It was the morning after Christmas, my mom (who was visiting us for the holidays) and I were coming back from a walk on the beach. People were rushing outside their homes in panic. A photographer friend of ours, on his scooter, drove past us adjusting his lenses while trying to balance his ride. Reaching home, frantic calls from our relatives sent us shivers. A tsunami just hit the coast and it is hardest at the Indian Ocean.
Switching the news channels on, bulletin of the impending series of killer wave were being announced. Tsunami, a Japanese word meaning a series of long and high sea wave caused by an earthquake was like Greek to us. No one knew what it actually was. No one knew what to expect. No one knew how to prepare for what is going to come next.
There was calm after the first wave. People went back to their routine. It was a Sunday, so we prepared to go to church. Sitting at the pew seven rows from the altar, on the right wing of the Saint Anthony’s Seashore Shrine, we felt the thud. The priest stood motionless waiting for the next thing to happen, and then after a silent prayer, he requested all of us to vacate the church and move to safety. Curiosity kicked in the journalists in us. Grabbing his camera from the back of the car, my husband drove slowly, inching our way to a safe distance from the shore atop a hilly area where we caught sight the second big wave that washed a few houses away. The scene was nothing like I’ve seen before. People were in pandemonium. Everyone was in panic, hastily moving in all directions.
The next few hours kept me in shock. I didn’t know how many people were killed, how many people lost their loved ones, how many people lost their properties … but one thing is sure, I now know what Tsunami is and how devastating it can be.
Twelve years later. The day after Christmas, which happen to be a Sunday. Everyone went back to their normal chores. I went to office early only to be greeted with numerous “out-of-office” email replies. Did my work, checked out deadlines, and was free most of the evening. A few colleagues gathered for a chat until we decided to venture out for an evening cap. The choice was unanimous – Besant Nagar Beach for a seafood treat!
A friend and I were the first to reach the destination. Parking was difficult so I took the first free slot. Getting out of the car, we noticed that the beach was packed, there are people everywhere… but it was dark! Gone are the bright lights from vendors selling all kinds of snacks from bajjis to golas, masala peanuts to giant papadums, the seafood stand that we were planning to head to is nowhere in sight. Vendors and fisherfolks decided to refrain from doing business for the day in observance of that fateful day, in remembrance of their families and friends who perished from Tsunami more than a decade ago.
I stood in awe watching them as they offered flowers and garlands to the makeshift memorial displaying photographs of the vast devastation brought about by Tsunami and the people whose lives were lost in the tragedy. The whole scene gave me goosebumps. Palpable sadness and grief can be felt everywhere. A few women were wailing, many were quiet … the entire scene is gloomy.
After a hushed prayer, we went on to join our friends. But I couldn’t fathom the fact that the world seems to have forgotten what happened twelve years ago, me included. I somehow felt a tinge of guilt seeing people like those in Besant Nagar beach who willingly let go of a chance to earn a living, during a busy day at the beach, in order to pay respect and pray for the victims of a past calamity. Millions like me, never even looked back as we get entangled with countless distractions of life.
(All photos are sourced from the Internet.)