At This Kerala Relief Camp, People Swap Stories of Life Post Flood

One Camp, Innumerable Stories: How This Kerala Relief Camp Brought People Together

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My Report
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Brought Together by Tragedy: At This Kerala Relief Camp, People Swap Stories of Real Life
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Every cloud has a silver lining. We saw it.

Kerala, currently undergoing a massive rescue operation to refuge lakhs of flood victims, has become a beacon of inspiring stories of faithful service to humanity. Indeed, it’s thickly greyed and thundering clouds had an even broader silver lining with every agonising saga of adversity being countered with a narrative of hope.

One such outpouring of empathy was harboured in a relief camp at Kottayam’s CMS College, which is amongst the most organised and equipped camps of the nearly
2,800 camps that have been set up in the aftermath of Kerala floods.

A classroom has been set up to  accommodate flood victims.      
A classroom has been set up to accommodate flood victims.     
(Photo Courtesy: Bulbul Dhawan)

Our walkway through the lush green entrance of the college was filled with some pre-conceived thoughts about the hopelessness and anxiety the victims would be going through, and how there was a chance that they would feel further tormented on being asked about their distressed conditions.

Indeed we were wrong!

The milieu of the camp was very amiable. Instead of the usual rush and chaos for ration, clothes and other basic requirements, an order was observed for distribution of commodities. Barely any of the rescued faces showed signs of weariness, despite each one of them having their own share of chilling accounts of evacuation.

Suvi along with her one-year-old daughter.
Suvi along with her one-year-old daughter.
(Photo Courtesy: Priyamvada Rana)

“We came here on Friday as the water inside our house was chest deep. With a family of five and nothing to look back to, the relief camp provided us with a safe haven,” said 28-year-old Suvi hailing from Karapuzha, a district which was under red alert during flood due to excess water flow from Idukki Dam that led to a havoc in their region.

“After the alert we immediately left our house on a rubber boat and then hastily called the lifeline numbers to look for camps,” Suvi said, embracing her one-year-old daughter, with whom, surviving this crisis appeared nothing short of miraculous.

73-year-old Leela was abandoned by her three children and has no permanent residence. 
73-year-old Leela was abandoned by her three children and has no permanent residence. 
(Photo Courtesy: Priyamvada Rana)

As we moved to the interiors of the camp, following a passage stuffed with dining tables and chairs, under the margins of the shed, we reached a small cubicle classroom, the set-up of which was changed to suit the flood survivors’ comfort. There we met Leela, a 73-year-old woman, who was facing twice the struggles of any of the other flood victims her age after she was abandoned by her three children and was clearly longing to be heard.

I stayed alone after my son abandoned me. I still don’t have a permanent place to live. After being affected by floods, I reached out to this camp. Everything is gone – all important documents and ration cards, they all are flushed after my area was flooded with water overflowing from Meenachil River.
Leela, 73-year-old flood victim

Despite being battered by times and family, she still wore a pleasant smile on her face and told her story with earnestness.

Two-year-old Amaya taking a chocolate from his mother Sunita.      
Two-year-old Amaya taking a chocolate from his mother Sunita.     
(Photo Courtesy: Chandhini Rajesh Kannan)

Sunita, another woman at the relief camp, told us that her house in Karapuzha was full of water snakes which creeped in along with the flood water. Knowing about the presence of snakes petrified us even more after we found out that she was in her house with her two children aged two and four. Still she recounted her condition with ease, as if her vulnerability was her new-found normalcy.

“Everything in the house was ruined. We decided to go to my sister-in-law’s place after the water reached neck-level but the by-pass bridge leading to her home collapsed, so we couldn’t go. That was when we heard about the CMS College camp and came here,” she added, while rocking her happy two-year-old in her lap. Her face continued to express peacefulness as she acknowledged the herculean efforts of the CMS college students.

Sunita and Amaya at the camp where flood victims have queued up to register themselves.
Sunita and Amaya at the camp where flood victims have queued up to register themselves.
(Photo Courtesy: Chandhini Rajesh Kannan)
Another Chechi (Malayalam for didi), speaking on the condition of anonymity, told us that she, along with her four family members, swam for five hours to come out to an area where the rescue teams would be able to reach them.

While informing us that everyone in her residential area of Kuttanad knows swimming due to the region’s close proximity to Kerala backwaters, she was beaming with pride when she noticed our astonishment at the fact that she swam continuously for five hours.

Leela  with her roommate at the relief camp.      
Leela with her roommate at the relief camp.     
(Photo Courtesy: Bulbul Dhawan)

These are only some of the tales we found out at the camp, and while it would be hard to bring out each and every one of them, it will be enough to say that our visit was full of reassuring smiles that is going to harbinger the biggest success story of Kerala overcoming a devastating crisis.

With this camp and many others, we are assured that the efforts of citizens paired with those of the government can withstand nature’s fury. A golden arc now pervades the skies of Kerala, piercing the grey clouds with a ray of sunshine setting in an exemplary tone of compassion, courage and charity that India needs to follow up with.

(The article is written by Bulbul Dhawan, Chandhini Rajesh Kannan and Priyamvada Rana. They are students of IIMC, Kottayam)

At This Kerala Relief Camp, People Swap Stories of Life Post Flood

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