By: Ambreen Rasool
— And the life goes on, they say.
Just back from Kashmir, the place where I have left my heart forever and the place I call my home. The flood aftermath has rendered my beautiful picturesque valley into a giant stinking pool of mud and water.
Statistically, the mighty Jhelum pierced into the heart of Srinagar city on September 7, 2014 mercilessly devastating everything from houses to humans, practically whatever came in its way! What followed the gushing water was unimaginable destruction – lakhs of homeless people, houses crumpled like a pack of cards and dead bodies floating around.
The last message I received from my mother on the morning of September 7, 2014 was, “There is water inside the house…”. Remembering that I had my close relatives in the worst hit Rajbagh, I frantically tried to get in touch with them. The last I heard from my Bhabhi was, “Please do something. The water level is rising and has reached the stairs of the 3rd floor.” There, I felt my senses leaving my body.
I was numb and speechless, thinking about the worst scenario. At the same time, the flashbacks of my happy childhood spent in the magnanimous lap of Kashmir Valley jolted my soul. The news on the TV was as depressing as the voice of the lady reporting my father’s number to be unreachable for hours together. The sun of the next day rose timely as usual but there was no sign of communication. I had no clue where my parents and relatives were. Along with my appetite and sleep, I lost my cool and started behaving like a rabid animal. This was not the demand of the hour I knew, but I could neither control my temper nor my tears.
I knew peace will not be restored to me until I see the ground reality. Alhumdulilah! parents and relatives turned out to be safe (displaced from the houses though). I decided to pack my bags and with my limited capacity, I endeavored to reach out to my brethren.
As soon as I landed in Srinagar, I could see a blanket of gloom and despair around. The valley was in the tight grip of sorrow. I could not spot a single happy face. Keeping my resolve in place, I ventured on a path which was completely alien to me. Rescue, relief camps and homeless people were the terms I could never relate to Kashmir even in my wildest dream. However, holding myself together, I joined the relief camp set up by a group of like minded volunteers and my friends. Day in and day out, apart from organizing the relief material, I heard the most heart wrenching stories the rescue team members narrated, saw women wailing and crying for a packet of biscuit so that they could put the hunger of their kids to silence, firsthand account of my family’s escapades from the water-filled houses and the endless stories of broken homes and broken spirits.
Things are a shade better now. We know about the whereabouts of most of our loved ones. Water is receding, at a slow pace though, but it is receding. Rainy days seem to be over and sunshine can be seen ahead. With a heavy heart, leaving my home, my Kashmir in shambles, I am en route to my routine but I ask myself, even after the houses are rebuilt and the business resumes, will we, as a nation, forget the scars left behind by the wrath of Almighty in the form recent floods?
Water is receding but it has succeeded in waking our conscience up! Even though the newspaper reports and experts suggest that the flood was avoidable but a great lawyer once told me,” There are no mistakes in life, only lessons to be learnt.”
Today, as all of us have seen death so closely, know what unity and compassion is. In unity we braved the worst disaster of the century and with compassion we held each other’s hands to take baby steps towards normalcy!
Life has come to a temporary halt in my hospitable valley, but we have to take it with a pinch of salt and make the life go on! We are a resilient race and undoubtedly shall rise above the muddy waters.
Ambreen Rasool hails from Kashmir and is currently a practicing lawyer in the Supreme Court of India.