All I love is torani and a good siesta but the latter was broken by a lot of hustle and bustle near the Ghania tea shop in the bazaar Oct 8 afternoon. A cyclone was coming….A cyclone was coming. I stood up, urinated instantly in panic as I remembered my ordeal 19 years ago in the SuperCyclone 1999. One that demolished several of roadside shelters and finally left my right horn broken in half by a falling branch. Really horrendous and hungry two days. Dreadful Days those were.
So I paid heed starting from the tea shop…and learning that Cyclone Reporting has now moved on to Live TV from radio announcements of earlier years, I also peeked into a TV playing in a flat from its road facing window. If I could decipher the panic and urgency over the anchor’s face; Doomsday was about to happen. A massive cyclone named Titli was indeed hurtling at Odisha at 180 kmph…and was scheduled to make landfall near Gopalpur on October 10 afternoon. So scary were they in describing the wrath that I peed again, and raising my tail in panic ran helter-skelter for a mile remembering my last plight.
The next morning was a lull, as it is often so before a cyclone happens. The intensity of the teashop gossip also went up and so did the decibels from the TV. People found some excuse or other to bunk office that morning and cleaned up whatever stocks the corner shops had…candles, kerosene, rice, dal, potatoes. I tried to listen to TV which was now playing hourly bulletins like cricket matches….anchors of all shapes, sex and age now competing with each other to project the most fatalistic estimates. All I could overhear was that the cyclone would affect not less than 6-7 coastal districts…the airspeed would be anywhere between 120-180 kmph implying unseen death and destruction in its path. The din continued all thro the night, even after a Sr ex-scribe pointed out for a cyclone travelling at 18kmph still had 10 hours to make landfall, the anchors just went on and one to fill a night of brimming panic. The cyclone apparently kept the Queen sleepless, who walked into the War Room at night to monitor how the cyclone and preparedness, were faring!
The next day was also unofficial holiday. Even the milkman and newspaperman stopped coming…the paan n tea shops remained close…limiting my access to information. I kept shuttling between close shopfronts to office buildings. There were indications of the wind speed increasing and may be a heavy drizzle. But that was about it.
By afternoon, the air was clear and the news was out that the cyclone had blown over. The shops had opened and people seemed to complain how a cyclone of such a predicted magnitude could blow away so feebly. The TV buzzed again, this time it was the elite complaining how the Media unnecessarily amplified the cyclone that was not to be. A social media war was raising between the presspeople who wanted to claim they did a good job vs the elite in the State Capital who couldn’t see the effect.
finally came out with a figure of 52 lives lost, 39 in Gajapati dist alone and a loss of Rs 2200 face,Then by the next day, as the drizzle continued trickled in the results. In Gajapati at least 12 people were killed by a landslide, somewhere else entire families swept off by floods. The govt finally had to abandon the Zero-Casualty Claim it had stuck onto so rigidly. The govt, with a somber cr.
On the Third Floor the Mighty Quickgun Murugan, the Ghost who Walks and is All-Powerful, roared: “Whose idea was it to aim for zero-casualty?”
Not a soul stirred. Finally, some minion mustered the courage, “That started when you were the Collector and we needed to showcase our efficiency…Sirr,”
The Quickgun Murugan waived him off breaking into his silent, crooked smile. From now on, the Cyclone was fixed. It will NOT be Zero-Casualty anymore.”
With droughts being less reliable, everyone in Odisha loves a good cyclone now!