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 Post subject: Story of a tsunami-traumatised family
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 5:42 pm 
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Eagle Eye: Story of a tsunami-traumatised family

© Central Chronicle 2005 / Saturday January 7, 2006

As for Mrs Srinivasanand her daughter, life has not changed much except that they had lost their furniture, utensils, personal computer, music system and some other electronic items. "I am not worried about the loss of these things. They can be replaced. What I can't replace for ever is the family album that I had painstakingly collected for the past 60 years," moans the old lady.

Meera Rajan narrates the incidents of people trying to overcome the tsunami quake Many in India had not heard about Tsunami till the day it struck its coastal areas on the fateful Sunday, December 26, 2004 and killed thousands upon thousands and left a vast trail of destruction. Tsunami, the Japanese word, means "a very large ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption". Chris Cramer, CNN International's managing director, admits in his foreword on a book on Tsunami: "I flicked open the dictionary at the word 'tsunami', not a familiar one to someone brought up in Britain and yet a word which would soon become etched in the minds of everyone across the world".

The book by CNN Delhi bureau chief Satinder Bindra details the largest humanitarian relief operation the Indian Navy has ever conducted outside India's territorial waters. When the first Indian aircraft with a doctor, two paramedics and 750 kg of medical supplies landed in Colombo the very day the tsunami struck, it signalled, as Bindra writes, "the beginning of what would be the world's largest relief operation". The arriving Indian doctor, Lt. Commander Gopalan Parthasarathy, heard, as he prepared to operate on the seriously injured, that his own home in Tamil Nadu "had been swept away and my mother and grandmother missing".

On December 27, Sri Lankan journalist Bharatha Malawaraarachchi wrote: Despite the fact that the tsunami claimed thousands of lives, it also brought to the surface many human qualities. The story of Indian Navy's Surgeon Lieutenant Commander G. Parathasarthy was one of them.

He was the first Indian doctor to arrive in Sri Lanka to serve the affected people. Surgeon Lieutenant Commander G. Parathasarthy based in Cochin received urgent orders to leave for Sri Lanka on December 26."Go and help" - that was the orders given to him and at the time he was preparing to go to the beach with his family.

This kind of swift mobilisation is not strange to Parathasarthy whose family had served in the Indian Armed Forces for generations.

After arriving in Sri Lanka, Parathasarthy and his team were dispatched to Hambantota which was severely hit. Since then, he was involved in assisting the affected people.

"We also helped to dispose the bodies in a hygienic manner." Parathasarthy said they in the Indian armed forces have been extensively trained to face this type of disasters. By the time Parathasarthy was helping Sri Lankan victims, his own grand mother was saved by some one else back home "I had the full faith in my Government that if I come here, there is someone to look after my family,"

Yes, back home in Kalpakkam near Chennai, his grandmother had had a providential escape from the killer waves even as several people in her neighbourhood were swept away. (Five employees of the nuclear facilities, who were out on the beach in the morning, were killed. One of those killed was Dr. A. Selvaraj, Design Engineer, Reactor Engineering Group, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). He was attending a mass in the church).

"I had never heard of Tsunami till the day after the tidal waves nearly swallowed me, my niece, her husband and their three children," remembers Mrs. Hema Srinivasan, 81, with a shudder as she narrates the "end of the world" scene that fateful Sunday, December 26 last year.

"Yes, I thought it was 'Pralya' (Cataclysm), the end of the world, as sea waters, unusually black, came like a huge, dark monster with an eerie roar and swept me off my feet to what I then thought was death."

In fact, for all practical purpose, the brave, old lady was 'dead' till she came to after what she thought was eternity. Mrs Srinivasan was relaxing in the drawing room of her daughter's ground-floor flat in the officers quarters of IGCAR when the treacherous tidal waves struck. It was around 9 in the morning.

Her daughter Padma Gopalan left her early in the morning for Chennai on personal work. Then the old lady, accompanied by her niece, her husband and their children, who were visiting her after a gap of 15 years, went out for a stroll along the beach that was less than 500 metres from the quarters. They enjoyed the sun rise as the children splashed about in the water.

Back home, around 8 they had breakfast. The children wanted to go back to the sea, but the old lady did not permit them. "Why, I don't really know," she recalled later. "But when I watched the sea at dawn, I had noticed that the water had receded. That was rather strange, for it was the time of full moon and the waves should be coming close." It was in fact a divine intervention, for if they had ventured out again, they would have been consumed by the tsunami waves.

"As I flipped through the newspapers, the monster that I later knew was Tsunami, struck," a still trembling Mrs Srinivasan said of what she had remembered before swooning.

For what happened afterwards, let us hear from her niece's husband Rajan, who works with the Engine Factory, EFA, Avadi: "I had no time to decide on anything. The waters sped towards us in a ferocious roar that drowned the cries of "Aaiyoo, Aaiyoo" (oh God, oh God!) of those already caught in them. I asked my wife to carry the children to the first floor. Then I caught hold of my old aunt who had swooned and carried her on my back to the first floor. I was lucky to do what I did. Several others in the neighbourhood who panicked and ran back were swept away. One year on, I can hear the heart-rending screams of those unfortunate ones. For many days after, even water coming out of the tap sounded dreadful and scared my traumatised children. Even today they are sea-scared and do not ask me to take them to Marina beach, once their favourite holiday spot."

As for Mrs Srinivasan and her daughter, life has not changed much except that they had lost their furniture, utensils, personal computer, music system and some other electronic items. "I am not worried about the loss of these things. They can be replaced. What I can't replace for ever is the family album that I had painstakingly collected for the past 60 years," moans the old lady.

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