September 07, 2008

Pulling for Bihar Flood Victims

Yesterday it rained heavily in Dadar. For a moment I wondered if I should return home rather than negotiate the stretch from the platform to the over-bridge and beyond.

Along the road bridge that passes by the station and flooded with rainwater is a narrow lane that exits in the direction of Lower Parel. It is squeezed between two rows of flower sellers, one with their backs to the bridge, squatting with flower baskets in front, and the other operating from tiny shops opposite where flowers stitched together hang from hooks in the ceilings.

One lot of passengers exit the station in the direction of Matunga, the other in the direction of Lower Parel, while the third disappear into the bustle of Dadar’s markets and beyond, maybe to Prabhadevi.

On rambling days rainwater can be fun. But on crowded weekdays flowing rainwater, after unsuccessfully seeking storm water drains, will have washed a hundred hurrying feet before washing mine, a service I would rather be spared of. Add to it rows of early morning customers bargaining over baskets of myriad colourful flowers squeezing the lane further, crowding the narrow passage so thick that I can barely see my own feet as I get nudged and pushed on my way out. I might’ve overlooked this as well if not for the mucky shade the rainwater takes in the lane littered with wasted flowers and leaves, turning the ground beneath my feet to a soggy carpet of squishy muck.

“It is Ganesh Chaturthi, the Municipal Corporation folks must be busy holidaying to turn up to clean this up,” I hear an elderly man say to another. Umbrellas are out. I hold mine firm as it is knocked around by other umbrellas held similarly.

“Fold your umbrella now,” a rotund gent chides me. I realize that I’m better off folding it than fight for umbrella space in a patch of sky barely visible under the rag-tag plastic shelters that the flower vendors have rigged up outside their shops along the length of the lane, narrowing it even further.

Getting off the train I had sprinted up the incline that joins a narrow corridor connecting to a large hallway. There I bumped into a large crowd of passengers sheltering in the open space that leads to the over-bridge. Having left their homes without umbrellas they stood watching the rain pour outside. Few expected it to rain today though most would’ve known that there is no knowing when clouds would open up during Ganesh Chaturthi.

“There’s no telling until the last day (11th) of the festival,” a fellow passenger had noted as we scrambled for cover from the rain the winds blew in through the door as the train slowed down approaching Dadar.

It was when I slowed down to pick my way through the crowd in the hallway that I saw a man holding a mike. A board seemingly materialized out of thin air in front of me. Curious passengers paused by the board to read the appeal written in hindi.

“Bihar pranth mey bhishan baadd ki tabahi mey juunj rahey logon ki madad mey aapna haath aagey badaye, madad karey, madad karey”.

(Extend your hand in help to the people in the state of Bihar coping with the devastation of floods, extend help, extend help).

Behind the black board four men sat by a table with receipt books. The National Railway Mazdoor Union was organizing a collection to provide financial relief to those affected in the devastating floods the likes of which Bihar had never seen in its history. Papers are reporting over 3 million displaced by the Kosi as it breached its embankment in Nepal, changing its course to what is said to be an old course it had abandoned a century ago. Not for nothing is the Kosi known as ‘The Sorrow of Bihar’!

A member of the National Railway Worker’s Union spoke into the mike calling on people to contribute generously towards the effort. They were accepting donations of Rs. 20, Rs. 50, and Rs. 100/-.

A curious crowd gathered behind the man with the mike. After one of the four men at the table issued me a receipt for my contribution and another a flyer listing the relief efforts the Union has undertaken over the years since its inception in 1954, the man holding the mike spoke to me in chaste Marathi.

“We’re the Dadar branch of the National Railway Workers Union. At other major stations respective branches are organizing the same effort.”

Yesterday was their first day of the collection. “We’ll be holding it for five days,” he said. I could barely hear him over another announcer to the other side calling on people to donate blood. The blood donation drive has been on for several months now, unconnected with the flood relief effort. Cubicles line the wall where volunteers donate blood.

Behind the man with the mike a second board lay propped up against a support, announcing the objective of the collection drive and appealing for donations to help the flood affected.

A loudspeaker partially obscured the letters NATIONAL RAILWAY MAZDOOR UNION.

In yellow and blue chalk the following message in hindi appealed to passengers.

“Baadd pidith jano ki madad karey. Bihar mein aayi bhishan baadd se pidith jano ke liye madad karey. Iss satkarye mein bhag lekar unkey jaan bachaney mein aagey baddhey.”

(Help the flood affected. Help the victims of the devastating floods in Bihar. Participate in this good work and help in saving their lives.)

If you are traveling through Mumbai and were to happen upon any relief effort being organized to help the Bihar flood victims please step up and help out. Everything counts.

Note: In the flyer one of the members of The National Railway Mazdoor Union passed me were listed the following relief efforts the National Railway Mazdoor (Workers) Union has undertaken since its inception in 1954 –

(1) Flood Relief in Raigad District – Rs. 1,52,000/-, (2) Flood Relief in Beed District – Rs. 50,000 in the year 1989-90, (3) Floods in Andhra Pradesh – Rs. 50,000/-, (4) To Kargil Martyrs – Rs. 1,20,000/-, (5) For rehabilitation of Latur earthquake victims – Rs. 1 lakh on 30-9-93, (6) Rehabilitation of Narmada Bachao Andolan – Rs. 10,000/- on 4-9-2001, (7) Orissa Cyclone Victims – Rs. 15 lakhs, (8) Rehabilitation of earthquake – affected of Gujrat – Rs. 15/- Lakh – 26-1-2001, (9) To help riot victims of Gujrat – Rs. 10 Lakh, (10) Assistance to Adivasi Children – Rs. 9 Lakh for Bore wells & Ambulance at Nandurbar, (11) To Tsunami Victims – Rs. 5 lakh to Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, Rs. 6 Lakh for rehabilitation of Kameshwaram Village, and (12) Towards relief & rehabilitation of 26th July 2005 Flood Victims in Mumbai & Konkan – Rs. 50 Lakh.


Sarah Laurence said...

Anil, how terrible about the floods! That's good that people are organizing to help the victims and that you are helping to get the word out. Is this why you haven't posted your blog in a while?

kenju said...

We are experiencing flooded conditions over here today too, Anil. I hope your people are spared too much damage and get relief soon.

Anonymous said...

Well, the situation in Bihar is really very grave. I am also trying to get in touch with some NGOs to help.


Anonymous said...

The overflowing storm drains and the potholes on roads seem like the biggest problems during rainy season here, until you remember the floods in Bihar (and in the past in other states).

megha puNAter" said...

this is grand of you anil:)
hope they collect enough donation to help the victims.

Coffee Messiah said...

Such devastation is hard to imagine.

Experienced a few earthquakes, and the one in '89 in SF has been the worse so far.

I'm always sorry to hear about storms in your part of the world. ; (

Judy said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. It is good that they are making efforts to help the flood victims and that you are contributing. We have not had but one small rain in 2 months here. It is supposed to rain tonight for which I am very thankful. The weather has been very strange this year.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea this flooding was going on. I feel so terrible for the people and their homes. The kindess of that organization is overwhelming. I will continue to look at some of the links to see if there is a way I can help.
Take care, be safe.

Anonymous said...

hey Anil thatz very good .. ya u people are understanding situation of affected people by flood.. it is very good that we can do abit for these people.. and these bit collectively become more support to them..... good goen keep it up .. and ya your blog has very good informative things and ideas.....good luck b goen to mak contribution to help those victims..

bobbie said...

I have seen pictures on TV of some of the flooded areas. I am glad that you are participating in the efforts to get relief for the flood victims.

There have been parts of the US flooded as well. Here near my home we are experiencing drought instead.

Anil P said...

Sarah Laurence: It's been unprecedented actually. There have been quite a few initiatives launched by various organisations to help relieve some of the damage by way of funds, utensils, clothes etc. Actually I wasn't keeping well, change of weather having affected me for a few days hence the absence from posting.

Kenju: The damage has been extensive. It's anybody's guess what'll happen next now that the river has changed course.

Cuckoo: Yes, do help.

Shantanu: The affects of 'development'. Water needs a way to flow out to streams, rivers, and eventually the sea. Constructing left, right and centre cannot possibly help.

Megha Punater: Everyone is pitching in whatever way one can.

Coffee Messiah: It's very hard to imagine the state of people who have nothing standing that they can call their own, and that too on 'one fine day' so to say.

San Francisco keeps rumbling. It must have been a tryingtime for you in '89.

Yes, it's quite devastating to see people lose everything.

Judy: Weather patterns are shifting by quite a bit. It does not bode well such inconsistency in the weather.

Eileen: The Railway Worker's Union have done a remarkable job in just getting the effort started. They do not appear to have any access to corporate funding, and can only rely on the passengers for donations to the flood relief programme. It's creditable on their part.

William: Thank you.

Bobbie: Thanks. Everyone is doing their bit to contribute. I read of the flooding in the US as well, and the drought - it is a spread of extremes.

Lakshmi said...

Its terrible to hear about the Bihar floods and its worse than the tsunami.Thanks for posting this and I will get in touch with some friends in Mumbai and help out..

By the way, just completed 100 posts and i would like to invite you to stop by at backpacker.Thanks

Sarah Laurence said...

Anil, I'm sorry you weren't well and glad you are on the mend. There was an article in the New York Times about the floods, but that was in the end of August. I hope blogs likes yours will help get the message out and bring in more aid. I've linked to this post from mine. It's the long awaited cricket post.

Anil P said...

Lakshmi: Yes, do help. Any kind of contribution you can make to any organisation making the effort anywhere in India, do help.

It's quite a feat reaching post number 100. I'll be checking it soon.

Sarah Laurence: Thanks, Sarah. Happened to get drenched in the rains couple of times hence the 'down time'.

Oh yes, Cricket :)

Thanks for linking to the Bihar post and helping get the word out. If geography were to limit someone from being to help in a tangible way than even their empathy on reading of the plight of the flood victims would make a difference in itself.

megha puNAter" said...

by the way anil i loved the reds,in this post.

Anil P said...

Megha Punater: Yes, many reds here. The Union red, the flower red, the banner red, the shirt red :)

mountainear said...

We've had a month of rain here in the UK and we have long miserable faces as a consequence - but it's nothing really when I read of the floods in Bihar. What whingers we are.

Well done those Railway workers for taking action.

mountainear said...

what I did mean to say before reading about the floods was how interesting the market photographs are - I was thinking bunches of flowers to put in vases - but no, these seem more like bowls of petals. how are they used?

Bee said...

Several of our friends had badly damaged homes from the flooding in England last summer, and other friends in Texas are being evacuated because of the approaching hurricane. As you say, the weather patterns are violently askew.

I hope that your compatriots will receive the aid they need.

Jan said...

Worldwide it seems as if the weather is angry ( constantly) In Uk, it alsost appears we no longer have well defined seasons...they all run into each other, overlap, as if confused...

Anil P said...

Mountainear: The Railway Workers have their limitations in terms of 'reach', but what they lack in 'reach' they more than make up with their spirit.

The bunches of flowers are placed in cane baskets and sold off the lane to passersby many of whom come to buy flowers for use in pooja (prayer ritual) among other things.

Bee: I agree weather patterns in India as well, mostly in the monsoons, are beginning to show inconsistencies. I hope as well that the flood relief efforts will go some way in making good the damage they've suffered. Thank you.

Jan: Fortunately there isn't much of an overlap in seasons in India, at least so far. It helps that India is a tropical country.

Elizabeth said...

This is terrible news about the flooding.
I'm glad people are making an effort to help others.
Is there anywhere in the US to donate?
Glad you visited my Morocco blog.

BohoMind said...

Thanks for your comment. In the end of almost every post I make a translation, where I in short describe what the post is about. I hope you enjoy my blog anyway =P Hugs

Ravi Kumar said...

Thanks for the post. I came t o know about the flood

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Terrible about Bihar floods and today Delhi blasts....victims should get help and you are doing good by getting the word out ! Good luck.

Anil P said...

Elizabeth: It's been bad, and getting worse. I wouldn't know of physical locations in the US accepting aid for the flood victims, but on the web there are.

Indiandreams: Thanks.

Ravi Kumar: Thanks.

Meena: Thanks.

jarvenpa said...

What a fascinating blog you have! Thank you for visiting mine; I'll return to yours as I am able.