by Umar Khurshid
SRINAGAR: In September 2014, Kashmir witnessed disastrous floods after week-long uninterrupted rainfall and a series of cloudbursts. It created a situation that Jhelum breached at many places and most of Srinagar on either side of the Jhelum was submerged.
Tens of thousands of the residential houses, commercial complexes which include the business hub Lal Chowk were submerged. A few deaths were also reported.
Then, I was studying journalism and mass communication from T John College, Bangalore University in the Karnataka state, located in the city outskirts.
I don’t exactly remember the day but I was in my class when my mother called me to inform about the disastrous situation back home. As I was talking to her I could feel the pain in her words. She told me the location wherefrom she was calling me. It was about five kilometers away from my home and she had walked barefoot through the flood water just to tell me that they have survived.
“The situation is terrible here, but you don’t worry, we are all fine, you concentrate on your studies,” she told me. She concluded the conversation but the line was still live. I could hear her saying in a choked voice to the only telephone booth operator in the area: “I am so worried about him how will he manage there,” I heard her telling the operator. As the floods were supposed to create new liabilities, I could feel the pain my mother had.
The conversation I had with mother made me upset. I returned to my class and my teacher asked me why I look distressed. “Is everything ok Umar,” Pooja Basnett, my teacher asked, “Yes Mam, all is well,” I replied.
After the class was over, I directly went to the room, pained what has happened back home. I went to watch TV and the images were horrifying. I never imagined it must be a disaster of this magnitude. Now I could understand better the conversation with my mother. It may be almost sick.
Next day Kashmiri students – Faisal Noor, Moin Akhoon, Waseem Rather, Shahid Salam, Shamil Khan, Firdous Ahmed, Zeeshan and many more from other departments, had a meeting. We decided to write a letter to the principal about the happenings in Kashmir and asked for permission to share the crisis of Kashmir with everybody whoever was in the campus. The idea was that if everybody chips in, we may be able to do something for the suffering people back home.
We quickly wrote the letter. The faculty was already aware. Prime Minister and all other dignitaries had visited Kashmir and saw the making of a lake in Kashmir. The permission was soon granted. We made a team and started visiting every single class with a letter asking people if they want to help the flood-affected population.
The whole day – from morning to evening, we made announcements in the college about the Kashmir crisis; highlighted the plight on social networking sites, created help pages, and did whatever we could think of. The only idea was to send the message to as many people as possible.
Next day, near the department of media, we kept a big cardboard box near the entrance with a bold name: “Help the Kashmiri flood victims.” As the hours passed we could see the box full of food items like biscuits, milk powder, potable water, cloths medicines and much more.
The students from the science department, which is a bit far from Management and Media departments, had also started collecting funds and relief material from the students coming from the rare entrance of the college. In three days, apart from these items, we had collected almost Rs 7000 which we later used to buy more items.
Finally, we had assembled almost 25 cardboard boxes filled with food items like rice, pulses, medicines and also bed sheets and other items and decide to send it to Kashmir.
Finally what worried us was that how to send the relief now, as soon we came to know the FM radio channel called Red FM has started a campaign, we approached them and the next day. The team from the state’s Disaster Management reached to the college and took all the things we had collected there. The campaign was immensely successful as students we were able to collect the daily use items as well as money.
It was a replica of the same campaign that was continued later when Bihar was hit by the flood, as students from all states, irrespective of creed, colour and religion participated. Students also affiliated with various other departments showed their interest to support those adversely affected by the epidemic.
“It was entirely the students’ initiative. None of the teachers, including me, had anything to do with the endeavour,” Pooja Basnett, still remembers. Interestingly she was the only teacher who helped by arranging the vehicle and to take the collected material to the station wherefrom it was to be flown to Srinagar.
Right now as Kerala is inundated with massive human losses, I am reliving those days. Had I been in college, I would have been collecting the basic items for a population in water. Now, I am in a different role. I thought sharing this experience may help. The movement for supporting the Kerala population has started. It needs to get into the academic premises of the state so that we do what humans are supposed to.