Monday, May 17, 2010


It was a Sunday. The day we went every week without fail to Church. Mummy didn't however wake me up at the usual time. I got up a little later, brushed my teeth and mama gave me coffee. I looked around for Daddy and realized he had gone with his students to Nagaland to hand over the body of one of his students who had been drowned during a picnic. Since, it was a Sunday, I looked at the clock and saw that we were way beyond the time for Sunday mass. I was confused and asked mummy, 'Aren't we going to Church today?'. Mummy said,'No Ma, there is water all around the house. So lets wait for the water to go away before we can go out'.

I didn't understand because water around the house was a common thing in Manipur. A badly maintained drainage system and water clogging aggravated the situation and it was common to see water around the houses during the rainy season. Mummy took me to the window in drawing hall (my favorite spot in the house) and showed me outside. There was water upto the first step leading upto the house. Another 2 steps and there would be water inside the house. I didn't think anything was wrong but Mummy looked worried. Mummy meanwhile made breakfast and gave to me and my sister. She kept on repeatedly looking outside while I was enjoying my cartoons and serials in Doordorshan. 

Water was not receding, it was slowly increasing. By now, water had crossed a step more. She started to block the gaps below the doors with carpets and other thick stuff least water came inside. This was a really big house with as many as 4-5 doors. My mom was going berserk trying to find rugs to close all the gaps. She managed to fill most of them. I was looking at my mother in amusement. She started to move clothes from the lower racks in the cupboard to the higher ones. First the one in my bedroom was attended to and then she moved to the one in the master bedroom. 

Water level was increasing, it had covered half of the final step. My mom switched off the TV and started to remove all the wiring.First the TV was moved to the cupboard with some help from my sister, slowly followed by the VCR and tape recorder. I got angry.... She had switched off the TV when my cartoon time was going on (Especially, if Dad is not in town... there is a lot more freedom to watch cartoons ... Else it will be Shilpa do you homework... Shilpa get the tool from the toolbox... Shilpa call Rudy ... Shilpa this Shilpa that...phew.... how much work will a small kid do?). She went and looked at the window. Water had now reached it - the final step.

Slowly the water covered the verandah and moved up to the front door. My mom started clearing things still lying on the ground.  I was put on a bed and told not to step down. My mom and sister started to furiously move things to higher locations. I just kept on watching them.  Our dog Rudy had started howling and barking. It was also put on the bed along with me and both of us were playing. The water now started to enter the house through the gaps and the rugs. In an hour or so, water filled up to 1/4th of the wall. I got a notebook and was happily sailing paper boats in the water and running here and there like a duck. My mom had a tough time keeping me on the bed. My sister also joined me in sailing the boats. My mom was getting all the more worried. 

Mom started to say prayers that someone should come to our help. We didn't have a phone also in our house at that time. Help did come in sometime. Daddy's students from the college came to check on us. They informed us that the water was due to the floods as the local dam wall had broken down and our entire colony had been flooded. They helped us shift all the heavy things to the top of the cupboards. After clearing these, they asked mummy to pack some necessary things and move to the girls hostel. The girls hostel was across the road and had not been flooded as it was at a higher ground level. So, off we went, me on one of the students shoulders (I was very small so if I went out, I would be fully submerged in water), my sister, my mom, and two other students with our things and Rudy in tow. There was water up to the waist level outside.

The girls vacated a room for us where we stayed for about 3-4 days when finally my Dad returned. There had been a landslide in Nagaland (Very common thing in that part of India) and all the roads had been blocked. So, camping here and there finally they reached Manipur after the roads had been cleared. On Friday of that week, the nuns from the school where my mother worked and me and my sister studied, came to meet us. They asked us to move to the dormitory in the school there. Yes, we had to move as we couldn't inconvenience the girls more. So, again we packed and went off to stay at the school. There we stayed for around a month. Every week my parents and my dad's students went to our house and cleaned and scrubbed it. The water had receded but had left behind moss all over the house. The house literally stank. It took nearly four weeks of cleaning, scrubbing, phenyl and all those stuff to bring back things to normal. Daddy stayed at the boys hostel all this while. I felt awkward. Although we were in comfort but the comfort of your home is something else.

When I went to the house after about a month, there was still a line all over the house indicating till where the water level had gone up to. The mark covered almost half of the wall. The last two racks in all the cupboards had been spoiled and along with it many things which lay there. Comics, some toys, some clothes, old stuff everything had been spoiled. All the furniture bore the mark of the floods too as we hadn't moved them to a higher place. The kitchen garden and the flower garden in front too had been spoiled. The water tank had also been cleaned out fully and was waiting to be refilled. 

The irony during all this was that our neighbours knew about the flood the previous night itself. They had all evacuated along with their families to their ancestral homes. All of them knew my father was not at home but still they didn't care to inform us. When we returned back to our home, none of them could face us. They all ran away on seeing us. It took them months to talk to us and feel sorry about it. 

Years later whenever I remember this incident, I sometimes laugh and sometimes feel sad. They say help comes in every form and it did. On that day, if those students hadn't come, we don't know where we would have gone. Maybe we might have gone to the school directly. Its just a maybe. We don't know what would have been the story otherwise but "All is well that ends well".

P.S. Yes this is a true story about the floods we went through in 1989 in Manipur.I was around  8-9 years old when this happened. Some details I don't remember. I have brought out the events to the best of my memory.
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