Super-cyclone Amphan hit coastal areas of Odissa and West Bengal on 20th May, 2020.
Day 0: May 19 ~ Before Amphan
It was like an usual day, I was working in my bedroom, it was cloudy from morning. Around 1 PM we heard announcement from municipality to charge our phones and reserve water. Mom was still cooking in the kitchen, my sister ran to collect all our mobile phones to put n charge, my dad took out 2 big buckets to fill them with water.
Within a hour, our small washrooms had no place to step in, water-filled buckets everywhere!
The weather was fine rest of the day. So we were wondering, “Maybe it won’t come here!”
Day 1: May 20 ~ Arrival of Amphan
It was cloudy from morning but no other signs. It drizzled a couple of times for not more than 15-20 mins. Power supply was stopped by 5 PM that day. The WiFi stopped working too.
Gusty wind was blowing, we all gathered in one room to save power. It rained heavily for around 1 hour or so- I haven’t seen a heavy rain like this in many years. The rain stopped by 9 PM or so. None of us had phone network, we finished our dinner soon and went to bed. Sleeping without the fan was hard but not impossible.
Day 2: May 21 ~ What Amphan left behind
The weather was cloudy, yet calm. The power wasn’t back yet and we had to be very careful about using power (from backup) and water. We had khichudi (Mixture of rice, lentils and vegetables, cooked with mild spices, has consistency of porridge) and beguni(eggplant fritters) in lunch. That is one of the most classic food that Bengalis have on a typical rainy day.
We all had to use smallest amount of water for freshening up, we did not wash the clothes.
We forgot to reserve some water for the puja. Puja/Prayer is a daily activity at our home and we offer fruits and sweets to God at first and later have them as “prasad”. Water from kitchen and washroom is never used for puja, rather mom fetches the water separately from a different tap.
Because of the clouds, the evening seemed to be early. As usual I was sitting in the same room with my mother and sister. Dad was restless already. Due to lockdown, he was too much addicted to phone, internet and TV. In absence of all those, it was hard to make him sit with us under a single light. Dad took out his old music player from 90’s and started the radio… After finding out dad’s solo party me and mom joined him in the dark room where he was playing the radio.
We opened all the doors and windows and filled our lungs with the cold breeze while listening to the music, I was standing in the balcony. The roads were completely dark, the only light we could see was from the building across the road.
Me and my sister finished dinner by 7 PM that day (usually we have around 10 or 10:30), arranged our bed and stayed inside mosquito-net. Things started getting worse- One person(I would not tell who!) got really bad loose motion and it was hard to manage that with the amount of water we were left with. It was already more than 24 hours after the power-cut and the power backup does not support the fridge. Some of the leftover foods went bad and the kitchen started stinking!
Dad was playing a complete rebel and he would not sleep early. He took one of the laptops to watch movie at night. The old laptop would not operate without connecting the adapter, so he used 1 light and the pc for as long as he could watch. Rest of us decided not to use any power…
Day 3: May 22 ~ The Aftermath
We ran out of water after cleaning the dishes, we barely had any clean utensils to cook and eat the next meal. Taking shower was not even an option. Dealing with stomach infection was a real challenge with the little amount of water!
The previous night dad finished up the last bit of power we were left with simply watching movies! Because of the cloudy sky, even at day-time it was dark.
Early morning dad rushed to the municipality tap nearby and fetched 12 buckets of water. He single handedly carried all of them to our house. This all happened before I woke up. The water was used for cooking, cleaning the rest of the dishes and nature’s multiple calls!
The lunch menu kept short to rice and a simple fish-curry. We were desperate for power and water. The phones did not have network, it was dark inside and outside, there were all sorts of wierd smells… Many of our neighbors already got power and we still did not have any clue.
Finally we got power after 45 hours. It took a while to get water, we cleaned the house religiously, everybody took shower in the eveing and heaved the sigh of relief.
Network connectivity was still not there until Saturday (i.e. 4th Day).
It took 2 days to get power and water and 6 days to get back WiFi. When we finally got the connectivity back, we were devastated to see the destruction that Amphan has done in different parts of West Bengal and Odissa. Giant trees uprooted, broken electric poles, water-logged roads, destroyed fruits and crops- everywhere. Before Amphan Corona affected count in India was 96k, after Amphan it was already 125k… The world had changed a lot within a couple of nights!
We were not among the worst affected people… many people did not get water and power even after 4-5 days, that too in city. Absence of internet was a problem indeed, as I am working from home and everyday I had to report to supervisor saying that I could not connect. I am not much dependent on internet for entertainment though!
We are poor people, still we felt privileged and blessed to have power and water much earlier than many others- without which surviving is difficult. My small family showed over-all good team spirit during the power and network outage. We all kept each other on check for saving water and power most of the times!
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Photo Courtesy : Ganesh Partheeban on Unsplash