My Nest: My pain of separation

Among the three hundred thousand odd houses one belonged to me. My Nest – I like a bird would return to every evening.
My Nest: My pain of separation
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Among the three hundred thousand odd houses one belonged to me. My Nest – I like a bird would return to every evening.

When I reclined against the wall of my room, my kids would tread gently over my limbs. Their small and tender feet pressed against my tummy; when they slipped gently a pleasant rib-tickling feeling made me to giggle. All the boredom of the day would vanish.

Amid the four walls of my home that really could not flaunt any swanky get-ups I was not alone the bird in this shell. With me were my thoughts, my passion, my longings and my experiences, and of course my family. Snug to each other, we lived here as bees live in a beehive.

Sharing a strange and endearing relationship with it for decades together, I had grown every moment looking at my home. My room that gave me unique aura had seen me right from the day I had opened my eyes.

When everything in the life was going smooth, heavens suddenly went furious. As if it could not see us happy, the Nature let loose its wrath on us all.

Homelessness was a pain I had read about in the books, heard in the stories, watched on the TV screens. But this pain was to become the reality of my life I had never imagined.

By the night of September 6, I had understood the banks of Jhelum could no more resist. The gushing stream overnight had turned even more furious. The waters pouring down from the skies were in league with Vitasta—both impatient to annihilate the historic city of Srinagar along with my dwelling and my dreams. Both were working as if programmed to go reckless against us in performing some repugnant plan.

That the water would submerge my home was a foregone conclusion by now. My bed room, living room, kitchen and everything were at stake, although figuratively they were just a small peg in three hundred thousand houses that were about to be flagrantly trespassed— their secrecy intruded— by the murky waters.

That night was doomed. Slowly and slowly I was losing the strength in my knees. This moment, I sat here, that moment I cowered there.

Restlessness!

Breathlessness!

Restiveness!

My heart was in my throat!

Many a time, I went outside my home with my feet trembling and knees shaking unstoppably. I miserably watched the calm highway being continuously beaten down by the rains as if being punished for some crime. My eyes were moistened in helplessness, but the rains did not end, did not stop and did not feel any sympathy for me.

I in the predicament raised my eyes towards the sky for help. I searched for the starts that as a child I would play with while they twinkled at my wink. They were my friends from my childhood days. But today the sparkling tiny buddies were not visible. The dark clouds had invaded their territory.

When the clock struck 4 AM, water slunk inside our main entrance. It was now just 50-feet flatly away from the door of my home. Resolute to gain the ground, it shuffled slowly and slowly.  Every minute was a foreboding of worst to come. Convinced I had to leave my home and hearth to stranger waters, I rapidly rolled a carpet that I had countless times cheerfully sat over to read classics and travelogues of my favourite authors. I put it over my head and ran up the single flight of steps to reach the attic of my house.

My tragedy was that I was living in a single-floor house. Never had I felt the need for having a second storey. But today I was cursing my fate.  Had it been having the second storey, I would never need to leave my home. I would let out the ground floor to the invading waters and spent my days of misery in the first floor with some satisfaction that at least I was within the four-walls that had seen me dressed and undressed.

The electricity had gone but the inverter was on. Upstairs it was however dark. I used torch. After off-loading my head, I came down, unplugged the TV and made a second flight to the attic taking the set into my arms. Came back, rolled some of our clothes in a bed cover and took them upstairs.

Before I could make the fourth round and save some more items, panic gripped me. My father, my mother; where they were? I opened the door of their room, found them shrunk in a corner. I ushered both of them through the waters which by then had picked the speed and gained height, to a neighbor's house.

I felt humiliation deep inside; perhaps I was not expecting this from the Nature that I had always loved and taken care of. It seemed the murky waters were disgracing me and my family, forcing us to leave our nest in the dark of the night and take refuge in a neighbour's house.

When I came back I did not find the torch. Inverter was still working but there was no light upstairs. I could not save any more items. Unable to think any further, I in complete bewilderment along my children and wife sit on the floor of the house. Waited!  Foolishly expecting that the incursion by the waters may stop!

It was now 5:30 AM. Our compound was full of waters. The vegetables in the garden were no more visible. Gas cylinder in the backyard, which was connected through pipe to our cooking stove inside the kitchen, was bathing in the water.  But the house was still safe. I took my two children in the arms and left my home along with my wife. After having a brief stay of two hours at our neighbour's house, I could sense it were not ordinary waters. I was convinced that I have to suffer the homelessness for a long time to come.

We crossed the meandering waters that had risen to our chest-level to reach on the Highway at Bemina. Then started an arduous walk! At Hajj House the waters were simply not surmountable particularly for my parents. God came to our rescue. Sent an ambulance! I waylaid the vehicle by throwing myself in the middle of the road. They allowed us to get in. The ambulance was continuously convulsing as it crossed the track that was under attack of a cascading stream.

The gushing waters pushed the vehicle violently at several times but the driver did not lose the control. All inside the ambulance muttered La ila ha illal lah, La ila ha illal lah.

I could not bear for too many days the separation from my home. I would come down every day from Baramulla to see my home. I stood straight opposite to my house from morning to evening everyday on the Highway. It pierced my heart to look at my home floating like a sunken boat in the waters. When the dusk approached I would leave with a hope that tomorrow the water would have receded. Frustrating this proved. The water did not recede for days and days and weeks and weeks. My home gasped for breath! Looking at it, I wanted to touch its walls, feel its warmth and shelter; but could not.

Three weeks later, when I first time entered my home after the floods, I found the marauding waters had taken everything. The books I had read and preserved as a treasure-trove had lost their lines and ink to the waters. They had lost the every word to the murky waters.

The mattress that I had removed from the wardrobes and put on the beds thinking the water may not reach that level, had put on so much weight that they had broken the beds. The pillows and bedding inside the wardrobes had bloated and protruded breaking their doors. The store room was stinking. The kitchen reeking. There was stench in the drawing room, unpleasant smell in the lobby. I hired a tractor. Collected all items and stuffed them on the tractor requesting the driver to throw them where I could not see them and they could't me.

The month-long homelessness seemed a separation of eons. I wished to rediscover my home. I again began to live here.  No door closed, no window rested at its place. As if all were angry with me as I had left them to the murky waters. A month on, one day while I was out to find some carpenter, a person had knocked at my door handing over a cheque to my child. It was Rs 3800 a "beautiful gift" he had said from the state to a person who had lost his dreams, his thoughts and his imaginings to the murky waters.

 enbhat@gmail.com

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