Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bhubaneswar: So far so good

For inhabitants of Bhubaneswar an impending storm is nothing more than a show time. At least so far that is the case. With provisions of all kind stashed in the freezer, TV and internet updating the progress of the cyclone in the eastern seaboard, electric power or alternative power available for major part of the day and of course the Dasahara holidays going, people, are no more than a little anxious. The concrete and steel homes are safe from being torn apart and water seeping in.

Bhubaneswar is where the bandobast for the relief work happens, it is here that opposition leaders rake up issues like government's unpreparedness. It is here that all the big IAF cargo planes descend and spew out men and material. It is from here that the brave hearts of the Indian military forces are deployed to the danger zones.

Bhubaneswar is a safe zone in the times of a storm. People find their homes safer, hence the roads remained empty most of the day. Most of the shops remained closed during the day. Although it rained intermittently throughout the day we have seen business going on in full swing with heavier rains. But today it was different. Why take extra risk when people have made up their mind for a three, four days' shut down?

In the morning at about 8 o' clock I visited one of the Reliance Fresh departmental stores, more to survey the scene than to buy provisions. Although the shop was open uncertainty was ruling the air. At that time rain had
stopped but the people inside were in a closing mood.   Most of the shelves were empty, no breads, no milk and no eggs and flattened rice. Potato sale was rationed at 2 kg per buyer. The non-vegetarian section was not open.

As I write this, heavy rains is lashing outside, but wind is not severe as I can not hear its sound and fury. Bhubaneswar is safe so far, at least safe for most, except for the unfortunate woman who lost her life coming under an uprooted tree. May her soul rest in peace.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Phailin: Hours Away

Phailin is just hours away from landfall at Gopalpur-on-sea. It will tryst with Odisha at about 6 PM today, multiplying its present intensity manifold. The sea waves will surge, sending water 10 ft up, inundating coastal areas of Odisha which lie barely above the sea level. Although Odisha authorities say 300,000 people have been evacuated and brought to safety and notwithstanding Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's assurance that there will be 'zero casualty', it is hard to believe that all the vulnerable people have gotten themselves away from harm's way. Just now I read a newspaper report that fishermen in the coastal Odisha have refused to budge from their homes and hearth, and of course the sea. There must be many more like them who would leave it to chance rather than accept the inconveniences of evacuation.

Many in Odisha have pinned their hopes on supernatural intervention. These are the times of the annual visitation of Goddess Durga, the symbol of victory over evil. Dasahara, as the week long celebrations is called, stands for truth, victory, prosperity, renewal and purification. Durga is a powerful goddess capable of crushing her opponents, however mighty they may be. She is also a loving goddess, the mother of the powerless and the virtuous.

Many believe that the simultaneous arrival of Goddess Durga and Phailin is only to accentuate what she hasdone always, slaughter the opponent and save her children. While the people are bracing themselves up for the impending calamity, the fervor for the goddess worship has not abetted a bit. The cities and villages of the state are soaking in festival cheer with colorful and brightly lit platforms dotting all over.

Come what may the worship of the Goddess will proceed with due sincerity, if not with the expected gaiety and grandeur. The idols of the Goddess, resplendent in their glory seem to infuse a kind of confidence, courage and reassurance like nothing else can, among the pious people of the state, who are a little anxious now.

Phailin in the Air

Although people of Odisha are very familiar with cyclones and storms 'Phailin' is something unknown to the people of this part. Phailin is named after all a sapphire in Thai language. The name has been given to the cyclone by Thiland, much before it even originated. Names for future storms are already given and they are released as a new storm takes shape.

This sapphire Phailin is of course fully ominous for the people living in the path of the sea monster. Precious metals and stones are always associated with good luck or bad omens. Phailin is no different. Phailin prediction is changing by the minute. But there is no uncertainty about its likely time of landfall and the places it will visit. The landfall time is predicted around 5.30 PM on 12th Oct 2013. The place is Gopalpur and its vicinity stretching upto Paradip port near Cuttack. Odisha's capital Bhubaneswar is also in the path of nature's fury.

(Empty roads of Bhubaneswar at 7.45 AM before the arrival of Phailin on 12th Oct 2013)

People of Bhubaneswar and other parts of coastal Odisha are reminded by the miseries they experienced when the 'Super Cyclone' unleashed its fury in the state in October 1999 killing more than 10000 people. So people are more careful this time and panicky to some extent. In Bhubaneswar most of the food items are cleaned off the shelves by the people two days before the arrival time of Phailin. Potato was selling at Rs30 on 10th Oct evening against the normal price of Rs10. Even then many people had to go back empty handed.