Monday, September 6, 2010

The Deluge and its Aftermath

Upright Opinion
The Deluge and its Aftermath
By Saeed Qureshi
August 27, 2010
The mammoth deluge resulting from colossal rains and excessively swollen rivers might be eternally remembered as a myth sung by the future generations in their folklores. The mighty river Indus spelled disaster on both sides of its journey from mountain peaks to the last dip in the Persian Gulf. The floods would bring a demographic, geographic, and cultural transformation in the submerged lands of Pakistan.
The Biblical deluge of Prophet Noah that occurred in the distant past is a religious fable, shared by the three Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Although the details of that enormous deluge are sketchy, yet it bears out the fact that the deluges have been happening in the past too and with the same ferocity that, of late, has overtaken Pakistan. This unprecedented flood covered’s one fifth of Pakistan’s agricultural land, displaced over 20 million people, caused deaths of several hundred human beings, and perishing of countless heads of cattle and livestock. The economic miseries and losses due to fallen houses and ruination of crops are beyond calculations.
No matter how the man asserts himself scientifically and technologically, he would always remain at the mercy of the nature for both boons and banes. Nature ensures survival of living beings by creation of conducive conditions. Yet it equally marshals and unleashes catastrophic forces such as volcanoes, earthquakes and deluges entailing extinction of a whole civilization, a habitation, or an entire region. The sinking of New Orleans in United States in 2005 and devastation caused by 2006 earthquake in Pakistan are the recent manifestations of nature’s destructive power and outrage.
The deluge will give birth to countless stories both harrowing and of heroism. The people would narrate as to how before their eyes, a dear one, a father, a mother, a sister, or a brother, an infant or young boy was swallowed by the merciless lashing torrents. With equal vehemence, some would talk of a hero who saved some one from the clutches of sure death. Some of them would weep over the washing away of a buffalo, a cow, a bullock, or a horse that was the only source of sustenance for them. The loss of crops for both affluent farmers and poor tillers would be a severe setback both psychologically and economically.
The never-ending stories of the people marooned for days on a tiny piece of land surrounded by violent water waves would keep haunting the timid survivors. But others who came out after being so close to death would narrate it with bounteous gratitude to God who saved them.
The writers would write books reflecting the human miseries and the tolerance and the spirit to cope with the ramifications of a catastrophe that was destructive in its entirety. The films and stage plays too would portray the myriad dimensions between hope and despair and man’s perilous existence in face of a furious nature.
When the floodwater would finally settle in the ocean or confined to the riverbeds, the immense challenges are going to be hunger, poverty, stagnant water, diseases, and decomposed carcasses. The rebuilding of the ruined access roads, shattered bridges and destroyed orchards and standing crops would be an enormous undertaking.
Nevertheless, new generations would be born out of the unprecedented floods. The reality of overpowering floods would remain instilled in their memories as long as they live. The children who have witnessed the chaos will have their lasting scars and bitter memories stored in their highly delicate and impressionistic minds with some of them developing nightmares and mental traumas. The women would mourn their departed husbands and lament how they would resettle in life again.
Yet hope is integrally ingrained in the human nature. There are always new flames over the embers that turned into ashes. If winter were there, the spring would always be there around the corner. The despair and despondency are transitory. Invariably it is hope and a rekindled spirit to live that rebounds. The storm has passed and now tranquility would prevail.
Man in this universe vacillates between hope and despair yet keeps fighting for his survival. Grief and sufferings are always waiting in wings and seize human beings at a time no one can predict. So the villages that sank and vanished would be rebuilt and barns would be reestablished and, new flocks of cattle and livestock would kick again around in the village life. The submerged life of the rural landscape would be reclaimed indeed but not so soon. One can be certain that there would be a new soil, a new vigor, and a renewed determination to restore the galore of life.
The rehabilitation either sponsored and helped by government and aid agencies or done on self-help basis would take years if not decades. Mercifully, no deluge, howsoever, fierce and ferocious can take away the land with it. That is a miracle that even lightening, wildfire or volcanoes cannot gobble or erase an inch of land. So the unflinching hope is there. The soil can be reseeded and crops would grow again. That is the beauty of land in that it cannot be robbed nor can it vanish. Land is the mother of humans: it provides food, it gives sustenance; it is the ultimate source of human survival.
There will be a transformation in the worldview, attitudes, culture, mindset, and values of the people in the flood-affected areas. They would ponder about life, death, and similar mundane and metaphysical issues. May be the people discard the centuries old traditions of building mud houses and instead reconstruct their dwelling s with bricks and stones.
They might have a new awareness not to vote for those local feudal lords and big landholders who diverted the flow of leaping water to save their crops and villages. There might be a rebellious spirit aroused in the suppressed villagers to assert themselves in a freer and defiant manner against the oppressive landlords and selfish owners of fiefdoms, the spiritual figures, as well as the lethargic politicians who failed to respond to the call of duty in a crusading manner.
(The writer is a freelance journalist writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan)
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