The story by Harsh Mander is a real experience while the cyclone hit Orissa in October 1999 that killed thousands of people and devastated hundreds of villages.
Prashant went to his friend’s house in Ersama on 27 October, 1999. It was seven years after his mother’s death. In the evening, there came a super storm. Heavy and continuous rain filled the darkness. Trees were uprooted. The water entered his friend’s house. The speed of the wind was 350 km per hour.
Everything was destroyed. Prashant and his friend’s family had taken refuge on the roof. Prashant was greatly shocked to see a huge sheet of water all over. Houses were broken. Dead animals and human bodies floated everywhere. Two coconut trees had fallen on the house of Prashant’s friend. Its tender coconuts kept them alive for several days.
For the next two days Prashant sat huddled on the roof-top with his friend’s family. They were nearly frozen by the cold wind. He thought of his family and decided to go. He was worried about his family. He got a strong stick and started on his eighteen-kilometre journey to his village. The flood water was swollen.
Prashant waded through the water. On the way he found two friends of his uncle. They had to push away dead bodies of human beings and animals to move ahead. There were hardly any houses left in the villages they passed. Prashant kept thinking that no one in his family would have survived.
Finally, he reached his village Kalikuda. The remnants of roof was the only thing left of his house. He went to the Red Cross shelter and saw his maternal grandmother and his whole family there.
Prashant decided to assess the damage and the danger awaiting the survivors. He organised a group of youths of his village. They made a fire and cooked rice taken from the local merchant and decided to clean up the place of filth, urine and floating dead bodies.
On the fifth day, a military helicopter dropped food. But it didn’t return. They deputed children to lie there; finally they got food through air dropping.
Prashant became a saviour. He made a shelter for orphaned children and asked the women and children to join the food-for-work programme. It was started by a Non Government Organisation (NGO). He engaged other volunteers to help widows to start their lives and to settle the orphans.
Six months passed since the storm, now finally Prashant had time to think of himself. The widows and orphaned children thought of him only in their hours of distress.