“And who is my neighbour?” Luke 10:29
The last few weeks have been a devastating experience for Kerala. What started as fresh monsoon showers suddenly gained horrific proportions as rivers swelled over and the water level in dams touched the danger zone. Like a scene from a science fiction movie, people numbly watched the waters rising quickly to seep into their homes, unrelenting in its upward surge, till it had conquered everything in its path.
Except that this was no movie. This was nature’s fury at its worst, leaving people humbled and helpless, left to pick up the pieces once the rain had spent itself. Lives and homes had been lost. People walked into flood relief camps with little or nothing in hand. The government machinery was turned on full throttle in rescue and relief operations even as transport and communication ground to a halt and food and water supplies ran low.
Amidst the gloom that was spreading across the State, one could discern a new kind of activity and this stemmed from the small pocket areas that had been spared from the ravage of the monsoon. Institutions within these areas had been converted into temporary camps where thousands poured in for shelter. Huge community kitchens were set up to cater to the burgeoning numbers. There was hardly anyone who was not actively engaged in the camps or in rescue operations. While the earning members sponsored meals and other essential items, the youth were engaged in rescue operations, wading through the muddy waters to save those stranded in their homes, and students were putting in long hours of work at camps to feed thousands of families in their care. Home makers pitched in by organizing themselves into groups that cooked and supplied food packets. Literally everyone did their bit to ease the pain of their unknown neighbors. Our Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan was played out in real time as people tended to the flood victims and freely spent their hard-earned money to ensure their survival and recovery.
Apart from individuals, businesses also opened their doors wide and contributed to the best of their ability. Restauranteurs provided free meals and low-priced food packets to camps and other locations. Supermarkets and malls generously joined the league. Celebrities spearheaded many collection points and the media gave the entire operation an international flavour through its broadcasting channels. Most touching was the story of the fishermen, the Coastal Warriors who set sail in 50 boats from Trivandrum to Chenganoor to rescue some of the worst-hit victims from their flooded homes. It was as though the centuries had rolled back to the time when Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw the fishermen Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the sea. “Follow me,” He said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Indeed, the call of the Lord has come alive again and the fishermen responded wholeheartedly.
In the short span of a fortnight that brought in fear and terror into the lives of lakhs of Keralites, there has also been a renewal, a spirit of faith and trust in each other, a promise of unflinching support in times of need and a pledge to stand united as one against every misfortune. Kerala has proved its combined cultural strength and character. At a time when communalism has raised its ugly head to deliberately destroy the secular fabric of our country’s independence, Kerala has shown the country and the world, in no uncertain terms, that it can never be divided by the weak fences of caste and creed. Through word and decisive action, the State has voted for humanity and has set an example for the international community to follow. In the words of the Trivandrum Collector, Kerala has created history, by “showing the world what Malayalis can do.”
There is much to be done even as the worst is behind us. Rehabilitation of the affected people will require greater attention in the days to come. We have miles to go before we lay aside our working tools. May the Lord’s strength be most perfected in our weakest moments (2 Corinthians12).
The dark clouds of tragedy continue to hover over the State,but they have been instrumental in converting Kerala into God’s own Paradise.