While 2014 flood is imprinted on people’s memory like a nightmare there are a few who thank Jhelum for its fury. Saima Bhat reports
Days after September 7, 2014 floods devastated most parts of Srinagar’s residential and commercial spaces, Ali Mohammad Bhat, 37, was desperately waiting outside the chamber of manager J&K Bank in Bemina, Srinagar. Bhat has bought his mother along, hoping that her presence and her tearful eyes will melt manager’s heart.
Bhat, a shopkeeper by profession, had availed a housing loan worth Rs 3 lakh from the bank in 2013. But the September 2014 floods damaged both his shop and his house beyond repair. Bhat had come to plead with the manager to either reduce the rate of interest on his loan or extend the date for paying instalments. “It was heartbreaking to see my life ruined,” says Bhat. “I still recall that moment when I was waiting outside the Manager’s chamber hoping for a miracle.”
And miracle did happen. Instead of pressing Bhat for repayment the manager instructed him to complete a few formalities. “I did what the manager asked me to do. I got my house surveyed, and took pictures of the damage etc,” recalls Bhat.
After a few days, Bhat was surprised to see his bank account being credited by Rs 349000. “The bank had mortgaged my house for the loan amount they had paid me. The loan was covered by insurance. So in simple words my damaged house became my savior,” said Bhat.
Bhat, a father of three daughters (all in marriageable age), silently thank God for getting him out of his troubles!
For Adil Bhat, a resident of Chattabal in Srinagar, September flood was nothing short of God’s mercy. “We live near a rivulet of Jhelum. Its water sank our house by a few feet leaving it unsafe for habitation,” says Adil with a smile.
After the water hit ground floor Adil made sure that every single soul living in that house is evacuated safely. But once he was sure that everybody is safe. His face beamed at the sight of his sunken house. “Instantly my siblings and cousins started to celebrate. Flood proved blessing for our family at least,” says Adil.
Reason: Adil’s house was a disputed property between his father and his uncles since last 20 years. The house belonged to Adil’s grandfather and his second wife. However both Adil’s grandparents died without making a will or distributing the property among legal heirs.
After Adil’s grandfather’s death, as per the law the property was distributed among six legal heirs: three sons (including Adil’s father), two step sisters and step mother. “My step aunts got their share in cash while my step grandmother lived with us until her death,” says Adil.
The dispute erupted when none of the three brothers wanted to vacate the house. “Everybody wanted to stay in their ancestral house. Ideally two of the bothers should have taken their due share and relocated. But that didn’t happen,” says Adil.
But after the house got damaged in September floods both of Adil’s uncles decided to construct new houses elsewhere. “This dispute had become headache for us. It had made brothers bitter towards each other. Even we cousins suffered because of our parents egos,” says Adil. “I know it sounds odd but floods came as a blessing for us.”
In 1995 Ghulam Rasool Karnai had given two shops in Parimpora on rent as per rates prevalent then. Years later when Parimpora became a major marketplace, Karnai decided to get his shops vacated and operate them himself. Karnai wanted to “secure future” of his two educated but unemployed sons. “Unfortunately I had signed an agreement that gave tenets rights to occupy my shops for 20 years. So they were not ready to vacate,” says Karnai.
As per the agreement Karnai would receive a limited percentage of increase in rent every year. But that was insignificant as per the current market rates for Karnai.
Out of desperation Karnai tried different tactics to get his shops vacated, but failed. “What I couldn’t do in years, floods did in a jiffy,” says a visibly happy Karnai.
In September 7, 2014 floods Karnai’s shops got washed away leaving behind nothing but a trial of destruction. “When the tenets came after the floods they couldn’t find anything but debris and muck. Everything was destroyed.”
Fearing another flood, both tenets relocated their shops to relatively safe areas. Karnai now plans to build a shopping complex and he has already applied for the permission.
In the lighter vein, Karnai shares that he has kept options available for the tenets that they can have a shop in his complex at comparatively lower rates.
Not only did floods help in solving old disputes, property issues etc., it did patch a few aching hearts too.
At the time of floods Mymoona, 35, was living at her parent’s house in Mehjoor Nagar along with her 2-year-old daughter Arshi. She has left her husband’s house some three years back because of strained relationship with her in-laws.
“Initially my husband was very supportive but once I came to my parent’s house for delivery, he stopped coming to see me. He succumbed to pressure from his parents. Then ultimately our relation was limited to a phone call only. And sometimes I used to text him or send Arshi’s pictures,” says Mymoona.
When Mymoona’s husband Tariq came to know about devastation in Mehjoor Nagar where his wife and daughter were staying, he couldn’t control himself.
For first few days Tariq resisted the temptation to visit his wife and daughter, but not for long. “There was a rumour that everybody is dead in Mehjoor Nagar. I couldn’t resist myself. I just wanted to see my wife and daughter,” says Tariq.
The breakdown of all communications added to Tariq’s woes and he decided to act. “He somehow managed to get a boat and even waded through flood waters to reach us,” says Maymoona.
“I had a sigh of relief when I saw my wife and daughter alive. I was afraid something bad had happened,” recalls Tariq.
The reunion was an emotional one for Maymoona. “I cried when I saw my husband. He had risked his life to reach us.”
After apologies and counter apologies Tariq took his wife Maymoona and his daughter along in a boat. “I had lost hope. I thought I will never see my husband again. My marriage was almost over. But floods came like a blessing for me and my daughter,” says a visibly happy Maymoona.
“Being together is more precious than everything else. Flood washed away all the bitterness,” says Tariq.