Saturday, October 29, 2005

When hope doesn't float

When hope doesn't float
The Hindu

The heavy rains over the last few days will be remembered by Bangaloreans for months to come. MetroPlus tells the story of one such area that was one of the worst affected in the city

Meera, a Rajasthani craftswoman selling earthen pots and garden artefacts on Mysore Road, was about to bake the first roti for her three hungry children and her ailing husband. Just as the roti started to puff up, water gushed into her makeshift house, extinguishing the oven and the migrant family's hopes of dinner. "I could not cook food and we had to stay hungry. I was awake the whole night keeping an eye on my children, husband, and the costly pots we have kept outside."

Fortunately Meera's family had two cots and they could stay above the water. The children kept asking for food but they finally slept, exhausted by hunger.

The water receded only around 7 a.m.

"I cannot cook anything even now," she said, pointing to a pile of wet firewood even as she, seated on a spread of mucky goo on the floor, made tea for her family. "I have to wait till I get a fresh stock of firewood."

But food was the least of her problems. Her entire stock of earthen pots (which took precious man-hours to craft) was damaged. "I have to pay the pots' value to the dealer somehow," she said, grief writ large on her weather-beaten face.

Meera's was one of the many families whose life was thrown out of gear when the Nayandahalli lake near ITI House Building Society was breached following the unprecedented rain that has brought Bangalore to its knees.

Grimmer was the situation in the house of Ramaswamy, a scrap material trader. As water started gushing into the house, the family abandoned it for a neighbour's terrace. "All 10 of us stayed there till morning."

In the morning Ramaswamy saw the devastation for himself: all the stock in his shop-cum-house had been washed away.

M.C. Munegowda, an attender at the Kempegowda Institute Medical Sciences, and his wife were staying in their partially constructed house when the floodwaters overwhelmed them. "We had come to supervise construction and had decided to stay back. Then I heard the noise of rushing water and realised the nearby lake had been breached. We rushed to the terrace and stayed put there. When we came down, we saw that all the construction material stored had just dissolved in the water. The new pump that I had installed was also destroyed."

One the layouts worst affected by the lake breach was the ITI Housing Society. The reason for the residents' complaints in this layout not being attended to was the same as many more layouts around Bangalore. It was nobody's baby. "The (housing) society had failed to comply with planning regulations that would have ensured it would have been taken over by the Bangalore Development Authority. This is why none of the BMP authorities have come here to help us," said a resident.

Meanwhile away from residential areas, road users on Mysore Road were caught unawares by the sudden rise in water levels. Some managed to wade through but many vehicles got stuck or broke down in the middle of the road. Murali, one of the drivers, thought he had managed to cross the road in his mini lorry near The Club. Suddenly his vehicle stalled. With horror he realised the water risen up to the door of his vehicle. "I could not open the door. I stayed in the vehicle along with my helper the whole night."

The police eventually rescued him early morning.


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