Indu auntie and her family left the bustling city life in Bengaluru [a south Indian city] — where their family had first got acquainted with ours, marking the beginning of a beautiful bond of friendship — to recede into a quiet life caring for her ageing parents in their grand ancestral home that had sheltered more than one generation below its sloping roofs that overlooked the Kalpathy river flowing gently under the canopy of the Kerala skies.
Her husband, a renowned professor, spent his time tending to the lush vegetable patch when he was not at college or the outhouse — that doubled as his office with rooms that treasured an abundance of literature handpicked by the professor himself — coaching students who aspired to earn a doctoral degree.
The ancestral home, an architectural marvel built in sync with the local weather and topography, had stood tall through many monsoons when rains pelted the slates on the sloping rooftop for days on end and kept the inmates cool during the long rigorous days of summer.
Aunt Indu’s words laced with pride whenever she spoke about the great flood of 1990s, when the Periyar river breached its banks in 1924, when her home and hearth had provided the homeless with food and shelter until the waters receded.
Decked in traditional artefacts, antiques and heavy furniture, every piece was steeped in history with a story that tickled pleasant childhood memories.
Unexpected showers in the otherwise dry Palakkad district this summer were a welcome relief, but the residents worried as the rains continued into the months that followed. On the day the shutters of the Malampuzha dam were opened amid heavy downpour, the Kalpathy river swelled. Indu auntie’s day transformed into one that will be etched in her memory forever as furious undercurrents dragged with them her daughter while it ravaged her home stripping it off every piece of memory that the years had treasured.
A rescue team that comprised a group of young men from the locality fought the raging waters to drag her daughter back to terra firma while an authorised rescue force carried her bedridden father and ailing mother to safe quarters.
Her words laced with the horror of that day spilled over a crackling phone line while she and her family spent their days in a relative’s home, waiting for the waters to recede while we ourselves spent despondent nights peeking out of the window to keep a check on the water levels as the downpour showed no sign of abating.
When the waters receded, they went back to a skeleton of a house whose walls are now etched with stories of raging currents that had snatched away or left behind a soggy mess in its wake. Her husband spends his days restoring the vegetable patch and empty shelves that once housed a treasure trove of literature. Yet, she explains cheerfully: “It took a natural disaster to bring out the best in humanity for help was always at hand. I can replace all that I have lost, but will be forever grateful that I still have my daughter beside me.”
Nature is the best teacher for even in her fury she leaves behind a message for humanity, who has tested her patience in the name of progress, that if we do not reform our ways then we will have to submit ourselves to her wrath and teach the generations to come that all that they proudly call their own is but a mirage that is fleeting and impermanent.
There is still time, perhaps, for us to amend and watch nature sing her melodious tunes of healing.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.