Ghost in the flood

From floods, to earthquakes, to severe droughts etc natural disasters do affect all nations around the globe from time to time. Such natural disasters tend to have a significant impact on the lives of people, their hearts and minds, their livelihood, and on the society at large.

Though these disasters do bring all the miseries in the world to mankind they however also enlighten us with wisdom, increase our knowledge, strengthen our faith in Allah and help us turn to Allah in Repentance.

Right from the dawn of mankind, humans have looked for explanations of such events in an attempt to have a better understanding. We humans have a tendency to look for the causal explanation of events occurring around us, our heart and mind tend not to settle down without an understanding of the “why” of such events. From religious teaching to scientific knowledge such natural disasters are interpreted differently in different cultures.  However in the process of making sense of events occurring around us we sometimes look for answers in myths and fictitious folk tales. These interesting myths and folk tales may seem interesting but they prevent the rational, logical and religious understanding of natural disasters. 

I heard one such fictitious tale of a ghost after the after September 7 floods in Kashmir. It was the first working day of Kashmir University after the devastating floods and I was on my way to the department of Psychology. While on my way in the university campus I stopped near an ATM, and got myself in the cue, while waiting for my turn in the cue I found few gentlemen (who were in the same cue) in a conversation with each other .They were talking about the September 7 floods, the destruction and misery as a result of it and the causes of such floods. One gentleman among this group reported something which left me wondering. He said “You know what I have heard from many that a long twenty feet ghost was showing way to flood waters and where ever the ghost used to point flood water tend to take that way” and what was more shocking for me after hearing this scary news was that the other gentlemen nodded vertically in affirmative and reinforced this amazing statement by acknowledging that they too have heard something like that. My curiosity overwhelmed my patience and I was not able to stop myself from asking them “sir can you please tell me where such ghost has been heard of or seen and by whom?” Person A replied “someone from Rajbagh has seen it”, person B said “no no someone from Hyderpora has seen it”,   person C “I think someone from Sonwar has seen it”.  From Rajbagh to Hyderpora to Sonwar the ghost kept me confusing. However their incoherence and cross referencing told me everything and the image of the flood ghost which they presented to me quickly started fading away. Illusions in natural disasters because of their impact on human mind are common however a ghost interpretation and then spreading such fiction is nothing more than ignorance. 

Natural disasters are part of this worldly life and can be understood in the light of religious teaching and scientific knowledge, both of which can help us have to a better understanding of events occurring around us and increase our wisdom, but stories like that of ghost showing flood waters it’s way can not only lead to absurdity and darkness. What these ghost stories also do is that they make the people particularly children firmly believe in ghosts and thus making them vulnerable to mental illnesses like possession syndrome commonly known as “tasruf” and phobias etc.

While as a part of mental health intervention in Uttrakhand after the flood disaster there, I could see the impact of such irrational beliefs on the mental health of people especially young ones there, however at the same time I was also able to see the impact of psycho-education and psychological first aide in improving the symptoms and functioning of individuals with mental health problems post floods.

No doubt there is need to put such events in right perspective and have a rational and logical narrative of such events, but ghost stories won’t do it. Religious and scientific knowledge must prevail over fiction and myths. Huge responsibility lies on religious scholars, luminaries and professionals in the field (particularly mental health professionals) to clear such myths and fictitious folk tales about natural disasters and help the general masses have a better religio- scientific understanding of such events. Because if such ghost stories are reinforced and allowed to spread the ghost may feel welcome, keep coming and continue terrorising.

Imran Khan 

[email protected]

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