Nature\’s Wrecking Ball: Cyclone Fani and Its Aftermath

It\’s a Monday evening in Delhi. The ugly, white-LED lights that show you the way while you drive back home don\’t soothe your discomfort at being stuck in traffic. But they\’re comforting in their predictability; they signal that you\’ll be back to the cool comfort of your air-conditioned home.

I\’m currently sitting in a comfortable room, after having evening tea and snacks. I\’m feeling neither hot nor cold; hungry nor thirsty. Meanwhile, on the eastern edge of the subcontinent, my family has been in dark for three days now.

Cyclone Fani seems to have taken the state of Odisha 30 years back in time when frequent load-shedding was the norm and fuel supply was iffy. But while people then had workarounds to these problems — lanterns, candles, chulhas, hand-pumps, etc. — people now were unprepared for a prolonged \’siege\’.

My parents have a generator that they can use sparingly. Petrol pumps are crowded, so fuel supply is uncertain, for vehicles as well as generators. So self-rationing is a must. Submersible pump conked off and had to be repaired. Now they get some water when they run the genny.

Apparently, Good Samaritans (or entrepreneurs) are going around renting out generators on a per-hour basis to charge phones and run motors, etc.

People are coming to my parents\’ place asking for drinking water and for their phones to be charged. That\’s the least you can do to help fellow sufferers.

For the first time in many many years, lanterns are lit at night, candles are aflame, hand fans are swinging, and my family is having to sleep at night without a fan in the humid heat of summertime Bhubaneswar.

It reminds me of my childhood, in my village and in Bhubaneswar, when this was frequent. And like everything childhood, there\’s a certain romanticism that I feel about it. But you know what, it\’s fun to chit-chat with family in the light of a lantern, with no smartphone to distract you, but everything else is no fun at all.

The city of Bhubaneswar looks like a war zone. Vegetation has been stripped off of leaves or uprooted or snapped. It will take decades to restore all that. With the trees gone, people are already worried about how hot the city will become in the coming months.

Hoardings, facades, kiosks, roadside shops, huts, all blown away and strewn all over the city. The place is heartrendingly unrecognizable. The worst sufferers are of course the poor. They\’ll have to rebuild everything from scratch. But I feel they\’re a resilient lot. They\’re not bogged down by a sense of entitlement. I hope the government and others give them a leg up.

Phone lines are getting restored. Hopefully electricity supply will be back on soon. But this is a time of adversity for all those who have been affected. Adversity that affects an entire community has a way of bringing the best or the worst out of people. From my mom\’s voice, I get a feeling it is the best.

Published by Anupam Choudhury

I'm a writer, editor, and blogger from New Delhi, India.

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