By T S Sudhir
Atheists of the world, here is conclusive proof that God exists. Last month, elaborate prayers were conducted in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh to pray to the Rain God. The towns in the district were facing an acute drinking water shortage and the people were very desperate.
Their prayers were answered on Gandhi Jayanti day. It poured and poured and POURED in capital letters, ironically in the most violent way imaginable. Non-stop. Not just in Kurnool but also in neighouring districts in north Karnataka. All the waters flowed down in the Krishna and Tungabhadra, virtually drowning Kurnool, Nandyal, Mantralayam and various towns and villages.
Either God was in a very benevolent mood or he did not like the rather persistent manner of invoking him to open the floodgates. Whatever be the case, God’s act resulted in over 260 people dying in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Assuming God is somewhere up in the clouds, he needs to look down. And Google earth style, zoom in to Puloor village by the banks of the River Tungabhadra in Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh. But he would not find LIC agent Neelappa there. For Neelappa has spent the last four days in a rice godown near Alampur, with 2500 other flood victims and 500 cows and buffaloes and innumerable rodents for company.
“I haven’t slept a wink,” he says. Neelappa cannot charge his cellphone because Alampur is Andhra Pradesh’s Andhera Pradesh. With no power supply and his home washed away, he has moved into a relative’s home in Gadwal town, 30 km away. “But how long can I stay at someone’s home like an unwelcome visitor,” he says.
For years, Neelappa has made a living persuading people in and around his village to take a life insurance policy. Today he is melancholic and philosphical about the inevitable. Someone he sold a policy to three months back has gone missing, he says. “Life has no insurance. I never imagined the Tungabhadra would Tsunami-like take over everything we had,” he rues.
If poor districts like Mahbubnagar and Kurnool are a picture of acute misery, then the coastal districts of Krishna and Guntur are comparatively better off. Even in the quality of the relief camps and the way they are managed, Mahbubnagar and Krishna are as different as chalk and cheese. In the many relief camps I visited in towns like Jaggayapet and Vijayawada in Krishna district, atleast flood victims did not have to keep awake in the night, warding off rats and snakes doing a Tom and Jerry.
But there are snakes and worms in Vijayawada as well. Some of them have made their way into the home of Sudha Rani, a housewife. Her rented home in Bhoopesh Gupta Nagar was flooded by `Krishnamma’ as they call the river in these parts. The family of four spent two days and three nights under the full moon on the main road because moving to a relief camp would mean not being able to keep an eye on their belongings back home.
They need not have feared because as the waters receded, all that was left behind were children Kalyani and Sairam’s wet books, wet rice that Sudha cannot cook, unusable table fans. Even the photo album with pictures of Sudha’s childhood were part of history.
Neither Neelappa nor Sudha blame God. “In fact, I am grateful, we did not get killed in the floods,” says Sudha. All they ask for is help to rebuild their lives. Not charity. Not standing in a queue to get relief material from a politician, who is more keen on posing for photographs, so that he can milk it for electoral dividends in 2014.
“Please help us rebuild our lives while keeping our dignity intact,” says Sudha. As she said this, I thought anyone could have been in Sudha Rani’s place. You, me, anyone.
11-year-old Kalyani tells me there is no money to buy new books. Her brother, Sairam, a year older, is half happy the quarterly exams have been postponed. But he also knows he will need to rewrite a lot of science and maths portions. His Biology books got saved because they were kept on top of an almirah. He shows me the diagram he had made of the working of the heart. He now needs people’s hearts to beat for flood victims like him.
Officials say statistically, such floods occur only once in ten thousand years. That’s a relief. But to be on the safer side, it is better not to pray too hard.