“Dear son, you know the situation is more than worse in most parts of the city and we’re lucky on our part that the water has not reached us. However, a big responsibility has come to us”.
The image keeps on rolling through my mind, and falls in front of my eyes in a blink. 7th September, 2014, the most devastating natural disaster that J&K has witnessed in decades, was at its peak, and the heart of the state, the Summer Capital Srinagar, was inundated with water. It had rained for almost one week continuously, and most parts of the city were under water. The water level in the river Jhelum had crossed the danger mark by a long margin. The situation reminded me of Coleridge’s lines from Poem Ancient Mariner:
Water water everywhere
Not a drop to drink
Water water everywhere
Everything about to sink
However, it was evening time, and I still remember my father called me and said something very important, full of emotions and something that no book can teach me.
“A big responsibility…”
It took me a while to understand, that the elders of different committees in the area, including my father, are planning to start a relief camp at Jamia Masjid Hyderpora. Once the announcement was made, all the efforts were taken off from a different platform, as an opportunity. It was a time to practice the concept of humanity, work together both the elders and the youth with courage and cooperation, for no reason but to save humanity.
All the five mosque committees covering the area of Hyderpora started the first relief camp of the valley at that time to provide food and shelter to the flood victims.
Within no time, the words that I heard were being witnessed. Both the local youth and the elders were working restlessly to serve a rising number of victims, that had already gone above 6000, in the first five days in the camp. Apart from providing food and shelter to the flood victims in the camp, relief was also sent outside the camp to the areas which could be accessed.
Till now, it was all coming from the efforts of the people, who were contributing from wherever possible. Relief trucks loaded with rice bags, vegetables and fruits were coming in from different villages of the valley. So many people were contributing financially and others by working continuously for more than 8 hours in the camp.
With 10 days almost having passed, a systematic procedure was developing in the activities of the camp. To address the issues of the victims in the camp, the arrangement of counters was made accordingly, the maintenance of records to keep an eye on the required and the available stock, and also the bank accounts were created as people were contributing financially too.
A medical clinic was also operating in the camp, having a group of almost 8 doctors with medicines that were also coming in as aid by the efforts of the local students studying outside the state. I was myself a part of the Media Information Centre which was supposed to address the media as the camp was receiving a good attention from both the national and the international media. The stories at this place were at every single glance. One of the stories that made a big place in the national media was about an Indian tourist couple, and who on their third day in the relief camp became parents of a baby whom they named Kiran. Even the arrangement to send the family back safely to their home was made by the elders of the camp.
The relief camp operated for around 25 days and gave us a good opportunity to work under one roof, working towards a bigger cause. Maybe it didn’t end up the way it should have, but the experience can be deemed optimistic by simply improving on the mistakes that we made and carrying on with the learning to daily happenings of our lives. The experience of being a part of this relief camp was like a practical exercise that explained the importance of patience to me, that introduced me to some secular minded literates and that showed me the impact of unity.