September 7, The Day That Forced Us Out Of Our Individual Shells
By Nisar Ahmad Dharma
02 January, 2015
He did not know swimming and had always been afraid of roaring waters. On the morning of September 7, at 8:10 AM, those roaring waters breached into his house with the compound walls collapsing like a house of cards. It was a nightmare for Maroof Ellahi, a resident of Alfarooq Colony Rajbagh, Srinagar. His friend living in the adjacent Padshahi Bagh area would have been his only help but unfortunately that area had already submerged a day before. Along with his elderly parents, Maroof moved to the first floor of his house. He had expected the water level to recede but the speed with which it was increasing puzzled and terrified him. Within 20 minutes, the entire ground floor was inundated and now the water was about to breach into the first floor. Maroof was stupefied and did not know what to do. He tried to shout and ask for help but everyone among his neighbours was facing the same catastrophe. As the water touched his feet on the first floor, Maroof managed to rush his parents into the attic. They hardly used to go in there and it had become a thriving place for pigeons. Their grumbling noise made Maroof and his parents more paranoid. Somewhere deep in their hearts, they were envious about their inability to fly like pigeons. It seemed that they were being flocked into a corner and now the inevitable was about to happen.
As few of the neighbourhood houses collapsed, Maroof was horrified by another possibility apart from drowning. Built around 40 years back, the only mortar holding the walls together in his house was mud. The gushing stream of water was easily displacing it thus weakening the entire structure. Maroof tried again to look out of the attic, hoping to seek some help. Bait-UL-Hilal, the orphanage next to his house, was home to around 60 children, run by the famous J&K Yateem (Orphan) Foundation. The children along with their teachers and other staff had moved into the 2nd floor of the building and were comparatively safer as its walls were concrete based. Maroof shouted and called for help. Luckily, one of the staff members of the orphanage heard him and managed to arrange a ladder. From the roof top of his house, Maroof made a dangerous but successful attempt of moving his parents over to the orphanage.
Maroof and his parents were feeling a little better in this new ambience. The people at Bait-Ul-Hilal were trying to contact other branches of J&K Yateem Foundation. They were in dire need of evacuation as the water level had reached the window panes of the first floor. They did not want to risk the lives of the kids and of Maroof’s family. Finally at around 4 PM, a group of 4 people came in two boats to rescue them. Firstly, the kids were evacuated to the nearby bund. It took multiple turns for the rescuers as the boats could only accommodate 10 people at a time. Finally Maroof along with his parents were carried to the shore. As they were leaving from the orphanage, he saw his mother crying while looking at their house. It is utterly strange leaving everything behind.
On the bund, a truck was being arranged to carry the children to another branch of the orphanage in Budgam. As everyone cramped for space in the truck, Maroof sat in a corner along with the children and his parents. He was still bewildered about what had happened since morning and was trying to appease his mother who was continuously crying. On a psychological level, it seemed too much to handle in a single day. As the truck reached the Budgam branch of the orphanage, Maroof found many other kids and families being relocated. The locals of that area were already arranging food, clothing, medicines and whatever help they could get. This gave Maroof a strange relief, knowing that he was not alone in these torrid times. With the setting of the sun, Maroof had known most of the volunteers and was surprised that some of them had been rescuing the kids while their own families were trapped in other areas of the city. It was a heroic deed, something which needed more than just courage. Maroof gathered himself and decided to become a part of that volunteer group. He decided to forsake his individual woes and strive to bring some relief to the ‘strangers’ that had become his new family.
Nisar Ahmad Dharma is a media student living in Kashmir. Currently,He is pursuing Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism from Media Education Research Institute, University of Kashmir, India. Apart from contributing with stories and editing to the university publication MERC Times, He also work as a reporter in a local daily in Srinagar, 'Precious Kashmir' (www.preciouskashmir.com)
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