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Kashmir Floods: A Tale of Despair & Hope

Several decades ago, an unforgettable chapter had been written in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, when massive floods stuck the Himalayan valley and devastated life of its inhabitants. It is said that it took nearly 2 years for the water to recede and much more time for Kashmir to flourish again.

Exactly this day, a month earlier on September 07, history was repeating itself in a much more cruel way no many would have anticipated. It had been raining incessantly. It had been raining for days, and it didn’t show any signs to stop either. There was water in our garden, in our colony, in our alleys. We were on the balcony of our house keeping track of the water level in the surroundings that was seemingly increasing inch by inch. As we kept watching helplessly, the water swelling. When the plinth of our water went under water, I was terrified. I was hoping and praying for the waters not to enter the house. By evening, however, it did.

“there are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls”

At 07:36 pm, I got a phone call from a friend warning me about the increasing water level in their area, “Zubaira, aab ha aaw, ye ha chuy wariya teaz pakaan, zan chuy phalgham, petha ha chuy mongol aab, bachoa paan”. [Zubair, the water has entered our home, it is flowing very fast like River Lidder, save yourself]. Soon we started shifting things to the second storey, which continued till late evening.

‘River Jehlum is roaring in the south, it has left its banks and so is the Sindh in the west,’ a Facebook post read, as I hurried through the internet trying to gauge the threat, we were faced with.

Nobody slept that night. A strange silence and darkness swathed our locality that was otherwise a buzzing area. Each time we peeped through the windows, we found the water levels only increasing. It was about 6’O clock in the morning the next day that the water level seemed fixated. It was only then I slept with some sense of relief.

”when silence of the nights turned into mourning for the day”

With no internet, no electricity, no connectivity, we remained cut from the rest of the world. The world had suddenly become distant again. There wasn’t any source of communication. A cry of help from our neighbor woke me up. The Jhelum, by then, had entered our home and vomited everything we had thrown in it all these years.

That is it- the End, I thought — we are trapped in our own house with nothing but muddy water all around. We stood there, watching it feebly swell and praying to our Lord, trying to contact relatives, friends; nothing worked. The water stood tall, silent in our corridor.

After discussing with each other for a while, it was decided that the only way to save ourselves was to reach the main road anyhow. As we tried we only realized that we cannot move through the water. The level was still increasing slowly. We kept waited and hoped for help.

All around – a strange muteness engulfed us. Our neighbors were shouting for help. The crying of children made me shiver of my existence. The shouting turned into mourning and more crying. But no help came. It was in that moment of despair, we finally decided to wade through the cold chilly water by making a human chain, till we reached our neighbor’s house. My brother and I persuaded them to come with us. They agreed.

As we moved back through the water back home, I saw men, young boys making their way towards us. They were carrying the people on their shoulders for safety. Now they had come for our rescue. Some of them were known to me and some were complete strangers. I never know them nor did they. Yet they risked their lives for us.

They took us to the safety. There were hundreds of men, women, children, hugging, crying, sobbing, searching for their family members. Most were desperately waiting for the next ‘stranger’ to come out of the colony. That moment of reunion was precious and priceless.

Today when I think about it, I cannot believe my eyes, Jhelum had come to brought us closer to humanity. We may have lost our land and many of our brethren to the floods but still Kashmir continues to beat in the hearts of those who survived.

Definitely Kashmir is a land of brave men!

Please remember that no army, no Government was present at that time of chaos, it was the effort of the locals — irrespective of their religion — who came to rescue us.