Kashmir floods déjà vu : “I see my home sinking again”

Floods have once again struck Indian-administered Kashmir. Journalist RIFAT MOHIDIN and her family have had to desert their house – yet again – to seek higher ground. Everything that’s been rebuilt since last year is now lost, and she does not know if they’ll have the strength to rebuild their lives a second time. 

Sringar, Indian-administered Kashmir – It has been raining in Kashmir for five days now. Floods again seem to be making their way to my home. With every passing hour of rain; I am revisited by memories of the devastating floods of September 2014.

On September 7 last year, we were all awake praying, waiting, crying desperately for the rain to stop. Similar scenes have returned the last four nights. Again we are left waiting for the same rain to stop, to let us live our lives, lives left unlived due to the devastating floods that hit Kashmir last year.

The continuous rain has put us on edge again; a slight noise makes us think the ravaging flood waters are approaching. We have not been able to recover from the trauma and devastation of the last floods. If the floods hit Kashmir again, I know what it will bring to us.

The memories still haunt me; when I, along with my family, was left on the street: homeless, without food or drinking water. We had no contact with the elders of our family like my grandmother, who was trapped inside the house surrounded by more than 20 feet of water for four days. It was a struggle between losing our possessions and surviving. We had no time to save our belongings.

This time, we don’t want to feel that fear again; another flood means passing through all the suffering again.

The rain started on the night of March 29. At first there was no threat of floods. To reassure myself, I kept up to date on official websites, found helpline numbers for the weather and flood departments, and  called officials in the flood control department to get the updates about the water level.

In the morning, the officials had said there was no danger, but by late evening they issued the red alert. Everyone was advised to leave for safer places. The flood was officially declared by the government later that night. Without eating anything, everyone started crying; people started going to the river embankments to check the level of the water. There was chaos all around.

For us, there seemed to be no other option but to leave our home for a safer place until the fears disappeared. I didn’t want to go anywhere, for I know now what it means to be homeless despite having a home – after the flooding last year we were left with nothing, not even clothes to wear, and we only returned to our home after more than four months.

But here we were again: whatever we have been able to rebuild in these four months, we had to leave in our home for the floods to wash away. Leaving home in the middle of night, it was impossible to decide what to take or leave, to decide what is more important and what is less important. I was too tired to think of anything, I just didn’t want to leave home.

My mother has been in trauma since the last floods, although we have been consoling her all this time. But today I too felt weak: I had no words of comfort for my mother. We might be able to rebuild our lives once after the devastation; I don’t think we can do it twice.

We moved to a relative’s place in the middle of the night on Sunday with a few possessions, but it was difficult to convince my mother to stay there. On Monday morning we returned to our home again, watching the rising waters with a hope of its receding. Everything was not well; it still is not.

I wanted an escape.

The finest escape in the morning seemed going to the market, which was bracing itself for the deluge. Everything looked strange and gloomy, and every face was tired, hopeless and desperate. People were silently packing up their belongings.

The market, which is usually crowded, was deserted; there were no shoppers. Most of the shutters in the shops were down. Some shopkeepers were packing their stock into vehicles. The devastation of the last floods are still a fresh memory; this time no one wants to take a chance with the rising water.

There were times when I would enjoy the rain, but since September even a slight downpour scares everyone at home – it takes us back to the days of flooding.

With rain falling and waters rising, I see my home sinking again.

– Featured image: By Sheikh Yaqoob. 
Rifat Mohidin bio picRifat Mohidin is a journalist based in Kashmir. Follow her on Twitter.

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