14 May 2016

An Act of God:The concrete deluge

I have always loved Calcutta. Something about the city makes you feel at home. Calcutta, to me, is a city with  a soul.

Yet, today I witnessed an act of God.

I was returning home via the Burrabazar road. Above me was the bridge which had been ‘under construction’ since 2009.  Like me, it had experienced change. Like me, it had witnessed a change in the Bengal political front. My taxi stopped at a signal. It was a lazy afternoon. The road was busy, the shops were getting ready to close for the afternoon siesta. The air was heavy with the smell of sweat and aristocracy, like the eerie calmness before a storm.

And then it happened.

The signal turned yellow and road was just about to return to life when a dull crash rent the afternoon sky. I looked up. It seemed like the heavens had parted, but instead of stardust, all that fell were columns of concrete. Chunks of incomplete plans which landed right onto the city’s heart, right on target. I was pushed outside the car in the nick of time and I witnessed a spectacle I will never forget.
It was over in a flash. The world was broken down to dust, debris and chaos. Defiant concrete overshadowed myriad yellow taxis, mini buses, and people. Children cried. Buses crashed. Mothers wailed. One could see a tiny glint of yellow paint trying to force it’s way into life. Sometimes, it’s not what happens, that truly affects us.

It is the aftermath.

I didn’t see any dead bodies. Nor did I see any colossal wreckage. Everything was ‘under construction'.

Within a few moments sirens could be heard. I could see disaster management teams coming in hoards. But along with them came the media personnel. With their personal arsenal of paraphernalia, they seemed better equipped than the disaster management teams. Both the groups began working. The CPRF team, along with a few policemen, undertook the Herculean task of removing the stubborn concrete. I wanted to help, yet I just watched.

Rescue operations in progress
Image courtesy : The Indian Express

It seemed really strange to me, why the reporters were busy showing the cameramen pieces off the wreckage, whereas they could have helped too. I saw a man being dragged out, and the media teams rushing to take pictures of him. He was covered in blood. His hand seemed wobbly. Yet they asked him questions such as "Could you be kind enough to tell exactly how the bridge fell? How do you feel? ” they asked. It made me sick inside. If this was media coverage I thought, we’d be better off living inside caves.I ran away from the scene, unable to bear the gravity of the situation. After all, there’s so much you can take.As I hurried along, my phone buzzed. A Facebook notification lit up my screen. “Are you okay, Utsho? 34 of your friends have reported safe.” it read. One notification after another piled up in the upper bar of my phone. A  post said that AMRI hospital was one of the blood banks where people could donate blood.

Trapped under the debris.
Image courtesy : Anonymous source.

Post after post offering condolences and prayers polluted my news feed, along with those myriad political blames. But I had seen a victim. He didn’t need condolences or prayers. He needed help. It took me an hour and a half to reach AMRI Hospital, Dhakuria. I rushed inside,and found the lobby flooded with people. These people who had come to the aid for the victims of a calamity were the faceless heroes, the heroes we never hear about. The ‘valiant men’ who exist only in the stories told by our grandmother at night. These were people whom no reporter approached for an interview, whom no camera-man followed. The ‘heroes’ we hide under the head every night before we go to sleep. The heroes whose existence we doubt.

‘An Act Of God’, I thought.

Calcutta, though jaded and wounded, would recover. She had lived through one calamity after another. And although the people had changed, and the faces had changed, she smiled because her soul had remained intact.

This, truly was an Act Of God, she thought. That God who lived among the people and only showed himself when she needed him...
….and in joy, she laughed.

Article by :- Utsho Bose.

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