The Flood (part 2) - G Plus

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The Flood (part 2)

Nisha Mahanta Bordoloi | January 03, 2019 16:54 hrs


So far: In Kaliabor, Deepika and her infant son Niyor were woken up at the dead of night by neighbour Jagat with a last minute warning of the fast-approaching flood. Deepika’s husband, Dilip, was away in Guwahati. Jagat managed to free the tethered cow Damayanti (Dilip and Deepika’s only prized possession) as well. And now…

Deepika started running out of the door towards Jagat’s house. She had just reached the gate when a cold sensation stroking her feet stopped her in her tracks. She knew there was no use trying to run. With profound sadness, she looked into the sleeping Niyor’s face. The serenity on his face transmitted some amount of determination and courage into her sagging spirits. As rushing water rose over her heels, up her ankles to her calf, trying to dislodge her, she caught hold of the gate fence post, holding Niyor tightly to her bosom. Something hard struck her legs and she looked around her. Utensils, stools, chairs, trunks, TVs and other knick-knacks came floating by. Water had, now, reached up to her waist. Then she saw something that sparked some more hope into her. It was Damayanti. Jagat had probably released her and the waters now carried her along with its speeding current. She raised Niyor onto her shoulders, to keep him above water level, and waded cumbersomely towards Damayanti. As Damayanti was about to float past her, Deepika caught hold of Damayanti’s neck and held onto her firmly. Holding Niyor with one hand and clinging on to Damayanti’s neck with her other, Deepika allowed herself to be swept away by the force of the water.

Losing all sense of time and what seemed a few moments later or maybe hours later, Deepika felt Damayanti struggling to keep afloat. Fortunately, both Deepika and Damayanti were good swimmers and they somehow managed not to drown. The rushing waters hurled them along ferociously. Her left arm, with which she held Niyor securely, felt numb. Still holding onto Damayanti’s neck, Deepika managed to manipulate Niyor from her shoulder on to Damayanti’s back, praying that someone finds and rescues them before they drown. She kept her energies focussed on Niyor and continued calling out to Lord Krishna to come to her aid just as He had come to Draupadi’s. Her breath was sagging and her eyelids were beginning to droop. She stroked Damayanti’s neck, thanking her for her efforts to keep them safe. As if hearing her, Damayanti mooed softly. Thoughts of what might have happened to Jagat and of the others flickered on her mind for a moment and wandered towards Dilip. Remorse filled her with thoughts that she might not see him again and she regretted that she was unable to even bid him the final goodbye. Fatigue and hopelessness gripped her again and she let her eyelids drop. She shut her eyes and let her mind float with the rushing waters. Damayanti mooed again. Deepika felt as if Damayanti was making her final struggle, knowing that she was carrying a huge responsibility and she could not give up yet. Suddenly she felt as if the waters had stopped moving. The sight she saw on opening her eyes brought out a smile on her lip. The sun’s soft rays lit up the river bank. She realised that she was entangled in a mass of water hyacinth and the waters were moving far more slowly. Damayanti lay still. On her left she saw the river bank and people lined up along it, trying to capture on their mobile phone cameras the revival of the Kolong River, along with the destruction that the river had wrought. Seeing a second chance at life, renewed energy flowed through every cell of her being and she struggled to rise above the water hyacinth which was rising up at an alarming rate almost threatening to suffocate her and her son. The renewed energy lent voice to her parched throat and she shouted, “HELP!” with all her might. But her voice did not carry over to the noisy crowd. She and her baby were unnoticeable amongst the water hyacinths.

Then, from out of nowhere, she saw a Bhel (a contraption made by tying 3 to 4 banana stems and used as a raft) coming towards her, tearing through the water hyacinths. As the Bhel approached, she saw there were a young boy and an old lady clutching on to a goat on it. Maybe they had lost their home in the flood too but managed to escape with their lives. It felt as if Lord Krishna had really heard her call and sent this Bhel to rescue her. She called out again with all her might. But when it was apparent that she was neither being seen nor heard, she picked up the now awake and shrieking Niyor and raised him up above her as far as her arms would reach. This time the boy heard the baby’s shrieks and turned towards their direction. Seeing them, at last, he turned the Bhel towards Deepika, rowing with all his might. Within seconds he reached her and caught hold of Niyor. Placing him securely on the raft, the young lad caught Deepika’s slender wrist and pulled her up. She looked towards Damayanti and then up at the boy with pleading eyes. The boy reached out and touched Damayanti’s limp body and immediately realised that Damayanti had given up her struggles some time ago - maybe when they had got entangled in the mass of the water hyacinth.

“It’s no use, Baideo,” he said to Deepika.

Deepika’s eyes filled up with tears and she thanked the brave soul for keeping them safe throughout the ordeal. Deepika lay down on the raft, letting the relief engulf her, savouring every breath she took. The boy then rowed them out of the mess towards the bank. Niyor’s cries brought her out of her limbo and she picked him up and hugged him gently to her bosom, sobbing copiously. Soon they reached the banks of the river and eager hands pulled them out of the raft and led them to dry grounds, to the makeshift shelters that had been made for the flood affected people.

Someone took hold of Niyor and led Deepika to a secluded place for her to change into dry clothes. Deepika went through the motions feeling nothing. She was dog tired. Someone tried to feed her something but she refused. She just wanted to lie down for some time. To be alone. But this was a relief camp. Different people from different villages who had managed to survive the flood - people like herself - had sought refuge here. Some had lost their dear ones along with their property. Some had lost only their property. There was wailing and weeping everywhere. Some people just lay stunned wondering how to resume their lives once again.

Deepika looked around at all the hopeless people around her. A feeling of gratitude overcame her. She was safe, Niyor was safe and they had Dilip safe somewhere in Guwahati. They will find each other and be together again. She had full faith in her hard working husband. They’ll build their lives from scratch once again. At least they still had the land to rebuild their home. The old home was badly in need of repairs anyway and now they’ll have the chance to build it up once again. A smile brightened up her tired face. They still had tomorrow which seemed to beckon her.

(Concluded)

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