While everything is sinister about adversity, it has the uncanny knack of bringing forth the least expected. Having received copious rains, dams, rivers, lakes, ponds and every waterbody in the state are filled to the brim.
In no time, water spilled over and flooded every piece of land. Mountains came crashing down and torrents took along everything on its path - men, cattle, houses, trees - everything. It looked like the waters were trying to consume the state in toto.
An efficient state administration fought back with well-calibrated response and it ratcheted up to contain the crisis. Consume it could not, because, against the disaster’s diabolic advance stood a resilient people and a resolute band of heroes and superheroes. Some of the heroes were well-known, others local finds and the 'superheroes,' an everlasting gift of a terrible catastrophe.
As the flood situation worsened, the State approached the Central government seeking deployment of the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) besides paramilitary forces and the NDRF for rescue operations. Proactive and appropriate deployment of these forces ensured immediate response to crisis. Heroism of our defence personnel has always been food for folklore. Every rescue mission they undertook has been characterised by grit and valour. Trained and conditioned to be in such situations, these valiant men and women, oblivious of controversies, committed themselves to their assigned tasks. Their efforts resulted in saving countless lives. Devoid of glamour, unrecognised and excluded from star-studded functions in good times, men and women in uniform are saviours and real-life heroes. As always, they silently lived up to our expectations by countless acts of selflessness.
As conditions turned hostile, another band of heroes silently emerged in every locality. Locals, mostly young men and women, turned up in hordes to become saviours and helping hands to those affected by the floods. Day and night, these young men and women were seen helping ease traffic, evacuating hospitals and even carrying people across neck-deep water. They didn't even think once before transforming themselves into 'human stepping stones' to help the frail and ill to board rescue boats.
Often dubbed as selfish and 'mobile-phone' addicted, the millennium generation, irrespective of class, creed and religion, emerged a band of heroes that made rescue operations successful. The sight of so many young men and women willingly doing whatever they could for their brothers and sisters of the community, without being called to it, is a sure sign of strong virtues and values inherent in our society. If this sense of commitment and selflessness continues into the rehabilitation phase, no force can stop Kerala reaching Maveli's times.
The greatest and most precious find of the terrible tragedy was a class of people, who, are usually at the receiving end of nature's fury -fishermen.
The State, finding it tough to get boats to evacuate flood-affected people, unexpectedly got a fountainhead of goodness and bravery. The fishermen of Kerala emerged the 'frontline warriors' in the catastrophe. The 'never-ever-seen-before' superheroes of the Malayali community became the very soul and pivot of rescue operations.
Now, all eyes are in tears and all hearts are full of pride when people speak of the selfless fishermen of Kerala. The fearless mortals, they came, first in ones and twos and then by the hundreds, each one becoming a guardian angel. They gave up their daily work, knowing well that it would put their families through hardships. Yet, unmindful of their own safety, they pledged themselves to the rescue. Nobody asked them to. Nobody forced them to. Nobody motivated them to. They came with their boats and launched themselves straight into rescue mode. Without them, many would have ended up in watery graves.
Their wounds from Ockhi cyclone have not healed yet. They haven’t yet come to terms with their own losses. But, they came to save a marooned multitude drowning in their own backyard. Monetary compensation and recognition cannot match what they gave, for they gave themselves to a cause.
One can only marvel the way in which nature chooses to unravel goodness in human beings. With such people around, if there is a heaven on earth, it is here in God's Own Country where our fishermen live.
It took us a flood to discover our own angels.
(Jacob Tharakan Chacko is a retired Major-General with 36 years of experience at various managerial and directional posts. He is a recipient of the Sena Medal. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)