THE TOWN BY THE SEA
This's the title of a wonderful essay on post-Tsunami human condition in Andaman and Nicobar by Amitav Ghosh published in Tehelka weekly dated January 22.
Ghosh tells us about three ravaged souls: Obed Tera, a naik in the 10th Madras Regiment of the Indian army, who has not only lost his house, but also his uniform, his ration card, his service card, and is now not in a position to report to his job; Paramjeet Kaur, a Sikh woman, who has got her house and possession, the result of thirty years of hard work, washed away in an instant, and now wants to go back to her ancestral home in Punjab; and an unnamed director of the island's Malaria Research Centre, who gets his wife and daughter killed by the wave while he was away, and now searches them frantically among the debris.
Ghosh writes,"Listening to their stories it is easy to believe that most of them found what they were looking for: here, in this far-flung chain of islands, tens of thousands of settlers were able to make their way out of poverty, into the ranks of country's expanding middle class. But on the morning of December 26, this hard-won betterment became a potent source of vulnerability. For to be middle class is to be kept afloat on a life-raft of paper:identity cards,cheque books,certificates of life insurance and receipts of fixed deposit. It was the particular nature of the disaster that it targeted not just the physical being of the victims but also the proof of the survivors' identities."
A great piece of writing. The narrative of the director who in the end chooses to pick up some laboratory slides as the only memento of his past is really touching, and beats fiction.