Sunday, January 5, 2020

English Common Course and the Floods

When the first time I heard the term Mega Floods, I was in the middle of packing my breakfast. The television set was blaring news about the nonstop raining in Kerala and the water that was unstoppable. Most of the rivers were overflowing. Villages and cities were underwater. My house was situated near the sloping-side of a plateau. I feared everything. I was afraid of every drop of rain that fell on our land. The flood wasn't going to affect us. But landslides could kill us all. This was in the year 2018. 
Two years later, in 2020, I was teaching a class of forty students about Ecosystem. My subject was English. The course I was teaching was the English Common Course titled Readings on Life and Nature. The class was going strong. Everyone was engrossed in the text. That was a rare happening. I was telling them about the relationship between the non-living and the living elements of nature or ecosystem. Strangely, students were interested in knowing about nature, as if nature mattered. Perhaps, it was the dark memory of the floods that were prodding them. 
I was about to cite an example showing how the living (biotic) and the nonliving (abiotic) elements interacted. Before I could tell them the example of human being, breathing air (abiotic element) to stay alive, one of the students stood up. He suggested that if we do not take care of how we manage our land, the earth will lose its balance, and humans would have a hard time surviving the disasters that follow. 
I paused for a moment. 
True, I thought. 
I was thinking only in terms of consumption of abiotic and biotic elements in nature. Being a person from Kerala consumerism was deep-seated in my psyche. I was thinking in terms of how biotic beings consume abiotic elements to stay alive. What the student told me was to open my eyes. What he said was that we had to help ourselves by keeping the ecosystem play on its balance. This balance is delicate. It could be damaged by a handful of people. We must prevent any human intervention from damaging the balance of nature. 
I also understood that the way we programme our mind is also important in our dealings with the ecosystem. My new book, Life After The Floods is not a description of the megafloods that drowned Kerala. But it does carry the horror of the experience. The book explores the steps that should be taken to prevent human casualties in floods and natural calamities. 
Life After the Floods points at the need to open our minds to various possibilities that exist for us to explore. The book is also about an area that we never discussed in connection with any calamity here in Kerala, especially in India. When a family or an individual suffers a calamity, his mind experiences a trauma that is seldom addressed by the governments or other organizations. We often provide financial aid to victims of the flood. Never did we send a team of counsellors or psychologists to address the mental trauma and shock of those human beings who collectively or individually went through the megafloods. 
In Life After the Floods, I share a few useful steps to help people. I learned these from the experience as a Programme Officer of the National Service Scheme. 
This book will help the next generation to get a bird's eye view of the Mega Floods of 2018. It will help volunteer groups, students, and other organizations who provide help during calamities to channelize their activities better. 
Life After the Floods offers us a picture of what could happen if you didn't take 'readings on life and nature' or 'nature matters' seriously. 
Life After the Floods asks some questions that are never asked before. It is important to keep the discussion alive in our society about what could be done to help people psychologically when they undergo a trauma or large-scale calamity. The common misconception is that if the calamity is a large one, like the Mega Floods, groups of people would somehow emerge from their losses. It is important to understand that losses are not always physical.
Life After the Floods is also part of the New Delhi World Book Fair 2020. I consider it a small step towards building awareness about the balance of nature. I'd also like to request each one of you to keep the discussion alive about the need to extend psychological help to people while dealing with any form of natural or manmade calamity. 

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