Emotional misery amidst abundant "relief"
By Vishal Arora
Chennai, January 4, 2005
The tsunami tragedy in Tamil Nadu with a death toll of 7,885 has
rendered hundreds of people emotionally devastated who have no one to
share their grief with.
The emotional wounds of people in the numerous villages of Cuddalore
and Nagapattinam districts remain unattended amidst crowds of people
from around the country visiting them, bundles of clothes lying on
the streets, trucks full of food and ration being distributed, and
representatives of voluntary organisations lining up at the offices
of district collectors with their pledges to adopt and rehabilitate
tsunami affected areas.
Meet Vaithilingam, a 22 year-old fisherman from Kothattai Taluk in
Cuddalore district, was preparing for his marriage scheduled for
January 23, but the tsunami waves came and killed both his parent and
his sister on December 26. Instead of merrymaking, there is mourning
in his one-room house situated in the coastal village of Pudukuppam.
And he is not even fortunate enough to have another member in the
house to mourn with. With tears in his eyes, he keeps looking at
little pictures of his parents and sister, and his marriage card.
In Velangrayanpettai, another village few meters away, Rangnuyaki, an
80-year old lady, keeps wandering in the village, hoping she would
find someone who could listen to her tragic story. Going to her own
house is the last thing on her mind, as that reminds her of the death
of his only son who was physically handicapped. If and when she finds
someone to talk, she doesn't say a word about her hunger or the need
for clothes, but she narrates how her beloved son died.
Alimathu, a 45-year old man in the same village, believes the tsunami
was a curse from God. "Why else has it killed my wife, mother and
brother?" he asks, and begins to cry. He wants to tell people how
guilty he is for returning home with his family members to collect
essential household items after the tsunami hit the village. He never
knew the water would rise above their heads and kill them.
The situation is worse in Nagapattinam district, where more than
6,000 people died.
An old lady, who is temporarily living in a relief camp, comes to her
village, which is near the Nagapattinam harbour, almost every day and
cries looking at the debris of her house. What troubles her is not
the loss of her house, but her four children. She has found and
cremated the bodies of her three daughters, but she is still looking
for the body of the fourth one. The moment she finds anyone
approaching her, she starts narrating how she lost her children,
hoping she will be comforted. She goes to the extent of clinging to
strangers, and sobs incessantly.
A few kilometers away, on the beach of Velankanni in Tharangambadi
where stood a little market of fancy-item shops, a young man can be
seen lying on the floor of his damaged shop, crying, "Don't come near
me, water is coming. Everything is gone, don't come near me
Neighbours say he has been lying there for a few days and is perhaps
mentally disturbed after seeing the tsunami tragedy.