Monday, August 20, 2018

Marooned in Kerala

The scale of any tragedy can only be estimated. One could never possibly imagine the colossal scale of impact. Therefore, it is useless to pretend that one is able to. The situation in Kerala is no different.

Even as I write this, I cannot comprehend that over 661,000 people are presently displaced and there is a looming threat to thousands more. Over 350 people have lost their lives, and the destinies of their families have changed forever. Across the state are hastily organized relief camps where people are coming to terms with the misfortune that has befallen them. Over 200,000 people have taken refuge in over 1,500 relief camps across 14 districts of Kerala. As report after report streams in, the distressing picture of a state in misery is inescapable. It is also unparalleled and unprecedented.

And, during these distressing times, emerge heroic tales of compassion and selflessness. Men in uniform brave walls of water to ensure that lives are safe and the extent of the tragedy is mitigated, while ordinary men and women, fisherfolk and good samaritans, without any means, training, equipment, or comfort, comb neighbourhoods, night and day, to ensure a diligent and concerted search and rescue process, often disregarding grave perils to their own lives!

However, Kerala's woes are only beginning. Roads, bridges, and public infrastructure have been ruined. It is estimated that 10,000 kms of roads are damaged and require rebuilding. The scale of damage caused to houses across hundreds of villages and towns is unfathomable. Scores of villages lie inundated in water and debris, without power, communication systems, or access to relief measures. Essential supplies including provisions, potable water, medicines, fuel, food, clothing, beddings, etc., are in short supply. Corpses of dead animals lie littered in water, threatening an outbreak of disease and infection. The state of healthcare infrastructure to respond to the aftereffects of this tragedy cannot be immediately assessed. Entire plantations of cash crops lie devastated. The state government has pegged the economic loss at a staggering Rs. 195 billion (Rs. 19, 512 crores). These losses continue to mount even as I write this. The human cost and emotional impact of this tragedy are far from being calculable.

But, this outpouring of mine should not be construed as an abridged version of news reports. It isn't. Elsewhere, lately, there have been noises of the not so nice kind. It is being propagated that this tragedy has befallen us since we are lowly, immoral, and unholy 'beef-eaters', besides being utterly ungodly and uncivilized in desiring that our women be allowed the basic essential (not privilege) of equality to worship a Lord Ayyappa, who it seems, according to the archaic beliefs of some people, desires only male patronage! It is futile, I know, to reason with nitwits whose intellectual disabilities do not permit them to comprehend cultural beliefs outside of their own tiny and seemingly important realms of existence, that they glorify as being the holy grail of living. No, that is not how this tragedy has come about. Not due to the wrath of gods, nor in the consumption of the holy cow. But, yes, due to a blatant disregard for the environment, and the proximate cause being the incessant downpour that has struck us mercilessly and unabated for months. But, this is not the time for a post-mortem. Not yet. There will be agencies, bodies, and commissions of enquiry, established exclusively for that purpose. They will, in turn, determine, rightfully so, that beef, gods, and religion have nothing to do with floods and natural disasters. However, I'm not sure if that inference would satisfy those relics steeped in mindless and medieval attitudes. There is simply no cure for foolishness and the rest of us have little choice but to endure the pain of sharing the world with such imbeciles. However, mercifully, such dim-witted, gormless, and unintelligent voices are not the reflection of the population at large. They are isolated and individual at best.

Now, it is imperative that I state the purpose of this write-up. It is, as I mentioned before, not the summary of news reports to aggregate facts and figures. Neither is it an opinion to counter the mindless voices of some severely disordered who continue to attribute wildly insane reasons to the cause of this grave tragedy that has struck millions. This post is to express gratitude to nations and people who, from far and wide, across the boundaries of cultures, borders, and religions, have stood with us in solidarity during our time of grief and misery. Your support in gesture, kind, and capital are acts of kindness that we shall, forever, remain indebted and grateful for. It has reaffirmed in us, once again, that during calamity, we can stand together as one, to shoulder each other, in exactly the manner which is expected of us. During these trying times, we are witness to extraordinary feats of courage and selflessness by ordinary people whose zeal and zest allow us the gift of life. Armies of volunteers, military and medical personnel, government officials, and ordinary people continue to brave incomprehensible dangers to ensure that further lives are not lost. This is a true reflection of the unequivocally positive nature of the human spirit and its endeavour. It is this gift that keeps us alive, literally! But, Kerala is in need of a whole lot more. There is so much that needs to be done and we could do our bit, in our own way. No act of kindness is small, inconsequential, or insignificant.

As the moral and social philosopher, Erich Hoffer once said, "the hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." That is what I find myself doing today, an atheist in prayer, one who is counting his blessings for the fortune that he continues to enjoy.

If you are in an affected zone, here is how you can request for help: 

To contribute in kind, please see 

To contribute to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund, please see 

Important Announcements on the Floods in Kerala: 

A list of relief camps across Kerala: 

Relief Camp Requirements: 

List of Registered Requests (District-wise): 

District Needs & Collection Centers: 

Register as Volunteer: 

NGO/Company Registration for Volunteering: 

District level point of contacts: 

Map view of Relief Resources and Flooded Streets: 

Google Person Finder (Kerala Floods): 

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