Hearts travel to home and family

Diaspora help for relief in Kerala

By Subhajoy Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 19.08.18
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A woman rescued by the navy rests with her grandchildren at the naval relief camp in Kochi on Saturday. (AFP)

Calcutta: K. Nandakumar left his home in Alappuzha over 25 years ago to make a living in Calcutta but as the floodwater rose in the Pamba river over the past week and his 84-year-old mother had to be shifted, his heart and mind kept going back to his hometown.

Nandakumar is not alone. Hundreds of Malayalees living in Calcutta have been spending sleepless nights as news of the relentless rain and destruction reaches them.

Nandakumar's 84-year-old mother, his elder sister and her family live in Kuttanad on the banks of the Pamba river, which breached its banks and flooded the neighbourhood. The family shifted to Nandakumar's younger sister's home on Thursday but as the water level started rising there, too, they moved to Kochi on Saturday.

"My brother lives in Kochi, which is relatively safer at the moment," said the assistant general manager with Devendra Mantri group and a Behala resident. "They went to Alappuzha town in a houseboat. It took them two-and-a-half hours. From there they hired a car to Kochi."

T.K. Gopalan, the CEO of Garden High School, has been worried about his 93-year-old father, his brother and his family. "Our family home is safe but the area is completely waterlogged. When the rains started more than a week ago, I asked my brother to stock food and medicines. They have not faced any shortage," said Gopalan, who is trying to fly down to Calicut on August 23.

The city's 15,000-strong Malayalee diaspora has come together to raise money for relief work in Kerala.

All 18 Malayalee associations in Calcutta have called off Onam celebrations that were slated to be held over the next month. The money budgeted for Onam will be used to buy relief material, or given as contribution to organisations carrying relief to affected areas and the Kerala chief minister's fund.

"The associations have appealed to members as well as non-members to donate over and above the Onam contributions," said N. Gopi, the secretary of one of the associations.

Bijin Krishna, an IAS officer in Bengal with roots in Kozhikode district of Kerala, said contributing money seems to be the best option but efforts should be made to initiate collection of relief material as well.

"Transportation is a huge challenge now. It is better if the money is given to some credible organisation or to the chief minister's fund. It will be easier to procure the materials from southern cities like Chennai," Krishna said. "Once the water starts receding and road, rail and air connectivity are restored, relief material will be in huge demand. The rehabilitation will take a long time," he said.

P.B. Salim, another IAS officer in Bengal, has family in Ernakulam, one of the worst-affected districts in Kerala. "My mother is 79 and my father is 84. They live close to Aluva, which has been badly hit. But luckily they have been able to shift to our family home in Ernakulam district which is at a higher elevation," he said.

Several organisations, too, are pitching in with help. Indian Pluralism Foundation, a registered trust associated with social work, has sought medicines, innerwear, sanitary napkins and water purifying chlorine tablets. "We have tied up with the Chishty Foundation-Ajmer Sharif. Their volunteers are already working in Kerala and we will supply the collected materials to them so that they can hand them over to those who need," said Owaiz Aslam.