Mumbai Memoir 128- When the cyclone ‘Nisarga’ passed by!
Last week Mumbai & Mumbaikar’s helplessly stood witness to the devastation of its neighbouring districts, as the cyclone ‘Nisarga’ raced into the coastal belt of Maharashtra state on 3rd June’ 2020. Its been after 76 years that Mumbai was under a potential threat of being hit by a tropical storm (also referred as cyclone/hurricane/typhoons). The cyclone originated off the coast of Karnataka in the Arabian Sea and headed Northward. Had the cyclone not tilted to the North-East, then Mumbai would surely had got brutally battered by the natural disaster. Though Mumbai ‘dodged the bullet’, its sad to see the neighbouring coastal towns & districts badly affected by the aftermath of the cyclone. The Raigad district based Konkan coastline from Hari Hareshwar, Shrivardhan, Murud-Janjira to Alibag are worst affected by the cyclone, along with lots of damage done to villages and towns in the Ratnagiri & Sindhudurg districts too, particularly Ratnagiri, Ladghar, Dapoli, Karajgaon, Anjarle, Guhagar & neighbouring areas. Its disheartening to see the devastated villages & towns, which also happen to be my native villages, where most of my extended family still lives today.
As a little child I was first introduced to Hari Hareshwar, which is my ‘Aajol’ (where maternal grandparents live). It is located 187 kms South of Mumbai. The natural beauty of this sea touching village & the hospitality offered by its ‘down to earth’ people, made us visit the place time and again. The same sentiments I have for Murud-Janjira (150 Kms from Mumbai), where my maternal aunt has her bungalow. During school times, every summer vacation, my brother and me were sent off to our aunt at Murud. Time almost use to stand still then, as we had fun at her beach home and coconut orchard of almost 100 trees, that touched the sea! With the background of such beautiful memories associated to these places, it is soul wrenching to see and hear about the damage caused by ‘Nisarga’, to my Konkan based kith and kin.
The cyclone aftermath photographs sent by my cousins from Hari Hareshwar, Murud-Janjira, Nandgaon, Shrivardhan & Alibag literally froze me for a moment! The way a thick iron pole has been bent by the storm, tells the gravity of the force and pressure that the villagers must have experienced in the rampage act of the storm! Looking at the devastation of the coconut, mango and betelnut orchards, its obvious that 20-25 years of hardwork put in by the Konkani people has been washed off by the storm in 1 day!
Since a week, most of the cyclone affected villages and towns are disconnected from Mumbai as the electricity and cell phone network has been cut off due to the storm. The most challenging part is that since the state of Maharashtra is still in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic threat, there are lots of logistic limitations. Relief measures are not reaching in quick pace to the cyclone hit areas. With monsoon just around the corner and with no roof on most of the houses, life for people in coastal Maharashtra is like a live nightmare. Click here for details: https://www.facebook.com/vinod.satam.946/videos/589577505275658/
Though these are difficult days for the people of Konkan, still hope is not lost. This is because, I believe, people who have toiled the hard way, know how to resurrect themselves, inspite of adversities. Though the Government of Maharashtra has promised Rs. 100 crore financial package for Konkan as relief, after formal disaster investigation is done, still that much of money would not be enough for restoring normalcy in these areas. In reaction to this fact, people who have their roots in Konkan have come together to help, as they still value their soil and are grateful of how it has nurtured them to raise their standards of living. The sons and daughters of Konkan mostly reside in Mumbai and other parts of India, but many have migrated to Gulf countries, U.S.A, U.K and the Indian sub-continent for better work prospects and now they want to reach out to their kith and kin who are struggling to re-built themselves. Mumbai based people like Mr. Rajesh and Rohan Mapuskar (Media professionals from Bollywood who are natives of Shrivardhan) have initiated a relief program for the cyclone hit areas (To volunteer for their program or donate email: email@example.com). Mr. Nishant Koltharkar, who has his roots in Hari Hareshwar has started a crowd funding initiative for providing financial aid to the affected people (To donate click here: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-nishant-koltharkar?utm_source=whatsapp&utm_medium=fundraisers-title&mlp_referrer_id=3155205) . Through this article I request my readers to empathetically help the cyclone affected people of Konkan by either volunteering or by providing support in cash or kind through agencies of your choice. The least one can do is to donate a coconut sapling to the natives of Konkan. It would act as a well-being gesture and also will boost the confidence of the people who saw their coconut orchards getting devasted in front of their eyes.
Also, even in midst of disaster one must feel gratitude that due to early intervention by the local governing bodies, people living near the seashore were moved to safer areas. A day before the storm, people who lived in weak constructions too were shifted to concrete structures. This was possible because, village headmen (Sarpanch), District Collectors and Police were instructed by Meteorological Department to execute pro-actively. Though there is tremendous material loss, thanks to the advances of science and human interventions, due to which people resource loss was avoided. Besides this, its sheer luck that ‘Nisarga’ did not bring along the ‘storm surge’ phenomenon which usually accompanies many cyclones. Had that happened, the devastation would have been 10 times more. Click here to know more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlXVikDkyTg
Spiritually speaking, as per Indian mythology the Trinity power of Brahma (Creator) Vishnu (Maintainer) and Mahesh (Destroyer) creates balance in nature. Notice that cyclones are nature’s way to create environmental balance. It is unfortunate that people of Konkan had to bear the losses of this ‘environmental correction’. But as mentioned in the Vedas (ancient scriptures of India), that every destruction will give birth to new creation and likewise Konkan too will be re-born with fresh spirit. Thus, I believe that deriving inspiration from the coconut tree, the people of Konkan will bloom again like a ‘Kalpavriksha’ (an eternal tree) and soon emerge more empowered than before!
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha C. Sankulkar, Hari Hareshwar News (FB), cousins & relatives from Konkan.