked his wife not to send the kids out. He was also given off as the news broke that the city is gonna hit by a huge cyclone called “AILA”. More than anyone else, Seema was alarmed! She went and told Mrs. Basu that she had kids and was worried, and wanted to call it a day. “Haandi tomar baba nuch be” (Will your father wash the utensils?) This is the reply she got. So she was asked to stay back and finish the work, and if the climate became bad, she could stay back and go the next day. She agreed as she had no other choice.
04.00PM- The weather started turning from bad to worst. It started with heavy shower and soon strong winds took charge giving more force to the shower. Seema was asked to cook crisp onion rings and tea, as the family was enjoying the calamity. The strong winds blew and were so hard that the windows had to be closed. As Seema prepared the snacks, it was not a sight giving her any joy or pleasure. Still worried about her children, all she could do was pray that the winds pass by and the climate calms down.
05.00PM- Seema was done with her work and was sitting in the small store room which was given to her to sleep. Sitting there, she wondered if her kids would be okay or not. What must be her daughter doing? Hope they do not panic. She hoped that her weak mud house does not get damaged by the storm. She wondered if the thin tin roof, fixed on few nuts and bolts with a few bricks put on them as weights, would be able to bear the strong winds. As she was tensed and worried, a loud whistle type noise shocked her. “WHAT WAS THIS???”, she wondered. This noise had come from the window. It was not a strong wind, but something huge which words cannot express. This scared her and she started panicking. This was not just a ban stormy weather but was “AILA“, causing destruction everywhere.
She could not wait any longer. She just walked out of the house without telling anybody. How could she sit back, leaving her innocent children in the hands of this ugly portrait of the nature? The first step on the road itself was a challenge for her. The winds were blowing hard on her face and she struggled. She had to push herself against the winds to reach the bus stand. She kept her grip tight on the fence as she took each step. There was nobody on the road, few vehicles rushing to the shelter but no public transport was available. She had no idea to go back or walk till her home. Her house was too far to walk down, yet she decided to go for it.
08.00PM- It takes her 2-2.5 hours to reach home, but it was already around 3 hours and she was just around halfway. By now she was drenched in water, all wet from head to toe. The rain drops were falling forcefully and hitting her hard, it was indeed painful. Her sari and her hair were blowing with the wind as she struggled to keep her balance. All the energy had seemed to have drained out and she realized that there was an inch wide cut on her forehead. Something must have hit her, but she did not care and kept on walking. Her speed had slowed down due to the lack of energy. She was also shivering in cold. The speed of the wind was almost 150kmph and was enough to blow a mini car away with it. Her eyes were closing and slowly she was losing her senses, her grip was losing and the shivering increased.
DEATH: When it comes, it does not say! This is all what Seema knew and remembered, the remaining part of the story is for the readers…)
26th may 2009, TUESDAY:
*NEWS PAPER HEADLINES* – AILA swept West Bengal, 28 died!!
With every hour the count increased.
Now the question is, what happened to Seema? What happened to her children? What happened to her house? Did she reach home?
No, Seema did not reach home. Just as she was struggling in the storm, a little 440watt wire broke and fell in the huge water logged. She was hit by the current. Her blood was sucked and her pale body was picked up along with the dead carcasses of dogs and cows by the Municipal Corporation van.
Now her dead body lies in the city morgue waiting for someone to come and claim it. But who will come? All she had was a son and a daughter. The roof of her house was not strong enough to face AILA and was blown away in the early stage when the cyclone hit the city the day before. Her daughter had rushed out to search for something to cover her younger brother, who could not move because of his sickness, did not return. Her body was recovered too the same morning. Something sharp like a shutter must have blown hard with the wind and the poor child must have come in its way.
Seema’s son is still alive; he was picked up by the rescue workers this morning. He is lying on the floor of a public hospital. The beds are not sufficient as there are many victims. Loads of water had already gone through his nose to his glands, and his fever had also increased. Doctors say even his chances of survive are less.
AILA came and went, but left behind the destruction and damage for people to witness… Many innocent people died. Seema was just a fictiticious character, but someone somewhere must have suffered almost the same way. We sit on our couch and have French-fries and enjoy such weather, for us it might be an adventure, but for people like Seema, AILA was nothing but another name for “DEATH”, once again proving that we humans are nothing in front of the strength of Mother Nature!!