When It Hits Home

After expressing anger and indignation over the lack of awareness about the Thailand flood situation, a friend asked me why. This question only further intensified those emotions. But, in retrospect, I realize that it is very much a valid question. A person could not expect a community, as international as it is, to be aware of global events. I was displeased not only at the lack of awareness, but the lack of concern. But, how could people be concerned? These events happen on a regular basis. Even I would be a hypocrite to claim that people should be aware of the situation in Thailand, when I myself, am not aware of so much that is going on with the world.

So, without further ado, what IS happening in Thailand?

Every year, Thailand experiences some flooding due to the heavy monsoon season. However, this year has been identified as one of the worst and most expensive floods the country has faced. With a the flood effecting 60 of Thailand’s 77 provinces, a death toll of 533 (as of Friday Nov. 10) and a 4 billion USD loss of revenue – it can easily be said that the country will take a significant amount of time to recuperate from all the losses.

But, this happens all the time, and we know about it, and we sympathize, and then we move on. For example, the Southeast Asian Tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 – and these are just natural disasters. There is so much else going on – violence, hate crimes, racism, politics, activism, poverty, literacy, environmental issues. I couldn’t possibly list all the good(s) and bad(s) happening right now.

Truth is, we read about these things in the newspaper, and we never think that they could happen to us. I sometimes feel like we live in an utter state of denial; a bubble – the kind of bubble that suggests that these kinds of tragedies only happen to other people, and oh, thank God we don’t know anyone from there. Perhaps this isn’t a completely horrible state of mind.  If we were affected by every single calamity that happened, we’d broken people. We are affected by what is personal to us, and this realization was a hard one for me to acknowledge.

Even when the flood was only 10 km. away from home, my friends and family stated that there would be no way the floods would reach us. Within a few days, we were all proven wrong. On October 21st 2011, everyone in my neighborhood was forced to evacuate. The proper precaution and preparations were never taken, items weren’t moved, because even then, we never thought we would be affected.  Some important and sentimental pictures and documents were stored on higher levels in buildings, but it was all taken lightly. If people knew what they did now, more effort would have been made in an attempt to save some of those items.

At first, it was only a few inches. Gardens that had been tended and cared for over the years were slowly dispersing. Our shoes, tennis rackets, balls, and toys were soon seen floating alongside those of our neighbors.

Then it was a meter of water. Sand bags that had been carefully placed around the house could not hold much longer. Water gushed into the house. The dining table that I’d eaten on every day was submerged. Luckily, it was a sturdy wooden table; it managed to stand. The carpet that my parents had picked out, with care and consideration was completely submerged under the dark water. The elaborate patterns on it were completely covered; you wouldn’t even know it had existed. The kitchen, in which I had sneaked into at 3 AM on more than one bored night, was unrecognizable. The shelf with tea, the cupboard with sugar, the noodles drawer, the spice rack – it was all submerged. The forks, spoons and cutlery were probably floating because no one had stored them away. Who would have thought the flood would get this unpleasant?

Even being upset was a luxury. The most important thing was that friends and family were all alive and safe. Everything lost was material and replaceable; my house was still standing. The same couldn’t be said for many. They would have to rebuild their lives from scratch, try their best to replace everything they lost. I can’t even imagine what it must be for the 533 families who lost someone dear to them. I can only acknowledge their immense loss and sympathize.

I guess, the saying “life happens” has only become further concretized. You move on. But I’m allowing myself some time to be affected and dismayed. Material objects can be replaced but that’s not the point. They might even still be there, existing, in the same place, but destroyed and unusable. That is the point – it won’t be the same. New furniture will still do what the old ones did, but I didn’t stay up watching TV or stressing about school on the new couch. Sure, the new plates might even be shinier and prettier than the old ones, but they weren’t the ones used when my grandparents visited, or the ones used when I finally learnt to cook.

Being a sentimental person, material objects do hold significance. They were used or experienced at a certain time in my life; they were present in the moments and experiences felt. It’s the house I grew up in, and it won’t be the same, for a long time, anyway. It’ll take a few months to clear the water, then a few more to completely clean it and ensure it’s a clean living environment. With temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius, high humidity, nutrients and water everywhere, it is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and other unknown critters. I guess I’m glad that some other living organisms are making memories and enjoying my home!

And that’s all you can really do, right? Make it humorous to lighten the situation. Console yourself with words. Life happens, shit happens, you move on. You have to – there’s really no other choice. You smile, you learn things, you experience things, and you realize and actually understand broad statements of life that people told you but you never understood entirely…until now. You grow as a person. And you continue reading the news, hoping that it doesn’t affect you in any way.

In solidarity,

Ritika

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “When It Hits Home

  1. Sudip K. Rakshit

    wow ritika….
    am truly impressed..
    you are on the dot on everything..
    you used some descriptions we might have given …but thats to be expected..
    moral of story..dont be sentimental…atelast for long..
    take care…
    bababa

  2. Soumen

    Ritika

    You have truly come of age…Yes we human beings are insensitive to all the natural calamities that happen by just reading the “news” and moving on.It strikes us only when we “face” it. But truly is there a way out other than contributing a token amount for lives “lost”, homes “broken” and memories “shattered”. How many of us could actually feel the pain by visiting the flooded areas themselves. A few of us did but thats not the same as “weathering” the misery themselves.

    Thanks for the eye opener, soul stirrer, thoughtful piece of writing.

    I am sure you will have new memories with your new sofas newer carpets and newest you

    Take Care

    Soumen Uncle

  3. Jay

    Dear Ritika,
    Indeed excellent article. We are not moved until it moves us.
    But I guess, you would agree with me that we need to face it and fight it to change odd to our favor.
    Brilliant. Keep on writing.
    Bhalo theko.

  4. Yakindra

    Dear Ritika,
    The description is quite live. I was also there till the 21st of October with my two kids and my wife. We never expected such a high level of water inside AIT. Actually I also placed many things just 1 meter from the ground. Most of the people who were already in the upper floor were proved to be lucky, we lost many of our materials. As you told, they can be bought new but our memories with the old ones remain for long time. Really it’s the most tragic incident I have ever faced.

  5. Gopi

    Very pertinent indeed ………….
    Keep up the good work Ritika

    Best Wishes
    Gopi

  6. Raja banerjee

    Ritika,

    You have absolutely nailed it….extremely well-written..However during moments of despair and loss, I try to tell myself that “it could have been worse” and that is what helps me tide over the turmoil….You are a strong young girl and your parents must be proud to have you as their kid. And you know what ? all the material things they have lost during this debacle, every iota of sadness they have felt during this time would get washed away when they would read this post of yours and the satisfaction they will feel when they will see the growth in you as a person….God Bless…Raja Uncle

  7. Tom

    Well written! As one of AIT family, I can feel what you feel about this calamity….Great work, Ritika

  8. Mondira

    Dear Ritika
    I understand the emotional turmoil in your heart and the courage it takes to accept the truth; you have beautifully rendered your thoughts and vented your feelings. I applaud your caring mind and ability to empathies with many. We count our blessings each day but I only wish we all realize that- Some things can be replaced; others can be repaired but the spirit just blows away in the wind.
    Love you
    Aunty Mondira

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