TOUCHED BY THE TSUNAMI WAVES
© 2009 Dr.P.Elayaraja
I am penning down, for the first time, my experience of the devastating Asian Tsunami that changed my perception of life altogether. Thousands lost their life, millions lost their loved and much one lost their faith in tomorrow. I am limiting this writing, on the description of events and state of mind of the people, to just 3 hours of the tsunami event.
26 December 2004 – The day started as usual as the other days. The air was chill, typical to this season, filled with suspense. Got up, as usual, at 5 am and started my routine by having a walk in the terrace and few workouts to warm up my body. Everything went on as a routine except missing to check out the television news. Later on I realized its importance.
It was sharp nine in the morning, when I heard the huge noise from the outside. It sounded to me like people screaming out of some panic. My initial notion was that the fishermen in the village had started a quarrel. Surmounting this sound was the sound of the massive gush of water.
I peeked out from my first floor balcony curiously. There was no quarrel, but only panic. The visual struck such a blow to my mind that I became numb for few seconds. The panic had caught me at the highest order. I have only few words to describe the view that was in front of me.
The sea has overrun the fishing village in front of our house and the foaming waves were progressing towards our building. The next reaction of mine was ruled by the instinct, which directed me to move to the terrace along with the family members. The occupants of the ground floor were also on the roof.
Everyone was panic enough to forget the cry. This is something that we had never heard of in this part of the world. We were watching, from the terrace, the huts and buildings engulfed by the sea like an amoeba that engulfs its pray using the pseudopodia. The water, by now has gone beyond our building. Our house was like a concrete ship on a shallow sea. All are same in the eyes of the sea, the cattle and human it consumed alike.
We thought the world is going to end today, or least the people of the shores will have to face the last music. I was quite scientific in my thought and was thinking that these events are related to the climate change and this is actually a sea level raise.
Tomorrow was our distance thought and today was what we were concerned of for the time being. Some cursed the god and some blamed the fellow humans for bringing in such a vast devastation. People went spiritual fearing their life at risk.
Prayer and hugs became more from the panic stricken people. Some called their loved ones living on the safer (away from the beaches) to say they might not see again. Even the word Chaos won’t rightly describe the condition that prevailed then. It was an orderly Chaos of mind set, where people were aware of their probable destiny.
No one had even thought of a stroke of luck, before the waves started to recede after 15 minutes. A chance to escape, I took only my academic certificates (which I considered very important then) from the cupboard and left the house. Men, women, children and the left out cattle were on the roads that travelled away from the shores.
First time in my life, I saw such a massive heard of people on the road walking in the same direction. This was similar to the visuals of people migration from India and Pakistan during the partition in 1947. Fear was not the same but the pain was. We walked, walked and walked. Distance seemed to be of no meaning before our fear of death.
We all had a reason to live. The children wanted to enjoy their childhood and the elders wanted to take care of their children. Everyone had a reasonable reason to defy the orders of death. Some, like me, wanted to avoid tears in the eyes of the loved ones, who cannot overcome their loss. For a while at least, everyone sensed life to be of great value.
Vehicles were packed with people and no means of transport was spared. Fortunate or unfortunate, we got a vehicle. The driver, who used to have tuition in our house and a nearby villager, gave us the lift. The vehicle had to reach the hospital around 25 miles away, because a woman of 60 had been rescued and need medical attention. She was wounded in her forehead and was moaning of pain while her breathing was getting uneasy.
We all sat nervously and our main aim is to admit the woman in the hospital. Though the driver was skillful enough, the traffic choked roads did not pave the way. We could hear the siren of ambulances from far behind asking for a way. All the way we saw people leaving their houses and moving the direction as we were.
From the people we heard that the disaster was actually a tsunami caused by a powerful earthquake in the Indonesian island. We also heard that the waves had again come twice after we left our home. It took an additional hour to reach the government hospital because of the blocked roads. The old woman could not sustain her efforts to breath. She was not moaning or groaning now, in fat she has chosen peace instead of suffering and pain. She was declared DOA by the doctors.
The efforts, of the people who rescued her, the skillful drive and these who were whishing her to be saved became meaningless. Well, if a life must go, it has to go. No one can stop it or hold it longer. I was very much touched by this incident, a life leaving the body, a soul separating from the physical structure, all in front of my eyes. I was touched by the consequences of the tsunami waves and every day I am being touched by the tsunami waves.
Tomorrow is a distant dream, live for today.
© 2009 Dr.P.Elayaraja