The Peak Refuge

Wreaking havoc in south and unleashing hell in centre, the history’s worst flood forced thousands to take refuge in upper reaches. Zawoora, a hilly village, 12km from Srinagar became shelter for thousands displaced by floods. Saima Rashid whose home poured with scores of flood-ravaged people in Zawoora details out rescue and relief operation on the hill

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Every morning Dad switched to the local Television to gauge the mood of weather. It had been raining since the onset of September and none had idea of its impact and aftermath.

The show presenters had an online conversation with Sonum Lotus, the celebrated weatherman of Kashmir. Though none in our family can resist talking in the morning hours but Dad ordered everyone to mute their voices which we did. There was no sound and everyone was eagerly waiting to hear “something to cheer” from Lotus.

“I can’t say how long it’s going to rain,” said Lotus, appeared clueless, “but I can assure you that it will rain heavily and there are fair chances of flood!”

And eventually my brother broke the silence, saying: “let it rain up to stars. It will never affect our village. After all, we live in a hilly area.” To which, I chipped in: “Yeah, it’s next to impossible. Beautiful rains can never flood our village.” I felt very proud and fortunate to be the resident of this hilly area.

Zawoora. My village. Roughly 12km from Srinagar. Rarely anyone knows about this area. Especially, the urbans. But never mind. Who needs publicity? Thing is, my village is green and clean. But I never knew that it is also a damn hospitable. Yes, just when flood displaced thousands around valley, I saw my village feeding and sheltering those ravaged by the deluge.

Anyways, after Mum (my mother) heard the words of Lotus, she dialled my maternals to enquire about the water level. Phone was ringing. Meanwhile my cousin stepped inside and before resting down panicked the situation even more: “Hey, do you know? Kashmir will be facing a disastrous tsunami!” Though he was no prophet of doom, but his words did turn everyone gloomy inside the room.

And soon, my Mamu (maternal uncle) received the call from Mum and then the conversation kick started:

Mamu: Asalamualaikum didi (panicked).

Mum:Walaikum salam, kyah daleel, tuhe chua theek (How is the situation? Are you alright?)

Mamu: filhaal chi theek. (Yes, so far, we are safe.)

Mum:Orai ma khasse sehlaab. (Any chances of flooding from your side?)

Mamu: Filhaal chi asi sethis pathe nazre, magar shayad yeyi yoor ti (We have set our eyes on riverbank. But I fear, it might flood.)

Mum:bei soozhoi gaed ,waliv saeri yoor (I will send my car, come here with your family.)

Mamu: pati karo kath… (Let’s talk later…)

The phone hung up.

Mum started crying as if in the entire world only my maternals were facing flood.

Mums and their worries at times worst the situation but who can stop them. Emotions always govern them. And then it was Mum and phone’s job. She called every relative and compelled them to take their every possession to second floors or halls. My Mum was most worried about my cousins. Kids are hard to handle in floods or in any natural disaster as, she says.

In the midnight, Dad got a call from my aunt. She is from Awantipora. It was obvious to comprehend that their area is flooded. My Mum was hard to handle. She insisted Dad to get them along. But it was hard to travel in those hours.

“Please let the night pass. I will for sure get them in the morning,” Dad assured Mum.

The following dawn descended with a haunted outlook.

My very aunt’s son, Moin lives with us. “Take me home, my family needs me in these hours,” he insisted. He became very adamant with the passing hours but we too were handcuffed by the terrible situations.

And unfortunately we lost contact with them. Either their phones were out of batteries or network had betrayed them.

Now it was my maternals whom we could have rescued. They are from Samboora, a village on Galandar-Pulwama Highway. After talking to Mamu, we came to know that they had shifted to the saffron fields of Letpora. They were in open field for a night. Their situation was getting terribly worst.

My Dad eventually left to take them home. We were worried for the whole day. I can never forget that day when I opened the window of the car and got my grand Mom down. She seemed lifeless: shivering, trembling, and stumbling. It was even hard for her to recognize me or anyone else. Her eyes were open but the world seemed dark for her. Even four people were not enough to take her inside.

Then my little cousins presented a horrible sight. We had to carry them in lap. Their bodies were cold like ice. Their clothes were muddy and smelled bad. My grandpa who is old and bedridden seemed in no life. For the whole day they were disturbingly silent. Their condition was hard to decipher.

But our home wasn’t alone pouring with flood-affected relatives. Almost everyone in our village had rescued their relatives and took them home. But during trying times, scarcity of essentials often creates hurdles. But thanks to the managerial skills of Mum, the crisis was averted. But I could see restlessness in her eyes. Her eyes were looking for my aunt, still trapped in troubled waters.

Meanwhile, in our village, a relief camp was setup. Many volunteers were colleting contributions. Soon four villagers knocked at our door and requested to send someone outside. I came out and saw a mini-refugee camp started in the village school. Everyone in the village had left their homes to host the flood victims. Like other flood-victims in our village, our relatives were anxious, fearing: if their dwellings would be robbed in their absence. But we comforted them and told them: Allah is there to guard everything.

I went out to take stroll and then entered into the refugee camp. People were coming in a large numbers from the mountains. Men, women, children, young, old were making their way into the camp. I had never seen people in that situation. Dreadful sight it was. Families got split into individuals and one had no idea if the other is surviving or not.

On the 5th day, I saw villagers’ helping an old man to camp. His situation was worst. To everybody’s surprise, he asserted that he was 125-year-old!

“I have just gone through a surgery,” he told a captive audience around him, “and was yet to get discharged from hospital. But the concern for my family forced me to walk out.” The drip tubes were still attached to his arms. He had passed the mountain half a way on horse. The horse owner had charged him Rs 1000 for that distance but my cousin and his friends scolded that person not to charge him any fair.

I then asked the volunteers of the camp about the number of victims received per day. “Anything between 400 to 500 persons came down the village per day,” he replied. “We take female folks to our homes for their security.” But I was told that the number rose to 1500 per day when the rains flooded the major parts of valley, but by the time, thankfully, the stock had stacked at the camp to meet the demand.

Inside the refugee camp, the events unfolded akin to Hollywood script. I saw a father extremely perturbed for his lost son. Tears rolled down from his tired eyes when he saw some flood victimized families walking towards the refugee camp. He kept asking them: if they have seen his son. Since those families were rushing to feed themselves, they simply ignored his query.

On finding the very man in pain, some villagers came forward to know the reason for the same. First he was offered a glass of water to make him feel relaxed. He refused to take it, instead he started beating his chest and cried: “Mai ha rovum nachu, mai na chuni tas warai kah (I lost my son. I have no one except him).

“There are many children inside the school, let’s see if he is there,” the villagers assured him. Inside the school, one child had cornered himself at the isolated place. His eyes had turned red due to excessive crying. A woman who spotted him raised an alarm. Along with the horde, an anxious father reached at the spot. He soon fell on his knees. A child cornered inside the school was his own son. He hugged him so tightly that villagers present there also broke down in tears.

They say, rumour has much reliability than reality. Our neighbour visited us and said: “Your maternal home area has drowned completely; not even a single building is left to fell.” Upon hearing it, my granny turned pale and in a jiffy got faint. But as a matter of fact, nothing of that sort had happened.

“Woe to you,” I whispered. Cruel woman she was. Doctor had suggested us to keep granny out of stress and away from sad news. But here was this woman came and broke a fake news to us and compounded our troubles.

Meanwhile the villagers arranged water tanks to supply the nearby areas like Panthachowk, Samboora, Pampore, Sempora and Letpora. Even the rice sacks and vegetables were provided to them.

Then I thought, are we going through the last days of world or it is a mere warning .Then I read the Tafseer-i-Quran and came to know: It is a serious warning if people took it seriously, it will prove better for them if not next one will leave no stone unturned to destroy the survived lives as well.

I asked my cousin, merely 6-year-old, whether flood was for good or bad from Allah. And her answer surprised me: “Allah did it fair with sinners but was unjust with his true believers.”

My mom who always had complaints with the Creator, like it never rains, but now she swore: “I will never supplicate for rains again!”

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