Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Flood and survival

It was 1961. The monsoon came as a chatter and the water gurgled down the streams. As days and months passed torrential rain battered our roofs. The sluice gates of the heavens were opened up and it was a continuous downpour. The rising of the water level thrilled us, children. We went to the riverside, stood their gazing at the one kilometer wide, muddy, foamy, mad flow down. There were logs big and small floating and whole trees uprooted in the brown, downward, drunken march. Villagers could be seen as specks rowing in their country crafts against the current collecting logs of wood and loading them on to their boats. When the crafts were full, big trunks were tethered to the boats by ropes and brought ashore deftly. So many people would gather at the steps leading to the water and  engage in animated discussions on the value of the timber collected and the possibility for a big flood that year.  We measured the rising level of the river by keeping marks on the steps. After two days, People started predicting a big flood as the skies grew dark and a storm burst out every other hour.  After a torrential downpour, pregnant clouds would gather up from nowhere and cover the entire eastern horizon. We knew the grim darkness would burst up in another thunder shower and we would run to the safety of our ramshackle homes. 
In a few days flood waters had reached the paddy field behind our house. We were quite happy and excited. We made rafts with trunks of plantain trees and rowed on the tranquil flood lakes. It was pretty enjoyable; the waters were still and shallow and the green patches of paddy shoots could still be seen. But heavy rain would come unannounced and drain us all. Hence, as the skies grew cloudy, dark we knew the coming of a storm and we oared towards our plot. We dashed home in the drizzle and later huge drops would lash our house with strong winds as we huddled up inside. 
When the skies cleared up, we went to play in the flooded fields again. We did not care the  discussions regarding the chances of a flood. The next day morning I could see that the entire fields were under the flood waters. It was inching towards our compound. Our well was at the brink of overflowing and I could see flood water in the low areas, in the southern side.  
Fear gripped everyone. Fearful shouts and screams could be heard from many parts of the village. People stopped by our fence and I could hear elders discussing moving out to higher areas. Towards the afternoon many of the villagers were seen moving en masse carrying a few pots, plates and provisions in a sack.  

The southern side looked like a huge tranquil lake but its level was rising up alarmingly. Our father was not home and mother did not know what to do with her 7 children. A few of the villagers on the move, asked her  just to follow them then and there.  
"You cannot remain here with your children surrounded with floods in the night. Come with us," villagers said.
We took a few things in a sack, and joined the exodus. Our destination was an elevated side of the village. We had to hurry up as reports reached us that the bunds connecting to the spot was under threat from the floods. We all moved faster in a trot and we safely crossed over. The same night it burst out and a new stream started flowing there as a branch of the swollen river.
The whole sojourn was sheer fun. There was no work; we could play all the time. The only sad thing was that we were not allowed to go near the flooded areas and there was very little to eat other than steamed tapioca and occasional gruel. Mother cooked with a country stove, with the twigs collected by us, in a corner and we all slept huddled up on the floor close by, on bamboo mats.
Water was rising up; there were rumors about the breakage of other bunds, and the possibility of a dam bursting out. Water had already entered our house I heard, and it was flowing west like a huge river. So many houses were collapsing and a few had died or were missing. Fear gripped us all; if water level rose another 10 feet it would enter our new quarters and everything would be over.

We were running out of provisions too. Tapioca, coconut, plantain and banana were collected, brought and shared. Everything became common property. Ownership did not matter. Before the prospects of imminent of death, survival alone counted.   

We were almost marooned as there was water on all the four sides of that elevated place. By the second day the water started receding. And on the third morning we returned home. It was a mess. Flood waters had deposited dark soil and dirt all around and the whole place looked like a battle ground.             


  1. mablevarghese@yahoo.co.inDecember 14, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    I felt as if I was there with the narrator! And each rain I experienced - the muddy water and the villagers moving uphill -yet the happy face of the kids - beautiful like a movie! Loved it thoroughly! Congratulations!

  2. Awesome... I felt as If i were in a flood myself ! Great narration