Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Super Cyclone!

Two cousin brothers, one jobless evening, both their fathers out of station, unusually, no restrictions from their mothers, and the perfect setting happened to be during Dushera, some adventure was definitely on cards. They had to have some fun!    
So they decided to go for the newly released and hugely acclaimed Oriya movie named Bidhata (meaning, God), starring Uttam Mohanty and Mihir Das. 

October 27, 1999, 
The cousins went ahead with their plan for the movie, with their mothers and their uncle. But their grandfather wasn't really happy with it. According to him, what we understood, something bad was going to happen and he wanted us all to stay at home.But in an Indian middle class family, its the "Bahus" who rule the family. Their mothers persuaded him saying they would be back early. 

The movie got over, and it was truly a great movie, fitting to all its hype and the statures of the stars in it. Everyone came out. It was drizzling mildly outside. Until then everything was fine, when suddenly one of them happened to see the sky. It was completely red. It was as if someone had painted the sky with red paint, and then suddenly current went off. It was unusual, cause Orissa then happened to be very self sufficient as far as power was concerned and cutting off power in the capital, that to during Dushera, a festival totally lifeless in the part without their beautifully lighted pendals, was very unusual. And then we started hearing some announcements from a Police Jeep in a distance. It became louder and started to come from all around the place. The voice was kind of eerie, but my uncle, being a proud new recruit to the Indian Air Force, happened to hear it properly, and asked us to get in the car as soon as possible and drove. We were supposed to have dinner out, instead parcelled it to home, and on the way bought some candles and biscuits. We did not quite get the reason behind the rush, but we did hear the word "Batya" (Oriya for Cyclone) many times, but didn't really know what it meant. With the mystery of the word "Batya" in our heads, we reached home, quickly had dinner and were put to bed.

October 28, 1999,
I woke up, and suddenly got an essence of some kind of buzz going around, in the house. I went out to the dining area, and everyone was already there and were gazing out as if they never saw that huge window in the dining room before. Paying a little more attention, I saw air was flowing outside, and then a little more attention, I saw wind was blowing at a speed more than 200 kmph!! Current was gone, cable of the TV was gone, It was raining heavily and wind flowing at more than 200kmph. It was a cyclone, the 1999 Orissa Super Cyclone
We did not know what exactly it was then. Was it happening all over India, or just over Bhubaneswar, we were totally clueless, when suddenly my badepapa called from Kolkata (luckily the landlines were still functional). He was the first contact,who explained exactly what it was, and gave strict instructions, not to go out of the house, and we thought that was obvious and we would obviously not leave the house and go out, but until evening.

We had a light lunch. The sound of the air had grew and was peaking at 260kmph. It was growing kinda scary, when the last resort for any sort of help was about to go off in front of our eyes. A mango tree was almost uprooted and was about to fall on the land-line telephone pole. Cellular network then was very costly and only my badepapa had one. We immediately called him saying that was probably the last call to him. And the tree knocked off the pole, leaving us all to ourselves.

The rains continued, the wind continued, the only thing that stopped was words coming out of every ones mouth. And then we realised, water had started entering the house through the drawing room. All tries to stop it, went in vain, and within half an hour, every part of the floor was wet. The water started growing. We were terrified. And on top of it, we were just one part of the family. There was my father, who was at Paradeep, which happened to be a port city. There were my maternal grandparents and uncles, also in a place close to a coast. We had no clue whatsoever about them after our own landline was down. The tension was killing us all, especially for my father. 

Water was now almost reaching bed height. We were all on one bed and the mattresses started to get wet. It was time to do something. We no longer could wait in the house. We had to move to a higher place. Going totally out would have been very risky, so we decided to move up to the staircase room which lead to the roof. The staircase room had the entrance from outside the house. So basically we had to risk the cyclone to get their, and we had no other alternative. We took along with us, every single thing that was edible, few bedsheets and a few candles and matches. We kids were lifted by elders on their arms, risking the cyclone, we finally reached the room, climbed half way up, and all of us sat there. 

We had all reached the staircase room. I was so scared that not a single piece of word was coming out of my mouth. I generally don't talk much but still. Unfortunately, we had forgotten that the room had a roof of asbestos. And worse, there were five coconut trees around and if they managed to fall, would definitely fall on the house. The asbestos, due to the wind kept making noises as if someone was breaking glass on it. Probably to give us   little hope or may be just to break the silence, my grandfather started telling about his own experiences about a similar cyclone in 1982. And it was least of all, a bit comforting to hear someone talk after so long. We spent the whole night there. Probably at about 3:00 in the morning I dozed off. 

October 29, 1999,
Was the time about which I woke up. The cyclone had subsided. We had survived. The asbestos was safe, one of the coconut trees did manage to fall, but we were safe. But then came in the tension about others, more specifically my father. We tried contacting everyone possible authority, still there was no clue. We finally got in contact with my maternal grandparents, who lived close to Paradeep, and got to know that my uncle with his friends, had already left for Paradeep to search for him. 

Next few days:
The tension continued for two more days, when finally on the third day, he reached home. His part of the story was even more adventurous (may be another post!) but we were so very happy to see him. He and his colleague had literally pushed a car along with them for about 20km in order to drive the next 90 odd km, pushing aside corpses, and corpses of not just human beings..... I am sure I would have died, had I been in such a situation, but I know, my father is great!
On the fourth day, my badepapa arrived, and we knew we were all safe. But the cyclone left its marks so deep that its still remembered as one of the worst natural calamities in Indian History. It killed more than 15,000 people, making lakhs of people homeless. I myself have been through two more floods, a mild earthquake and two scary flights, but nothing comes as close to this.