Bemina Srinagar: It was 7th of the September, 2014. The day being Sunday, I was at my home. It had been raining continually in the areas around my city for more than two weeks. Some upper areas in the south had been already inundated but Sunday had been relatively calm and dry. We are safe, I thought, we, after all, live in a government approved residential colony flood could not hit us for, it was for those who had violated ecological and government rules by constructing houses on the encroached land – land of flood channels and river embankments and those whose houses lay in the converted land – the land meant for cultivation of paddy and other crops. It was not for us, we had not violated any rules!
My family and many locals in the area were keeping a close watch on the water level in the nearby flood channel. Everyone would return with an assurance of water level being lower than the danger mark. The girth of the flood-channel embankment was constantly invoked in being a dependable support against the incumbent threat. But, many in the heart of hearts doubted its power of resistance. We were outwardly calm but tense inside. Everyone was keenly listening to the updates aired on the Radio Kashmir Srinagar. While we were home busy with preparing dinner, the men folk of the house were on the eternal job of monitoring the water level. At the dusk they started rushing home, in a jiffy trying to block the potential entrance points for rumbling flood waters. We were terrified. There was no escape. Everyone was looking towards the sky beseeching Allah to have mercy. Allah is merciful but Jhelum is not! Defying all barriers water entered our colony at bout 6: 00pm and there was chaos, screams and wails! Jhelum extended it arms towards us and we gave in. We were now at the mercy of the river!
Water was rising steadily, we grabbed whatever we could and stocked it the first floor of our house. The scenario was unusual, first of its kind (for us), for we had never imagined that water could have such an ugly face. In less than half hour water had risen to 6 ft. We were huddled in the top floor of our home, dazed! The darkness came sooner than usual engulfing every speck of suns even the last rays. Electricity and mobile connectivity had already vanished from the scene. The colony had a haunted look from the top floor of our house. Rarely, there was some feeble flickering of candles visible here and there; rest of it was dark, dark as death! We all lay quiet under a single blanket among the clutter that we had collected from our ground floor. Everyone was quiet but none sleeping. Through the thick of night some cries and screams indiscernible could be heard. Our hearts were dropping. We recited Aayat from the Holy Quran. Death seemed to be certain and imminent. The moderate structure of our house would fall anytime, we thought, and we would all be buried together in one single grave!
You may not fear your death and at times you may even be curious about the unknown hinterland of death, but it certainly is painful to have a sword looming large not only you but all of your family. Yes, love for your kith and kin redoubles your fear of death even when you may be ready to give away your life in charity. Two small children, my siblings and parents a big family overall! I could not see them dying. I could not stand it.
The children were visibly terrified. All their naughtiness was smothered. This night they troubled none with their mischief. They were quite with their eyes focused on the elders asking troubling questions, What is it? Is it the not the same house we were living in?? Why is everyone quiet? We didnt have answers and attempted no explanations. All they knew was Jhelum water had entered their house! To my understanding, for them, it was like a monster in the ground floor which it really was!
Unusually long night passed only in seconds and every second seemed longer than many hours. With roil in my mind I was thinking about all my dreams and aspirations. It seemed I had been dreaming the dreams that were destined to crash. During the long dark and grim night my thoughts wandered and anything and everything that had ever chanced to happen to me came alive before my eyes….I was in the virtual world of my past…I was running a rosary of memories every bead of which hurt. I have been an introvert all my life always silent like a dove. People who are laconic in crowd often talk to their own self, at length, when alone. I got enough time to reflect on some of the past scenes of my life and that I did. I was at ease finding I had not much burden on my soul…honestly speaking had troubled none of His creation unnecessarily. I was preparing for the end which seemed so imminent but was praying for a reasonably better death.
One of my brothers works outside Kashmir it seemed to me that we will never see each other again. I wanted to write my last message to him but I was not able to decide the content. I was not sure what to write to him, a word of good bye or the details of lending and borrowings of our family, or how much we all loved him, or that he should be enough brave to accept the fate of his family. It was baffling! I dropped the idea of writing to him I thought, let me wait. Amid all the despair there was some hope breathing somewhere in me. Let me wait. May be it passes! A faint and scarcely audible Azan from some faraway mosque came as an answer to my prayers. It was another day! The flood water hadnt killed us!! Our house did not collapse on us! We were safe. Alive! A look from the window showed no other scene other than the uninvited guest – muddy water, pale with dirt and silt yet, we were cheerful this morning thanking Lord for his mercy. It was a rebirth. Everything felt fresh since we had been borne again!
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