Okay, i was busy playing shuttle today morning 'cos it was a superb sunday and as an exception i was woken up by a friend who thought i shouldn't be sleeping (duh!). Never mind that, we were playing shuttle at 6:30AM. Some 5 minutes later, we felt some strange vibration. It stopped a few seconds later. And we continued to play.... Getting damn tired after 2 and half hours of playing, we started back home .... our clothes completely soiled from the play.
Then came the news, it came as a huge wave, bringing with it all the dirty pictures that washed away every single human heart in the world. The news created ripples of feelings, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, colour etc. It destroyed part of Mother Earth's biggest continent. What followed was a week that we can't forgot. Its not the ills of tsunami that im going to tell you about. Its about how the world helped the affected people to get them on track ASAP. Myself and my friend played a small role with the help of an elder, whom we can never forget. He is our friend philosopher and guide.
[Sunday - 26 Dec 2004]
The tsunami struck. First i thought it was just a hoax. As more news was pouring in, i soon realised something bad had happened. The rest of the day was spent on many Oooo's and Aaaa's, typical of every accident or incident encountered till now.
[Monday - 27 Dec 2004]
My friend gets a message on his mobile. It told us to donate for tsunami relief and gave an address for doing so. The address was a place in north Chennai called Kolathur. Soon, we got into action. We collected clothes from our friends and got them assembled at my place. So much we got that it can't be taken by public transport. We were wondering what to do with those, when we got a call from a person. We told him we have collected some clothes ... and more than half of my house's living room was full of them. He told us to keep it in our house itself and told something that he had planned for the evening.
We assembled a small team of 8 year olds in my apartment. We also assigned them a team leader ;-) and told them to collect as much proper kitchen ware as possible. The one with the most vessels got 2 kitkat family packs. That was enough to set them on fire. About 2 hrs later, we had collected quite a lot of vessels too. Some more of my friends came and we were now 6 altogether with around 8 of those 8 year olds. This was exciting. We took some rest and the real adventure started after 6PM.
A local team had been formed in the playground near my house...a bullock cart was arranged along with an auto-rickshaw that had a portable microphone attached to it. Two collection centers were also temporarily arranged. The auto went from street to street in the locality announcing that a bullock cart was on its way to collect relief items. With more than 40 of us now, lots and lots of items had been collected. The whole of the area was buzzing with activity. A lot of ladies from nearby houses came to those collection centers. They seggregated the clothes into shirts, pants, sarees etc. and made individual packs. A lot of work was going on at tremendous pace and everything was happening simultaneously. The more we brought in, they more they enjoyed of seggregating them. Hats off to those ladies and the 8 year olds !!! :D
The collected items were taken to a place called Vivekananda Kendra. The night was cold today. So, lots of bed sheets were taken now in a van for distribution at Fore Shore Estate. The sight that engulfed us was worse than what i mentioned here. When the van stopped and when the window was opened, people swarmed to get whatever they could. It was like throwing a stone at a beehive. Myself and my friend covered all the 20km in my bajaj sunny ;-) 'cos the van was full. We returned home by 1:30 AM.
[Tuesday - 28 Dec 2004]
A meeting was organised to distribute the relief in an effective way. Those who swarmed yesterday aren't beggers, they are people like us...many having a decent living but lost everything to the tsunami. So, something had to be done that will prevent them from swarming and also the relief will reach properly. A plan was devised. A survey was planned to assess the damage and requirements. Just collecting something and throwing it at them will never work and it is a waste of time too.
[Wednesday - 29 Dec 2004]
We assembled at Vivekananda Kendra at 10AM today. Myself, my close friend, the elder i mentioned and 10 others were packed in a Tata sumo to visit 3 villages along the East Coast Road. Similarly, other teams were also formed to visit the nearby areas. Some fellows had the opportunity to visit Nagapattinam (the worst affected place, where there was atleast a death in almost all houses), particularly a young doctor who spent the next month doing free service and helping them rehabilitate. Good work dude !!!
The first village was Chinnandi Kuppam near Neelangarai (Blue Lagoon). We heard almost all of the painful tales that they were telling. At places where there were huts, only stones remained. A huge chunk of a road was missing and it was found about half a km inland. Boats were thrown atop houses that managed to survive. Well, those sights are still fresh in my mind. We took a detailed survey of each and every house. They said, "Everybody is giving us packets of raw rice sir...with no oil or vessels to cook them, how do we use it? We are more than 200 families here". This hit a point and made a note. One more remarkable thing happened. A team of Muslim doctors were doing a health checkup in a temple at this place symbolizing "Unity In Diversity".
The other 2 villages that our team visited was Injambakkam & Panaiyurkuppam. We returned home by 8:30PM.
[Thursday - 30 Dec 2004]
We went back to Kendra and did lots of work there. Many people of my age were present and we made good friends with them. Some of them are still in contact. We seggregated clothes for half the day today. This was one of the toughtest parts because more than anything else clothes were abundant. Two guys from Pune had come down to Chennai for this purpose. As the segregation was being done, they were arranged into family packs. It contained 1 shirt, 1 pant, 1 saree, blouse material, a set for kids, 1 towel or bedsheet. They were packed and sealed.
[Friday - 31 Dec 2004]
Today, we took a hand with the vessels. Many people from big companies visited today. One of them notably asked us how much family packs we had assembled. We told, "about 150 yesterday". He immediately called up Saravana stores and ordered 150 kerosene cookers. Wow!!. We also learnt how to stitch sacks after packing the vessels. First time in my life, i realised studying and earning a good life isn't the only thing. There are lots more to life. It was a very exciting day. I just loved this moment.
[Saturday - 1 Jan 2005]
A new year began today. I realised a lot in the past week. With all the family packs, we were scheduled to go a place called Devaneri to distribute them. They contained a dress pack, kerosene cooker, 2 vessles, 2 tumblers, 5 kgs of rice, 2 soap bars, bread, biscuits, a small lamp, oil, a bed sheet, straw mat, pillow and a photo of Lord Ganesh and Jesus. We reached Devanari by around 11 AM. The experience on monday had taught us not to throw things. So, the older people who came with us, met the village heads and asked them to call all the families to an open ground where they would be delivered a hour's lecture. When the lecture was going on, all the family packs were moved from the van to a counter. The whole process was done very fast with more than 25 of us in a chain.
The lecture was over by this time. One lady from each family was asked to get the relief materials. They all came in a quiet queue and the relief were distributed without even a wee bit of trouble. :D
Thus came to an end a week that i can't forget in my life. Furthermore, as part of the rehabilitation programme we assembled before pongal festival to get a survey of the number of people doing 10th and 12th in each of those villages. Myself and my friend went to Injambakkam to get the details. We also determined a place where a tuition can be housed. Exactly a week later, teachers were appointed and free tuitions were started. On the day of pongal, 15th Jan 2005 we went to Srinivasapuram to celebrate a united pongal, gave them mental strength to overcome this.
What more would i want?? The tsunami was an angel in disguise and it had taught me so much. If you wonder what you can do, try to be a part of a good NGO. Also try to donate a small sum of your salary every month for this purpose. Islam says, "For every Rs.100 you earn, donate Re.1". My heart-felt thanks to the guys who made this possible and made me realise the other side of life...
Update: Check this post at World Wide Help blog. Also, check Echo Club !