Last evening, I called on my friend Charanjeet. After a few rings, I heard his voice on the other side as he said, “Hello!” I quickly asked him , “Where are you Friend?”, He answered loudly, “ I am at the stream by my village .I have come here along with my family members, with the 8 bales of clothes, that I managed to get from my rubbled- house at Jawahar Nagar, a couple of days back. I will talk to you in the evening.” and he cut the Mobile.
He is one of the victims of the Floods, that submerged almost whole of Srinagar. Charanjeet singh hails from village Tral in Kashmir valley and was putting up at Jawahar Nagar on rent along with his wife and two Kids.
Before retiring for the bed; I could not forget what he had told me just a few days back. His experience of going through the worst floods of Kashmir is/was still engraved on his psyche. He was narrating his poignant ordeal. And I was all ears.
He bagan like this:
6th sep 2014(Sat), time 10.00a.m, Mehjoor Nagar.I had come to meet a relative of mine, as well as pay my obeisance at the Gurdwara. To my surprise, Half of the Gurdwara was under the flooded waters of river Doodhganga-that flows nearby. When I enquired about the reasons for such a large volume of water, a local shopkeeper told me, that the waters are coming from Kandgam.
Mehjoor Nagar was slowly and gradually sinking under the waters. I ran away towards my house in Jawahar Nagar for the safety. While I was rushing towards my house, a friend called me on my Mobile and informed that Padshahi bagh too is under the flood-waters.
Whole day, I was anxious and phoned several friends and relatives about their welfare as well as ,to know ,the latest status of the floods. By 7.00p.m, My relative from Mehjoor nagar, whom I had visited in the morning, came to my house for shelter as his house had come under the waters.
I was apprehensive that may be Jawahar Nagar will too get submerged.I discussed with my wife about the possibilities of leaving for “Zeethyar” as that place was at a higher level.My wife rejected my suggestion out rightly as she said, “How much water will come! May a foot or two! If we have to leave, we will leave tomorrow morning.”The logic behind the decision was acceptable as we had never heard that Jawahar Nagar has been flooded ever. Also, I have two young children, and it would have been cruel on our part to drag them with us in the late evening.
By 10.00 p.m, we all retired to our beds. I was awakened by shrilled voices in the middle of the night.I checked on my mobile. It was 12.30 a.m.I rushed towards the street. Many young men were running haphazardly in the night and were knocking at the doors of the houses in the neighborhood. I confronted one of the youngster and asked him, “what is the matter?”. In a gushed tone, he answered stentorianly, “We have been told that the flood-waters may come from the Hotel Hatrick. Be alert.” And he ran away, Screaming aloud, “jaggo, Hoshiyar(be alert)”.
I was worried. I awakened my family-members from the slumber and told them what transpired .At 1.30 a.m, I strolled towards the main road. A couple was running towards me .As they approached nearer,The man held my hand and said shockingly, “The waters have come in the town-square. There is a breach in the embankments of Jhelum. Run for your life. Alert others too.” Without wasting a second, I ran towards my double- storied-house. I knew the inevitable is going to happen now. I didn’t want to take any risk. Once upon reaching my house, I took some of our essential belongings with me and shifted along my family to the first floor.
By sunday, 6.00 a.m, waters had started entering the front yard of my house. The level remained the same till 8.00a.m. After that, the waters started to rise sharply. I shifted my family and some of the belongings to the top storey of the house.
At around 9.00a.m, one storey was completely submerged under water. The waters were coming from Rajbagh and Kursu Rajbagh. The waters were gushing and swallowing everything that came in its way. The rising waters forced me to shift to my neighbor-Abid’s house. He helped me to shift my family to his house. We entered his house through the windows .His house was a 3-storied one and mine was only 2 storied.
We were 13 people in all(4 ladies,5 gents and 4 children).Between 11.00 a.m and 12.00 noon,5 houses fell down in front of my eyes. In one of the crumbling houses, I could see at least 10 people falling down and getting Buried under the Debris. I could hear their screams but I could do nothing. Their voices were silenced forever by the might of nature. My wife and children screamed each time, they saw or heard, the houses collapsing all around us. Dr. Sushil Razdan’s house too crumbled down and at least 3 people went down with that house..
Some civil boats came and rescued their relatives. We cried and screamed for help. We were assured by them ,that they will come back for our rescue. But nobody came the whole day. As the day passed by, we could hear the sounds of the crumbling houses all around us. All the children and women were visibly terrified. The men, though were equally terrified, but they acted like bravados.
The noises, screams and sounds of falling houses finally stopped by Sunday night. We did not eat anything that Sunday. My children were hungry and thirsty. By Sunday night, the family of Dr.Tickoo-who live 20 feet away from the house where I was marooned along with my family-threw 4 chapptis towards us. I fed those rotis to my Children. The adults did not eat anything at all.
I could not sleep that night out of anxiety and fear.
On Monday morning, when others woke up, they were all visibly happy. Happy, because we had survived the night. As the day progressed, we could see some Army,NDRF and civil boats. Each time we saw a boat, we cried for Help. But It seemed as if we are nobody and nobody’s responsibility.
In the meanwhile, the family members of Dr. Tickoo sent 30-40 chapptis to us both in the morning and the evening. A rope was thrown from their house to ours. A polythene bag, filled with “rotis” , was slided across the rope, directed towards us.
Monday night too passed, though I did not wink even for a second that night, But I do remember looking up to the skies and saying these words, “God, I know Death is inevitable. But don’t kill us this way.” I was praying to God for our safety.
Tuesday morning, I was thinking that the house, where we are putting up, might also collapse. The fear of death was keeping us on our toes both physically and mentally. The frequency of boats had increased that day. I knew the boats are giving preference to the sick, old and children. I hit upon an idea .I started crying aloud as I screamed, “Help me, my daughter is sick. kindly help me.” . I had lied(God forgive me) that my elder daughter, aged 9 years is sick. But the trick worked .A civil boat came to my rescue. It was around 11.00a.m. I wanted to go with my daughter, arrange a boat and come back to the rescue of others. By my Neighbor Abid opined that he should go, as he has more connections than me, since he has lived in srinager throughout his life and I was sort of an outsider as I am from village tral.
Finally, I gave in to his pestering and logic and he went away in the Boat along with my elder daughter. He promised that he will come back by 3-4p.m. We waited and waited for his return till 10.00p.m. But he did not come.
I and my wife were apprehensive that something bad might have happened. It came to my mind that, may be, the boat has capsized. My wife was inconsolable and she fainted. It was a very tough situation for me. After lots of efforts, I revived the consciousness of my wife.
How could I sleep that night! I was aghast with fear and my helplessness. At around 12.30 a.m, the wife of Abid started screaming . She was yelling loudly , “This house is going to fall. Help me Allah!” It took some time for all of us to control and console her.
By 1.00 a.m, Finally Abid came with a Boat. And we all had a sigh of relief. I enquired about my Daughter. He told us that she is safe at her Maternal uncles’s place, who stays near the embankments of the River at Mehjoor nagar. The news was relieving for us too. The boat that Abid had brought along with him could house nearly 20 people. The boat was arranged from Rainawari. The Boatman told us that the Gurudwara at Chatti-Padshahi is safe and that we should go there for our safety. The Boat dropped us at lal-Mandi near the banks of Jhelum river.
We were told by a passerby to go to the Hotel of the politician Altaf Bukhari(PDP) across the river. we crossed over the foot-bridge(near SPS muesuem)and reached his hotel. It was jam-packed as 1500 people had already taken shelter there. Many of the people were visibly sick and needed medical attention. Childen were crying.Anyways, We slept there for some hours.
Next morning (Wed)8.00 a.m, we left that place and decided to take shelter at Zeethyar. We walked through the Bundh(embankment) and reached Jaan Bakery via Zero Bridge. We took the hilly path to reach Durganaag Mandir. Enroute, I met few acquaintances. They told me that many sikh families had taken shelter at Woodland House school and that Zeethyar is jam-packed with 3000 people. We decided to take shelter at Woodland House school as I knew some local families there.
While, we were walking towards the School, The scenes reminded me of the 1947 partition as I saw many people walking or wading with their belongings on their heads. Finally, I reached Woodland School. It too was overcrowded. Later that day, the traditional Kashmiri- “Tehar”. Was served to all. We stayed there for the Night.
Next Morning(thrusday), I set on foot for Mehjoor Nagar, to get my daughter Back. The gory scenes all around the route was horrifying and heart-wrenching. Somehow, I reached Kursu Rambagh. At least 3-4 thousand people were still stranded in that area. The river waters had cut the road connection between Kursu Rajbagh and Mehjoor Nagar. Some of the local volunteers had cut the poplar tress and made a temporary bridge between the two areas. I too crossed the newly-made poplar bridge to reach Mehjoor Nagar and soon I was at my relatives House. My relative told me that my Daughter was with her Aunt(Massi) at chanapura, and that she was healthy and safe. I was relieved. I decided to get my daughter Back once the water level recedes and returned back to the Woodland School.
I stayed that night and Friday night with a friend of mine, who has a house near Woodland School.
On Saturday morning, I and my family were given a lift by an army truck. We had to reach our village in Tral. The truck dropped us at Habbakhatun. From there we walked 3 kms and reached Panthachowk. 5-6 thousand people were waiting there or were stranded. We walked further until we got a lift from a Truck Driver from Jammu. We alighted from the Truck at Awantipura . I managed to get a taxi from Awantipura and reached my Home at Tral.
It was only after 4-5 days stay at Tral, I could manage to get back my Daughter from her Massi’s(Aunt’s) house.
I had gone to my House at Jawahar Nagar, day before yesterday. It is still filled with a lot of Mud and silt. Everything has been destroyed by the waters. Somehow, I could bundle some of the clothes for washing . The place is still far for any immediate inhabitation. But I will go back, clean up the mess and try to return to a normal life, as I used to live there, before the Deluge.
During those tough 6 days, I witnessed the fury of Nature. The “thud” and “splash” of the crumbling houses. Thrist. Hunger .Anger. The fear of losing near and dear ones, and above all, the power of Humanity. I am thankful to all those, who helped me and my family to Survive. And I thank God, who gave me the courage to start afresh with optimism and Empathy. I have learnt, Nothings matters except being Humane and Kind.