Tsunami Blues

It was a cloudy afternoon. Since it was 30th December, there was some excitement in people. Although tsunami had hit our coastal city one week back, very few areas were affected..... In fact many people were not aware of it when it visited for the first time. People did not get any warning regarding that.

On 26th December all of a sudden I got a call from my friend around 12pm. She told me “Listen most of the southern cities got affected coz of tsunami. Just call up and find out how is everyone at home.”

For a moment, I was shocked. It may be because my heart didnt feel those furious vibrations. It always happens that I get some indication before some bad event could happen..... I can always feel my heart becoming heavy with a kind of fear. .... Rather that cannot be explained in words.... But, that day I didnt have any such feeling..... So, I was little surprised whether something sad had really happened with my family members..... Apart from that my cousin brother had spoken to me just then..... He didnt tell me any
thing.... Thats why I was confident....

After 3 or 4 rings my cousin sister picked up the phone and told me that they are fine.....
She told me that they came to know about the disaster when people started asking them over the phone. But, they couldn’t feel any tremor....

* * *
After 4 days I had gone to my hometown. That is on 30th December, I was at home. It was a cloudy afternoon. I was sitting in the front room of my house and discussing something with my mother .... In fact I was telling her what is Vision 2020. How it has been formed... She was asking me her doubts. All of a sudden we heard someone knocking our door.... One old grandpa (he is my mama’s father-in-law) was standing at the door.... His son was standing beside him with a tensed face.....

I invited them inside with a smile, but with a surprised face..... These people come under a very rare guests category ..... I asked them whether everything was ok!

Grandpa replied-“Tsunami had brought us to your place!”

Grandpa talks in a funny manner. Before making any statement, he shakes his shoulders and laughs, then talks, after concluding his statement he repeats the same gesture. When he performs this action, one can see his upper teeth (only 3 teeth). Looks like he had lost his remaining teeth due to old age... This makes the scene more hilarious...

Instead of getting worried, I just asked “I didnt understand grandpa! Every thing seems to be normal... Then how come tsunami brought you to our place?”

He again laughed and said –“ We have seen people vacating their houses after listening to District Collector’s warning...He requested the residents of apartments to vacate. They are predicting earthquake to hit our city again....So, its better to stay in independent houses ....”

My response was “oh...”

* * *
Just one hour before they could arrive at our place, my cousin called me up from her office and said – “You people better come out from house.... Earthquake might hit us “

I asked her over the phone –“Hope you are not joking! “

She sounded a bit serious – “No! Situation here is very bad! People are talking in groups about earthquake. Nobody is working in our office. I am also tensed!”

“Oh! do one thing! Come home. If at all something happens, all of us can die together. Otherwise just before dying my soul will be worrying about you.....Rather it will think about you even after death. "

I guess those words brought a smile on her face....” Ok! I will wait for some time and see what happens... If everyone goes home, I will also come! I am just checking the latest updates on Internet. ...”

“Good! Since our TV is under repair, I cant watch news! I will switch on the radio and find out whats happening in the world! “ – I said....

“Ok! will call you up later “ – she ended the call....

After that I just tuned the radio to listen news.... Then I heard the announcement in Telugu –“ The District Collector is going to address us now”

So, I increased the volume and hinted my mom to be silent....

The District Collector started speaking – “I request all the people to be cautious. Tsunami might attack our city again. There is a possibility of earthquake also. There is a special warning for the fishermen... They should not go into the sea for fishing.... Apart from this people who stay in apartments near sea should be cautious. “

I heaved a sigh of relief after listening to the warning ....

Then I asked my mom what was the situation on 26th December ....

She said –“In fact that I was going to my brother’s place by bus.... A group of fishermen and women got into the bus hurriedly. One woman was crying very badly.... She was saying - Sea started overflowing today morning.... The waves were very high..... Never in my life I had seen the sea roaring this way... “

My mother continued – “ After telling this, that fisherwoman was again crying.... Then one passenger asked her why she has to cry if sea is roaring..... Then that fisherwoman told that passenger that some of her relatives had gone into sea for fishing the previous night.... They have not yet returned..... “

I responded – “I can understand her situation.... she must be really tensed..... On 26th December I was watching news on TV in the night.... The scene was really bad in other cities of Andhra Pradesh and other states of the country.... No body had thought such disaster would happen .... In fact people still had a hangover of Christmas. “

Then my mom said –“That way our area is very safe. Nothing had happened to us. “

I said “I think there is nothing to worry. Somehow after listening to the announcement, I feel nothing will happen. “

Then we continued our discussion about vision 2020.

* * *
Thats why I was little surprised when I heard grandpa’s words. The District Collector had not told anyone to vacate flats. Grandpa’s son (uncle) seems to be worried...

Uncle told me – “Our neighbor is a marine engineer. He told me that sea water had come up to VUDA park compound wall (VUDA stands for Visakha Urban development Authority. This amusement park has been constructed at the seashore. Children and even elders enjoy going there ....especially in the evenings) It seems that marine engineer had gone there and came to know the actual picture. So, he told everyone to vacate houses. I feel a marine engineer has a better idea about sea... So, we took his suggestion seriously and thought of going to a safer place.”

I was little shocked after hearing these words. I have always read in newspapers / seen on TV/ in films ..... But, this was the first time I am involved in the live show....

Grandpa again laughed and said –“We have seen our neighbors locking their houses and taking their bags with upset faces..... “

Since he laughed again, I understood that he finished his statement.

I am sure not only me, even majority of the people had never faced such situation. In fact many people were saying that they heard the name “TSUNAMI” for the first time. Thats why you can find mixed feelings in their hearts ..... curiosity and tension... Even my state of mind was not very different from theirs.... I was not tensed but curious.... I just felt like
going to the beach and capture the real picture in my camera. ...

Uncle (grandpa’s son) was asking my mom –“ Hope you do not mind if I bring my
mother also here??”

My mother said – “Absolutely no problem. In fact you bring your wife and children also here. “

Uncle said – “No! my wife and children have gone to my in-laws’ place. My dad and myself have come here just to check whether you people are there at home. How come you have not gone to the office today?”

My mother answered –“I wanted to avail my casual leaves before they get lapsed”

Uncle got up from the chair and said – “Ok! I will just go home and get my mother also here.”

He left for his house on his bike. Mom, grandpa and myself were talking....
When I glanced at grandpa, I observed that he has grown very old. He doesn't have even a single black hair. He is thin... He must be 75+ But, his zest and zeal for life have not decreased... One can find his enthusiasm in his eyes and words...

I asked him whether he likes to have tea.... He said he will have tea when his wife comes....

Since his house is not very far from our house, his son arrived with grandma (grandpa’s wife) in a few minutes....

That grandma is a very cool person...She never seems to get worried for any thing. She is very spiritual... Her physical appearance is very catchy...She looks like an wooden doll. She has got very dark complexion. Her hair is completely gray. Since she uses turmeric for her face, it had spread till her hair and gave her hair slight yellowish tinge... She always puts a red vertical mark on her forehead...(Generally Vaishnavites put it like that)... Since she worships Lord Krishna with great faith, she follows vaishnavite customs. She has got very sharp features. She was looking very bright in sandalwood color saree. Even she is 70+

After 5 minutes her son had left for his in-laws’ place saying he might come in the night...

Grandma had started her conversation after her son had left our place. She was telling my mom-“My daughter-in-law had invited us to her mother’s place. But, I straightaway said no to her proposal. She is not from our caste. Their customs are entirely different from ours... Since she got married to my son, she follows our customs... But, what about her parents?.... They do not practice our customs... “

My mother said –“Luckily I am on leave today. Otherwise you would have found a big lock on my door. Even my mother is not there. She has gone to our native place. “

Grandma replied – “I thought it is possible that you people might not be there at home. So, I kept another option. If you were not there at home, I thought I would go to my elder daughter-in-law’s sister’s house. Although they are also not from our caste, I like their customs. I can stay with them...”

After listening to grandma’s words I just smiled ...

This grandma has 1 daughter and 2 sons. Her daughter is married to my mama. Her elder son married a girl from a higher caste whereas her younger son married a girl from lower caste. Thats why grandma straight away rejected her younger daughter-in-law’s proposal....

I was just thinking .....”Its very true. Nobody is perfect. This grandma is a very nice by nature. But, she couldnt get away from caste feeling. What I feel is if you truly worship God, you should respect his creation also. As a part of this you should respect your fellow human beings as they are... Just because man invented ‘caste system’ and attached ‘caste tags’ with each person, you should not stop respecting them when the ‘tag’ tells you that a particular person belongs to a lower caste. If a spiritual person cannot ignore these tags, his/her spirituality or devotion is of no use.

Since that grandma and grandpa were our guests and I didnt have much  intimacy, I didnt utter a single word about these ‘caste tags’. Rather I was a silent spectator. I went into the kitchen to prepare tea for all of us. Since all the three were speaking in high pitch and my house is also small, I could hear their conversation even in kitchen. During their talks I came to know that grandma’s younger daughter-in-law (who belongs to lower caste) seems to be good. Even grandpa was also praising her. He was saying that his
daughter-in-law prepares good food and she is very tidy. Grandma also agreed with him. But this caste feeling is stopping them from loving their daughter-in-law whole-heartedly.

Unlike other old couples, this grandpa and grandma never fight. They seem to have same opinion on majority of things. I have seen so many couples who fight for petty things (especially after growing old). I generally heard people saying that old couples fight because they do not know how to pass their time after retirement. I must say this is the first couple who seem to have unity(at least in front of others... I do not know whats cooking inside. )

* * *
After having tea, I just took bath and went out. By the time I came back it was 8pm. My mom was preparing “Tiffin” for grandpa and grandma. Most of the South Indians do not prefer to have rice in the night after growing old. Although they do not have much liking for wheat food, they have it. Apart from rice, every thing else is “Tiffin” for them (including rotis and chapattis).

My mother had told me that our servant maid had not come in the evening to clean the vessels. I thought she must have dropped because of “TSUNAMI hungama”.

In the meanwhile my cousin sister had come from the office. I generally asked her what was the situation outside.

She said people spent their day with mixed feelings (anxiety, worry, sadness and thrill)... Most of the people didnt know how to react....Thats why you can see all sorts of moods.

I asked my cousin sister – “ Has anyone left the office and went home?”

She replied –“No! Since nothing was clear, people couldnt leave the office and go home. But, everyone felt like going home and spend their time with their dear ones.... If at all death is written in their fate that day, they want to embrace it in the company of their loved ones!”

For a moment I was speechless and was moved after hearing her words. Everyone knows one day they have to die. But, if they come to know in advance when their death alarm is going to buzz, its a strange situation. May be people just try their level best to fulfill their small desires in that little time.

I asked my cousin what was her reaction.

Before writing her reaction, I must mention that her mother passed away in her childhood. She has got an younger brother who is working in Hyderabad and her dad (i.e. my mother’s brother) is working in our native place. My cousin is working in our city and staying with my mom.

She answered – “I just felt like going to my dad’s place. I wanted to ask my brother also to come there immediately (by flight). For a moment I felt why life is ending so early. “

I added -“You have started life just now and obviously you would not want it to end abruptly.....”

My cousin said – “I was continuously checking internet to know the latest situation. Today night we have to be little careful. Earthquakes love to disturb people in the nights. I do know how we are going to spend this night.”

Everyone was silent for a moment.

Then my mother said – “I very well remember Diviseema floods (This had completely washed away a village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh in 1977. This happened in one night.)

My mother continued –“That was a sad event. Although we never stayed in that area, neither we had any relatives there, we were shocked to know in the morning about the disaster on radio. A monster tidal wave had hit that place. That was the first time when we came to know that even sea could cause floods. We never heard this name “TSUNAMI”. It sounds very strange.

* * * *
When I was very small, may be 4years old, I remember people talking about the Skylab fall. That was in 1979. It was predicted that when Skylab-4 returns to earth, its debris might destroy some parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh. That time we were staying in a small town in coastal Andhra Pradesh with our paternal grandparents. I still remember how people reacted to that prediction. Some people just listed out their wishes and started planning to fulfill them. I still feel hilarious when I think about that event. Two of my paternal aunts broke their small earthen pots (which they were using to preserve their savings.). They spent that money to buy a few things. Some people thought they would have chicken, some thought of going for a picnic, some wanted to visit their relatives’ places. I think this continued for 20days.

Finally Skylab returned to earth scattering its debris from the Southeastern Indian ocean across a western region of Australia.

After this people started repenting... Why they spent their money. Nothing had happened and we have spent all our savings... This was their reaction.

Well! There is no undo for such things.

* * * *
That night before going to bed all of us sat together and were thinking whether we will see sunrise next day morning.

After everyone went to bed my mom came to me and asked – “Shall I put all our important documents in a bag and keep it near our bed so that if something bad happens in the middle of the night, we can just take it out along with us. ..”

I just felt like laughing. But, I didnt ... thinking she will feel bad...

So, I said politely – “Suppose the disaster attacks we will not be able to protect these documents from water(if earthquake hits sea is also going to roar). You cannot stand that force of water. So, its better we keep our valuables in the cupboard and lock it. If at all we survive, we might recover them from cupboard. “

My mom said – “Those documents are already there in the cupboard. So, I dont have to do any thing.

I said to my mom – “My heart says nothing bad is going to happen. The whole world might be tensed. But, I am sure we will definitely see sunrise tomorrow. Good night! Sleep peacefully!”

She said – “Ok! good night”

* * * *
The next day morning I opened my eyes when I felt the warmth of sunrays. I think it was 8:30am. Then I just saw my surroundings. Every thing is the same.

My mom was asking our servant maid –“why didnt you come for work yesterday evening?”

Servant maid replied –“yesterday after seeing the situation my grand children didnt allow me to go for work. Since they were crying, I couldnt leave them and come for work.”

When I was reading the newspaper, I got stuck at one page. There was a black and white photograph of an infant and her mother. Below that paragraph it was written –“Since she was born during this disaster she was named ‘TSUNAMI’ ...

I read out these lines to my mom. She started laughing.

That afternoon my cousin called up from the office during lunchtime. I asked her “Whats up?”

She said – “Everyone is working silently. Today morning our boss warned us if you people are not going to work today, TSUNAMI is really going to hit our bank (he meant they will be at great loss if his employees did not work). All of us laughed and started working. “

After ending the call I started thinking – “Although our city people didnt face much of TSUNAMI, they are aware of it now and a new word got added to their lingo – ‘TSUNAMI’. 


More by :  Dr. Sirisha Dabiru

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