‘I Sailed Paper Boats to Keep Myself Calm During Kerala Floods’

As I sit on my bed to write this, I’m sipping my favourite ginger tea. Now, it all seems normal.

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My Report
5 min read
On the fourth day, I decided to leave. 
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It all began on 15 August.

It had only been a couple of weeks since I had left my hometown, Kolkata, to pursue higher studies in Kerala. Being a journalism student at IIMC Kottayam, Independence Day wasn’t a holiday. I was to go for a field reporting assignment at the local parade ground and it had already started raining heavily. The event was suspended midway and we got an early leave. Yay! I don’t like rains. Rains for me are like those nyakas, who’ve come to annoy me. All I wanted was my bed and some garam tea!

It rained throughout on my way back to my paying guest (PG) accommodation, in Nattasserry, Kottayam. The only view I saw was that of the paddy fields that were under sheets of water. Till now, Kottayam hadn’t been impacted by the floods, but all this was going to change.

I entered my PG and saw my two roommates (both Keralites) packing their bags to leave for their homes. I didn’t anticipate the extent to which this could escalate to and thus any contemplation of moving out didn’t occur to me. Also, my bed was calling to me. So, I didn’t bother indulging in any further conversation.

By evening, the water had already spilled over on to the private road leading up to my PG.
By evening, the water had already spilled over on to the private road leading up to my PG.
(Photo Courtesy: Bidushi Das)

By evening, the water had already spilled over onto the private road leading up to my PG. It was almost calf-deep. That night the sound of rain pouring outside worked as a lullaby to my ears and I fell asleep.

I woke up in the morning to see the porch turned into a private swimming pool. That’s when the severity of the circumstances finally dawned on me and a feeling of panic grew in me. The power was cut off soon after.

I woke up in the morning to see the porch turned into a private swimming pool.
I woke up in the morning to see the porch turned into a private swimming pool.
(Photo Courtesy: Bidushi Das)

The water level continued to rise throughout the day and the family living downstairs shifted their belongings to the first floor. I saw people in the same neighbourhood moving out of their homes and we were amongst the very few people left in the area.

At that point of time, I wondered why we weren’t doing the same. I asked the family this and they reassured me that the water levels won’t rise up to the first floor. By the end of the day, water had entered the ground floor and we were stranded on the first floor.

 By the end of the day, water had entered the ground floor and we were stranded on the first floor.
By the end of the day, water had entered the ground floor and we were stranded on the first floor.
(Photo Courtesy: Bidushi Das)

Listening to rains pouring outside, my mind was taken back to Kolkata. Where heavy rains were accompanied by a holiday from school or college. The bonus off meant only one thing – afternoon siesta. The only time I have ever enjoyed rains is from the comfort of my home with a steaming cup of ginger chai.

But at that moment, even a cup of ginger tea would not have change my mood. I wanted to leave the house.

Two days had passed, 17 August was by far the worst day. The Meenachil River near the house had overflowed and the water levels had risen. In saw that a few rubber boats were rescuing people, but the family I was staying with didn’t let me leave as they thought it’d be unsafe. I did see a couple of families being evacuated, but the family thought it was safer for us to stay back. However, I went to my room to pack my bag, in case we had to leave immediately. I must be prepared with all my essentials. I packed a few pairs of clothes, medicines and kept some cash with me.

The power supply didn’t resume and the sight of the increasing water levels frightened me to a great extent.
The power supply didn’t resume and the sight of the increasing water levels frightened me to a great extent.
(Photo Courtesy: Bidushi Das)

The power supply didn’t resume and the sight of the increasing water levels frightened me to a great extent.

I tried my best to stay calm and spent the better part of the day making paper boats and dropping them in the water from the first floor.

This was my very first flood or any natural disaster for that matter and I was all alone without my family. We weren’t short of food, but running water was scarce. There was hardly any conversation with the family stranded with me because of the language barriers. I was the 12th man, in the conversation that happened in Malayalam. I couldn’t even speak to my parents because my phone was running out of battery. My parents were just relieved to hear my voice even if the call lasted for less than a minute.

 I decided to get out of the house even if the family living with me refused to leave.
I decided to get out of the house even if the family living with me refused to leave.
(Photo Courtesy: Bidushi Das)

Finally, on 18 August, after great persuasion from my friends and their families, I decided to get out of the house even if the family living with me refused to leave. It was the fourth day and I was rescued on a fibre boat. It was a small boat and could only accommodate a couple of people. The boat ride was pretty daunting for me as I saw creepy water snakes everywhere.

You won’t understand the feeling of keeping your feet on the solid ground. My classmates were waiting for me and they took me to a Catholic hostel a few kilometres away. At the hostel I met the same family that had been evacuated a day earlier. I was so relieved to be in the hostel – on dry land. The hostel wardens were kind enough to let us stay for free.

The first thing I did was charge my phone and call my parents. They were so happy and relieved to know that I was safe. And then they began with their health to-do list. How I had missed them and their never-ending lists. I stayed in the hostel for five days and returned to my PG last week. The power supply is back. The house is dirty but slowly it’s all coming back to normal. I changed my bedsheets, unpacked my bags and put my dirty clothes for a wash.

As I sit on my bed to write this, I’m sipping my favourite ginger tea. Now, it all seems normal.

‘I  Sailed Paper Boats to Keep Myself Calm During Kerala Floods’

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