Hi Maveli….you must have received the news of your beloved Kerala.
Don’t worry boss, our spirits currently are worn out but our resilience will help us get it back in shape. Soon.
Do come as always on the Thiruonam day and this time we will celebrate the people you so lovingly cherish.
It was 4 am on 9th August when my friend Hemant Patel, who belongs to a notable Gujarati family settled in Palakkad, noticed that the water in the commode kept going up and down.
The incessant downpour continued outside. It was monsoon anyway. It rains cats and dogs during this time.
He, his brother Sanjay, along with a few of his mill workers had planned to go to Coimbatore to install a pool table that his company so famously makes.
Waking his wife up to get him a cup of tea, Hemant went outside his 3 storied villa to get his car ready for the trip.
What he saw when he opened his main door was slightly startling. water was seeping inside his compound from under the main gate. He quickly came in, calling his brother who was sleeping in a level above, told him to cancel that day’s trip. On hindsight he says that was the best decision that he made in his life time.
The two brothers spent the next one hour quickly packing important stuff and at 6 O clock woke their parents and younger sister. By then, the water had entered their ground floor and was rising slowly.
The Patel family used a ladder to cross over to their neighbour’s home and from there, they hopped to the next street where a friend had come with his SUV. As they drove off in water logged streets to a comparatively less water-logged place, they could see the Kalpathy river around Puthiya palam, swelling and flowing with a gay abandon. As of today, their house is still in a state of slushy mud and filth, sofa and mattresses soggy with mud and water, everything topsy turvy and he doesn’t know from where to start.
This is just one of the many stories.
A few days before this happened, he had shared with me on Whatasap, the news of opening of the shutters of the Malampuzha dam. As each of the three shutters opened, our Palakkad people welcomed the gushing water with loud cheer and applause.
Jaladevatha (water fairy)….they called her.
That’s their beauty. They welcome and appreciate anything that doesn’t harm them physically. I know that for a fact. I am one of them. And we truly belong to God’s own country. To those who raise the imminent question, why God ditched you, we say, ‘idiots, God didn’t ditch us. He showed us the Gods present among us. And, and we will emerge stronger’.
I told Hemant then, how I wish I was there to see the Malampuzha dam shutters open! The last time it opened in 1981 (around then), my father took us all to see the ‘water majestically touching the MWL’ (maximum water level)…yes, that’s exactly what appa told us! Majestic water! I am sure he and mom must have shed a lot of tears from up there and begged the gods to stop the rains. Of course yes. For me, Palakkad (and life) began with them.
The deluge days that followed were a blurry vision of unexpected turn of events. One which showed us how to face a crisis and handle it with our might.
The rest in bullet points as words are pouring faster than a cyclonic rain.
- When rains pounded hard, and rivers and lakes swelled rapidly, people didn’t wait for assistance from the authorities – Central government was aware but got busy with various other things. State government was in a stunned mode having not seen a fury like this ever before, but they recovered pretty fast. But even faster than them, recovered the people of Kerala.
Hats off to their integrity, resourcefulness, and willingness to jump in and offer their assistance to those in need.
- Everyone pitched in.
- The local residents jumped in first.
- The fishermen saw the plight around them and realized that they would be best bet to put their tough swimming skills and their boats to use and came in to the scene and how!
- The TV channels forgoing ad revenue through continuous coverage and setting up calls centre and doubling up as rescue teams! They deserve a special mention. Another example to follow for national media, who when they finally came, were more keen on jumping into IAF rescue planes, just so they could say, …’we are the first to report from inside the rescue plane’. (the plane was on ground and there wasn’t anything major happening in or around it then for the reporter to cover)
- The students at the Civil Services Coaching centre in Trivandrum that offered their ingenuity and assistance to set up a temporary call centre for a TV channel.
- Fort the first time, we could see the think tanks that make it to the coveted Indian Administrative Services, giving their scope of work, a scope for them to shine a beacon. The District Collector of Trivandrum, the pretty Vasuki, the spunky DC of Trichur, Anupama, handsome Nooh Bhava of Pathanamthitta, Mohammed Safirulla of Kochi, Balamurali of Palakkad, Prasanth Nair of Calicut…the list if pretty long and optimistic here…
- The students of an engineering college in Trivandrum that quickly assembled a mobile phone charger with easily available materials, as power was erratic and Whatsapp was the most widely used means of communication.
- Film stars like Tovino (whom I had not heard of till now, but now I want to meet his parents for bringing up such a compassionate child), Jaisurya, Indrajith and his family, Jairam, Vijay, Vikram, Dileep, Salim Kumar and many many others who were involved majorly in the relief efforts, physically present to lend their able hands and also spreading the message of service through Social Media. Proud of you!
- The state governments of Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Gujarat and many still counting, that pitched in with their generous contributions to the CM’s relief fund.
- The generous assistance from UAE to Kerala’s CM fund of 100 million US dollars, Qatar with 5 million USD, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman with their share of assistance. (now this is a questions mark with Indian govt not accepting any foreign government’s financial aid)
- The people residing in these Gulf countries hailing from Kerala whose heart was firmly with their motherland Kerala, who contributed money, and many other essential stuff mobilized through their collective efforts with charitable organisations.
- Kerala based industrialists like Yusuf Ali of Lulu, Mohammed Ali of Galfar, B R Shetty of UAE Exchange, Azad Moopan of Aster DM healthcare who pitched in generously with their share.
- Last, but certainly not the least, our rescue force from Army, Air force and Navy that came like gigantic robots on a mission and brought a clinical control to the rescue operations…
- Help came from every level… in spite of setbacks in the form of misleading Social Media messages, people rose up to the occasion.
The national festival of Kerala, Onam, is just three days away. The Keralites welcome their legendary king of yore, Maveli, who is allowed to come and visit his folks in Kerala, only once during the year from his subterranean abode on Onam day. On this day, every Malayalee’s house is filled with happiness and fulfillment. A traditional grand feast, fun and togetherness is a given in every house. And a song that plays in every lips starts with this line, (a rough translation)
When maveli was ruling Kerala, everyone was equal.
Ironically this Onam, we Keralites will surely know what this means in the current context. And more importantly it has taught us to respect and value every other person you see when you walk the roads of Kerala.
Happy Onam folks!