Azra’s tale gave an insight into what the flood survivors experienced at an individual level.
Oblivious of what was happening in this roadside relief camp, Azra kept talking. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her voice choked. She wiped them off with her dupatta. An old lady waddled by and gave a pat on her back. “You are with us now, don’t you worry,” she consoled her.
Azra smiled back in gratitude and continued with her tragic story.
“Where was I,” she asked.
“Your entire family went missing as floodwater entered the village, your grandfather died,” I refreshed her memory.
She continued her story, “I was left all alone sitting on the rooftop of my house, wailing over my beloved grandfather’s body. I wasn’t sure whether the rest of my family had escaped the wrath of the flood water or God forbid something bad had happened to them. That’s when I heard Fayyaz calling my name. He had heard my cries.”
“Fayyaz’s house was on the next street and he hopped from one rooftop to another to reach me. I told him about my family. He was concerned and wanted to jump into the floodwater to find them but I held his arm and stopped him.”
“He told me his family had managed to leave the village before the Tori Bund breach. His father’s friends in Sukkur had informed him that flood torrents might hit that way. Fayyaz had refused to leave.”
“He told me he had a plan. In the morning, navy helicopters would come to pick up trapped people and fly them to safety. But he also insisted that we search for my family. He looked over the edge of the roof but could not see anything in the dark except water. There was no sign of life. What he noticed was that the water had risen to the level of the roof.”
“How is Fayyaz related to you?” I interrupted her.
“Ah! Fayyaz is the person who saved my life and brought me here. We have been good friends since childhood but when we grew up, our families stopped us from seeing each other,” she told me.
Then she continued telling me the events of that night, “With death looming over our heads, we got scared and looked for higher places to save our lives. We couldn’t have hopped our way to Fayyaz’s house, as the water had collapsed a mud-house on the way.”
“Fayyaz quickly took a ladder and with the help of the rope he had pulled out of my grandfather’s charpoy, he tied it to the wall. We hoped this would give us some altitude till the helicopters arrived.”
“Although the condition was precarious, I somehow had faith that with Fayyaz around, I would be able to make it. We laid my grandfather’s body on the charpoy and sat nearby keeping a close watch on the floodwater. I was also worried the roof might cave in.”
“Fayyaz held my hand and put a ring on my finger. He said this is a token of his love. He wanted me to remember him through this ring if we got separated. I clenched his hands as I accepted the ring.”
“We kept looking for other options for survival in case the situation got worse. What if the water rose higher than the last rung of the ladder? The floodwater was only inches below the roof level and I knew we would be in it soon. While we were talking about it, Fayyaz spotted a wooden plank floating in the debris. He went towards the other end of the roof and with the help of a bamboo stick pulled it over.”
“It was four in the morning and still dark. The only sound we could hear was that of the water. We were waiting for the daylight. I was worried about the fate of my family.”
“And the long night finally came to an end. The water was rising and we were preparing to climb the ladder, when we heard the whirling noise of navy helicopters in the distance.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2010.
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