In the first week of September 2014 the college was busy in providing counselling for the Prime Ministers' Special Scholarship Scheme in the auditorium which is in the ground floor of the main (historical) building and actually for all the days of counselling we had incessant rains. On the 5th of September at 11: 30 PM (near midnight) our AICTE guests drove out of the college through the inundated roads and I reached my home at about midnight.
On the 5th and 6th the flood waters started entering my residential house at Rainawari and on the 6th of September I and my family had to abandon the home at 10 PM. On 8th 9th and 10th in the pursuit of reaching S P College I along with my spouse could go only up to Nawpora via Miskeenbagh. On the 13th we, via Nowhatta – Khankah e mualla- Habbakadal, reached the southern bund of the Chunti kohl which is to the north east of the SP College. To my utter disbelief I found that the college was submerged not only up to the ground floor but a good portion of the first floor as well. A few tears rolled down my face and to a pleasant surprise I spotted Rehti, one of the sanitary staffers. She gave me the first account of how the flood waters gushed into the campus from Samunder Bagh side. I also spotted two other employees of the college… Muhammad Yaseen and Muhammad Ayoob, laboratory staffers. The former was luckily carrying a camera and so we decided to click the pictures of our inundated college campus. The campus was still in twelve to fifteen feet high waters.
On the 20th I asked Nadia Shah, my daughter in the Department of English to reach out to my staff through "the whatsup S P College group account" and Dr. Bilal Ahmad and Peer Irfan of the Department of Chemistry and Mehmood ul Aijaz, the chief librarian reached to meet me at the above mentioned bund which by now had become our makeshift college office. We made an initial assessment of the losses to the college to the tune of Rs ten crores. We could estimate that fifty two thousand titles of the college library and the major portion of the laboratory equipments had been lost.
By the 21st the Secretary Higher Education, Shiekh Mushtaq called a meeting of the college principals at Zam Zam complex Rambagh and I and Mr. Basher Ahmad Sodagar managed to reach the venue, covering the distance of around 10 kilometers mostly by foot. The warmth of the Secretary was simply rejuvenating for all the participants. I came to know that he had already taken one such meeting. Our initial assessment of losses was officially recorded.
On the 22nd a team of the college staff lead by Mairaj ud Din of the Department of Geography Mehmood-ul-Aijaz and the college Head Assistant Fayaz Ahmad rowed through the college waters and retrieved some college records. On the 27th, walking through three feet high waters, I along with my staff was able to reach the stairs of my office. On the mud and silt we had a staff meeting under the car porch of my office to chalk out a restoration plan.
The interiors, it was discovered, had changed into the battle field of ghosts. The furniture, the equipment and the books… everything was scattered and buried under mud. Seating and benching arrangements in the classrooms were displaced and everything was under a layer of five to six inches of stinking silt.
Cleaning tools, spades, long boots, hand gloves, wipers and other allied items were arranged. Mushtaq Ahmad Lone and Nasir Farhan of the department of Zoology and Shahid Ahmad of the Department of Environment Science on their own arranged flushing water pumps and the cleaning operation picked up. Some male and female staff colleagues, in defiance of health advisories, would remove the mud and muck with bear hands. All the staff members brought to the college separate clothes for the cleaning job. Manzoor Ahmad Wani of the Department of Botany took rest only when the cleaning operation in the Department of Geography was complete. A huge quantity of kerosene oil was arranged by the staff members on their own and all this effort was spontaneous and self motivated. Government agencies such as the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, the Fire and Emergency Services and a group of the Yuva Congress activists augmented the cleaning efforts of the college staff. The gardening staff, the sanitary staff, the local fund employees and the laboratory staff remained virtually drenched for about two and a half month and the college assumed some semblance of restoration.
On the 28th of October we were in a position to resume theory classes for our students even as the cleaning and sanitizing activity went on for months together. Our permanent restorations plans and projects have since been sent to the agencies such as the State Government, The Government of India, The University Grants Commission, The JK Bank and The World Bank for finances and the state Government has been the first to respond generously.
All deserve praise for their efforts. We as the staff members are proud of our bit of contribution towards the noble cause. We preferred to act as silent workers knowing that it has been recorded where it deserves to be recorded for a suitable award. Wordless and silent melodies in certain cases are sweeter than the sung ones, they say. Khursheed Ahmad Parrey of the Department of Geology, B A Masoodi and female professors Humaira, Shaista and Sameera believe in it for sure. So never mind if a dignitary visitor to the college chooses to undermine the effort by not enquiring about it.
The million dollar question is should we arrange resources for laying a spill over flood channel from Dogripora to Wullar Lake or for shifting the Srinagar city to the hills stretching from Pantha Chowk to Daara and beyond with a befitting location for the S P College as well.
(The author is Principal S P College, Srinagar and can be reached at email@example.com)