We grew up reading ‘Bornoporichoy’ the first letter learning Bible by Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. The first two letters in that book is A (ow) and Aa . The book teaches the letters in rhymes –
অ এয় অজগর আসছে তেড়ে
আ এয় আমটি খাবো পেড়ে
Loosely translated, the first one say a Python is chasing you. The second one says, I will pluck a mango from the tree and eat it. Wednesday, 20th May we experienced both. It was Amphan, the giant supercyclone, which made a landfall on West Bengal. In a matter of few hours, it left its imprint the way which none of this generation had ever seen.
Cyclone Amphan, how it went about
I can say I have experienced Amphan and I believe, there has been nothing like this in West Bengal since 1737. That was when the Hooghly river cyclone made a landfall in Kolkata. It was overcast and drizzled since morning. There were no tale tell signs for what was going to follow in the next 12 hours. The rain increased in volume by noon with slight signs of random high speed of rain. At one point, we could see a black cloud literally pass by our window. All of a sudden by 2.30 pm, the winds picked up speed. And without any notice, one of our bedroom window just flew out, even when it was latched. We scrambled and took all the necessary precautions for the rest of the house. It was that moment when we felt grateful that we had a roof on our head.
Next few hours were mayhem at its best. With almost zero visibility, all we could hear was the howling of the gusty wind. There were more sounds to confirm the strength of this cyclone. Window panes shattering in the stairways, tin and asbestos sheets flying off and hitting against walls and the shrill wind passing through whatever nook and cranny in found within the balcony doors. With least visibility, one could figure the random rampage that it was creating all around. By 4.30 pm, there was a power cut. News of destruction started pouring in from various corners from the ones who still had internet connection. It was Amphan. It was the super cyclone at its mighty best that I had endured from the safety of my home. And yet, I did not feel safe.
The Damages that Amphan has caused
How do you measure a damage? Lives lost? Livelihood perished? Dreams killed? In one moment, you become roofless? Name any, Cyclone Amphan had fulfilled it. That night, when the bedroom was filled with water seeping in from the windows, we went to sleep with an alert in mind – what if it comes back? Of course we knew that the eye and the tail had both passed. However, it was difficult to get over. Amphan was satiated with its damages and headed north.
The news, pictures started pouring in from next day morning. We had internet connection for a couple of hours. There were many in Kolkata and other districts who were without power all through the night. Cyclone Amphan arrived with a windspeed of 185 km/hour and waves upto 15 ft as BBC confirms. Around 15 million people in Kolkata faced the wrath with roofs being flown off, electric poles being uprooted, giant age old trees which were landmarks fell on houses and electric wires.
As reports come in ..
The damage reports from the districts and villages and coastal areas are slowly coming in. There are places where the electricity is yet to be restored, no drinking water, no internet. It was a panic situation for everyone who did not have their parents staying with them. Ones who were out of Kolkata, West Bengal and India with ageing parents in Kolkata, it was anxiety untold. Everyone started reaching out to friends and family for some news. It was a night of uncertainty.
The damages cannot be listed in this little expanse as each day the volume is increasing. The coastal areas of 24 Parganas are almost wasted to ground as are other districts. The list is endless – Kakdwip, Namkhana, Sunderban, each of these places is almost down to bits and pieces. Millions of people are homeless. Rescue teams are unable to reach most of these locations because of mass destruction on the way.
Media is not India – Amphan proved that
A large section of Bengalis, including me, was anguished at the ignorance of the National TV channels on this issue (barring only NDTV perhaps). A lot of discussion happened over that in social media. It was justified but again, will take this opportunity to thank each and every friend across India who reached out to us. This is not a time to fight on this and make this India vs Bengal as media does not make India. The friends and well wishers will remain the same irrespective of the state.
Here are some of the horrifying pics of the aftermath the next day as captured by my friend – photographer and ace journalist – Kounteya Sinha
The road ahead from Amphan –
We can drown ourselves in sorrow.This was surely a bad timing when we are all under the distress of Covid virus and under lockdown. The economy is already on a down spiral and before this, many people had lost livelihoods. It will be a long road ahead from here. However, this is the time for all of us to come together. Each small effort will matter. Here is a list with links where we can contribute and smallest of the contribution will go a long way. There can be difference in opinion on where to contribute – make your choice as you find suitable but this is an appeal to everyone reading this come forward and contribute.
- Goonj Click here
2. Quarantined Student Youth Network
3. West Bengal Govt relief fund Click here
4. Ebong Alaap Click here
5. Mayuri , Fund raiser for Amphan Click here
6. Give India – fund raiser link – Click here
7. SeedsIndia find raiser link – Click here
8. JU commune – Click here
9. Rural Healthcare foundation –Click here
10. Sabuh Sangha – Click here
11. Sunderban Social Development Centre – Click here
12. Society for Direct Initiative for Social and Health Action (DISHA) Dakshinbanga Matshyajibi Forum (DMF) – Click Here
13. Relief for Cyclone Amphan in India Fundraiser for AID by Association for India’s Development at Johns Hopkins University – Click here