I was born to a privileged generation, Millennials they call us. True, as a Sri Lankan I had war, but then I lived in Colombo and the most we did was have a “drill” for emergency situations during the late 90s. But unless you live in Sri Lanka, it would be difficult to understand as to why we weren’t the “direct” victims of war. Yes, I had family and friends that died in war and we also had an occasional bomb that would go off some place close to where we lived or schooled, but as far as the “victims of war” were concerned, that was not me (I refrain from using “us” because of how soon people get offended for things these days).
With the height of war, the next biggest catastrophe (I speak for the number of localities affected that’s why I did not mention the the Central Bank bomb blast) was the tsunami. Internet was still at its dial-up days in 2004 and information was not freely floating around as much as it is now and up until the tsunami struck us in 2004, I did not know what a tsunami was.
True this island girl cannot swim and hence did not venture into the sea, but having grown up next to the sea (or schooled, would be the better word) it was unfathomable how my favourite past-time or gazing-at-the-sea-and-being-all-philosophical would bring upon a large group of people such disasters. Yes, I was aware of storms and the sort, but they were disasters “at sea” and to my teenage brain, the sea posed no threat to those living on land.
But just as the war, the tsunami did not hit “Colombo” – or parts of it might have but I’m not too sure.
Hence, once again, we were safe.
Fast forward to 2016, we have floods. Once again, there is no direct impact to me. Yes, I am stuck here at home because of the water and traffic on the main roads taking us to Colombo, but me, my family and house are okay. I also have internet to post this and as far I know, this is luxury.
My extended family however, is not.
I am told that this isn’t as bad as the early 90s flood. I would know it is not because what remains of their photo albums (sitting in one of my boxes) tell me so.
But it’s getting there.
A close friend and his family of five including a child at hand have taken shelter on their roof. My grandparents, uncle and aunt have shifted to the bed room and extension space on the second floor of their house. Most of the other family friends, even though not knee deep in water, cannot step out of their main gate.
Apart from the fact that we all know now how much I dislike rain, what bothers and irks me most (I think) is think is my inability to do anything, or rather,
how vulnerable I am when I cannot save (or be there for) those whom I care.
Riding on my Game of Thrones high from yesterday, it’s similar to how Tommen feels when he cannot do anything for Margery or could not Cersei when imprisoned, despite being King.
But I’m not a Queen, not in anywhere inclined to any form of royalty whatsoever but I work for the development sector (particularly climate change and environment) that are yet to have its disaster management centre, met department and other authorities step up their game on early warning systems and similar practices. But instead, we work primarily on policy and on donor requirements that will help fulfil international energy targets and best practices of what is accepted industry.
I’m not complaining about the work I do and am no doubt blessed to be doing what I do, working from home and all, but sometimes when the industry you work for is unable to fulfil its responsibilities at home base, trust me it can get a bit discouraging.
Should you need more clarity, I would recommend reading after the quake by Haruki Murakami. Yes, you would tell me that somethings were lost in translations but no, that’s not a concern now. Neither is it as dramatic a situation yet, but it’s a dreaded level of hopelessness that seems to have engulfed those of us who cannot do anything to help
Until the sun shines bright upon us once again and the laundry finds it way back to my dresser neatly folded.