FISHERMEN IN TROUBLED WATERS
The most effusive praise in the Kerala rescue efforts were reserved for the fishermen, who emerged in droves, saving lives from remote, flooded areas which even the NDRF and the armed forces found difficult to approach. Among the many men who braved the torrential rains with no safety equipment, JAISAL K.P., a fisherman from Tanur in Malappuram, rose to fame when a video of him offering his back as a stepping stone for the elderly and the women to climb on rescue dinghies went viral. He became the icon of humanity in a dreadful natural disaster, a sobriquet he carries with much reluctance. “Phones have not stopped ringing,” says Jaisal, who is a volunteer at Trauma Care agency in Malappuram. “What went viral is only the tip of the iceberg. Our team braved venomous snakes and scorpions, swimming kilometres in torrential waters, into inaccessible areas, and rescued people.” So far, he claims, the team has rescued some 250 from areas like Vengara in Malappuram, including a 29-day-old child. They salvaged ten bodies as well. Two of his team members were bitten by scorpions. “We do not have the luxury of attending to it. There are still many who need to be rescued,” he brushes away all concerns. “Some of the families gave us turmeric powder to rub on the wounds, though some captains are still experiencing pain in their legs.”
ART FROM THE HEART
JAZEEL K.T., a student of Pondicherry University, was horrified by the severity of floods that hit his home town of Kozhikode. He decided to galvanise fundraising for the state with a unique initiative. “Transfer Rs 2,000 to Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund, send me the screenshot of the bank transaction summary along with your photo, and get a portrait done,”the 22-year-old, who specialises in portraits with pen, wrote on Facebook on August 17. “I gave a threshold of Rs 2,000, because that is what I usually charge for one portrait,” he says. “There were some who sent me screenshots of much lower amounts, saying it was all they had. There were others who sent me photos of relief items they donated to camps. I will gift portraits to them all.” Within 24 hours, receipts amounting to Rs 1 lakh accumulated in his inbox. Jazeel now estimates that he possesses stubs to the tune of Rs 2 lakh. “I will have to do 30 or 40 portraits,” he says. “I really think more artists should come forward. I am not a popular name; I have been sketching only for the past five years. If I could raise 02 lakh, think about the impact well-known faces can make.”
Rains lashing out in all its fury put a damper on celebrations and special occasions across the state. K.J. JAYDEEP, a builder from Neelamperoor in upper Kuttanad, was faced with a choice when the rains started flattening landscapes in fell swoops: Should he go ahead with his marriage scheduled on August 19? “We did not face the kind of danger that the people in lower Kuttanad had to deal with,”says Jaydeep. “Many were losing their homes in the area. So we decided to postpone the wedding and convert the marquee into a relief camp. When the water level rose in our areas, and it became hazardous, we had to shift the families. I requested them to move in with my fiancee’s [Surya Sharath] family in Ranni, but they did not acquiesce. So we moved them to various relief camps around Kottayam,”he says. Whatever he achieved was due to the combined efforts of a team, says Jaydeep. “The owner of the marquee stood firmly behind us, saying he didn’t have the heart to pull it down in such a circumstance. Our friends waited with boats and rafts to haul in people who came in swimming from lower parts of Kuttanad. We transported them to relief camps. This has opened up a new understanding of life for me,”he says.
BI-CYCLE OF LIFE
Shiva Shanmuganathan from Villupuram in Tamil Nadu was interested in the news and happenings of the neighbouring state, just to remain updated on the current affairs. After all, he ran a competitive exams coaching centre. The mournful visuals from Kerala, and people crying for help, aroused the sympathy of his nine-year-old daughter ANUPRIYA, who watched the news reports along with her father. The little girl ran into her room, and returned with all five of her piggy banks, which held four years of her savings; all proceeds were to go towards buying a bicycle. “Appa, donate all my money to the help the people suffering in Kerala,” she told her father.
Shanmuganathan was moved by the gesture, but he advised her that this was only a small sum, which could do nothing to alleviate the sufferings of the people there. But Anupriya was set in her decision, so the father and daughter sat down the next day to break open the piggy banks and count the money. It came around Rs 9,000, all in coins.”As per my daughter’s wish, I donated the money,” says Shanmuganathan.
A day later, the humanitarian act went viral on social media. Hero Cycles, through its official Twitter account, appreciated the gesture and said she would get a brand new cycle from them. “Dear Anupriya, we appreciate your gesture to support humanity in the hour of need. You would get a brand new cycle from us,” they wrote on Twitter. Hero Motors chairman and managing director Pankaj M. Munjal said Anupriya would be gifted cycles every year. “I didn’t expect this,” says Shanmuganathan. “I feel proud of my daughter.”
LOVE IN A BLANKET
When 16-year-old VISHNU decided to visit Kerala for the first time, he couldn’t have imagined that he would fall in love with the place and end up making annual visits. Vishnu Kacchwa, from Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh, who visits Kerala every year to sell blankets, was about to set out on his daily rounds when Iritty Deputy Tehsildar Lakshmanan cautioned him about the weather conditions and asked him not to venture out. “This was on August 10, when I visited the tehsildar’s office,”he said. He was informed that a lot of people were displaced because of landslides caused by the rains. “So I asked him to take me to a camp. I wanted to donate some blankets. He could not believe his ears.”Vishnu gave some 50 blankets to Kannur District Collector Mir Mohammed Ali. “I just wanted to do my best for Kerala, where people have been so nice to me. Little children were shivering in the cold and I couldn’t bear to see it. And so, I did what I could,” said Vishnu.
COMPILED BY VAISAKH E. HARI, SUMITRA NAIR AND LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN