MY STORY OF SURVIVING KASHMIR FLOOD
DAY: 7TH SEP, 2014
It was the morning of 7th September, it had been more than 2 days since I spoke to my mother, and not just me, there were about 5000 like me, students, who have been struggling with scarcity of food, drinking water and mostly chaos. I was woken up by the loud noises of people talking in my room and down on the road which was just outside my hostel, it was the noise of the students trying to save their luggage and other stuff from the incoming water level, our seniors broke down aluminum cupboards in order to create a metallic raft to carry their bags and luggage in it through the waist level water from their hostel rooms. I got up, picked up my brush and towel, ran to the bathroom and within a few fleeting minutes I was down the hostel checking out the situation of the place . We didn’t have breakfast that morning cause the mess was out of stock, primarily because of the shut-down of the Jammu-Srinagar highway and hence there was no food supply for that entire week which we get to know later that day.
We directly went to see the condition of Dal hostel as we heard it was affected the most by the water because of its location near Dal lake, and no words could explain the full extent of what I saw , the ground floor was swept off by the rising water of the usually serene Dal lake, the smell was foul and we got out of there soon. We return back to our own hostel in order to pack our stuff just in case water hit our hostel, and soon after , while we were packing, we heard the news that was least expected , “THE WATER CAME TO THE FOOTSTEPS OF OUR HOSTEL!!!”- some guy was shouting out loud in the hallway. I remember that morning very well, I just ran to the window to see the scenario, and the road mentioned above was a water way by then, water was continuously rising and now it was on the steps of our hostel when a guy came and exclaimed, “The administration has told us to evacuate now with the minimum luggage possible, with our blankets, cause we might have to sleep outside the hostel for the night”! I thought the guy would be right about that particular night, but who would have known, that I won’t be returning back to my room for several months! I packed all my stuff inside suitcases and locked it in my cupboard , wore my tracks and sweatshirt and evacuated with my carry-bag and blanket, I didn’t even wear my shoes, a mistake that I regret thinking about now. But as they said, it was just for the night, and we were all just prepared to camp out for that night.
We went to the lecture halls (consecutive class rooms in our college) to find a place to settle our luggage down and all but we were late and all the lecture halls were full to the neck. I saw students sleeping over the desk which must be about 40 cm in width and I was remember thinking how he was definitely going to roll over and fall down in the dark of the night and so is everyone else. Then a few friends of mine and I went to the drawing hall (large halls used for drawing subjects in our college) and some of our friends were already present there, so we simply moved the tables and created space for ourselves, spread the sheets and were just sitting and chatting about the cancellation of mid-terms that was supposed to happen the next day, everyone was happy and making fun of each other, enjoying, as if it was no big deal, which it wasn’t then. To us, cancellation of mid-terms was a far bigger news than some water entering our college which was supposed to be a simple case of overflow in the dal lake then and was assumed to be fine by the next day. It had been a day without food for us and we knew the water supply was affected by the dirty water from Dal lake . Everyone decided to fetch all the money everyone in our group had and buy something to eat and drink from outside. We did the same and some of us including me went towards the college gate and as the popular saying goes “WHEN YOU ARE SCREWED , YOU ARE SCREWED FROM ALL DIRECTIONS”. The college gate was shut down, there were several students standing there but security refused to open the gates. They had their reasons but hunger was on our head and everyone was shouting loud, they had to listen to us and do something, and they did open the gate after an hour with the condition that 2 students for every 20 would be allowed to go outside, to get food and other stuff, my friends went to get those as I waited at the gate, I glanced outside the gate , the road outside seemed fine by then, and so do the places nearby but things were about to get worse. We were back to the drawing hall with some chips, cakes, milk, some cartons of juices, a pack of drinking water and some other snacks and we were 20 hungry souls to feed.
We all finished our meal, and I should say that those were the best chips I ever ate in my life. We were just sitting there when we heard loud voices of children from the lecture halls, everyone went to see what was happening and when we reached there, we saw some strange men with Hammers , axes and other tools saying something in kashmiri (native language of kashmir) to our teachers and administration, they all looked really angry and pissed off, they hurt one of our batch mates too, when they angrily marched towards the hostel side we asked some of our teachers about the matter and this is what they said, “THESE MEN LIVE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF OUR COLLEGE WALL JUST ON THE BANKS OF DAL LAKE, THE RISING WATER FILLED THEIR HOMES AND CAUSED SEVERAL DEATHS OF CHILDREN AND THE ELDERLY, THEY ARE GOING TO BREAK THE COLLEGE WALL SO THE LEVEL OF WATER FROM THEIR HOMES WILL FALL DOWN”, we were all stunned by what he said. This was the first time in these three days we heard of someone’s death, we didn’t know it was such a serious situation, but because of loss of contact from the outer world, we were totally unaware of the pathetic situation across the valley.
They broke the wall and the water came in roaring, the water now was spreading all across the college even faster, and that’s when the seniors of Tawi hostel(which was a ground based hostel) rushed to save their belongings from the drifting water coming in, we all ran to help them out, and the hostel was halfway submerged when we reached there, I took off my t shirt, folded my pants with the other people and swam in to help some of our seniors. The water was dark, dirty and foul smelling, but there comes a time when one doesn’t care about materialistic things and all they see is people in trouble and just jump in, and that was the time for me, we used the same technique to float the cupboard and managed to get most of our seniors’ stuff out.
We came back, washed ourselves with whatever little water was available in the department bathrooms. And it was afternoon by then, college arranged lunch for us with whatever little was left in the stock, we shared thalis(plates) and stood there in that never-ending line, we were served handfuls of boiled rice and boiled dal (pulses), which seemed to be like food from heaven to us then. We all ate while it turned dark, and we saw the sun go down with the last rays falling on the rising water, and it was our last sight for the day. We all went inside the hall and lay down close to each other to cut off the chilly cold night, which we mostly spent talking to each other, and then finally we went to sleep after the long tiring and pretty much unforgettable day with the hope that next night we’ll be sleeping in the comfort of our warm beds,…… Never did I imagine that within 24 hours I’d be on the highest and the most dangerous highway of India!
(………………To be continued……………)