Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Aila , the one-eyed pirate from the Bay of Bengal.

The local met department has been sounding an alert about an impending cyclone since last 2 days. As usual such alerts fall on deaf ears not only because they lack the precision of accurate forecasts of landing time & ferocity but also because 99% of such cyclones originating from the Bay of Bengal normally change their courses,at the last minute, to strike neighbouring Bangaldesh.

This time however the cyclone 'Aila' lashed through the coast of West Bengal & wreaked havoc on 24Parganas,Howrah,Hoogly, Nadia & Murshidabad districts. These incidentally are the same districts that routed the ruling left front government out of the Parliament in New Delhi in the recent Loksabha elections. While religion-minded communists (these are special breeds found only in Bengal) believe that it is God's vengeance on the anti-communists; the ever-sensational opposition leader used her new-found maturity to restrain herself from terming Aila a Chinese conspiracy.

Aila left 21 people dead in its trail out of which 7 died in Kolkata in freakish accidents that only a natural fury can cause. A 37 year old man, taking his ailing mother for a check-up, tragically died when a tree fell on the autorickshaw he was travelling in. An iron post fell on another hapless pedestrian, killing him, while he was running for cover amidst 100 kph strong gushing wind & rain. A broken window pane flew out of a building & gashed the chest of a 50 year old woman. Kolkata Police,in a novel way, send an SMS alert to citizens asking them to be indoors. But like the proverbial horse that bolted through the open stable door, the SMS reached at 7.45 p.m,almost 3 hours after the Aila had weakened and passed over. Information was scant & sketchy on all media. The cable was out, torn to shreds, by falling branches. Websites of met department or other weather channels, displayed information that was at least 5 hours old, leaving one in a helpless state of mind.A bummer was heard mumbling , "'Aila' aila naki gaila noboddy koila!"

A 35 year old tree in front of my house crashed its biggest maze of branches on the road, blocking it completely from traffic. Another big one (see picture) still hangs precariously on its trunk. Streets littered with tree trunks & branches reminded one of the recent tactics used by a section of tribals in Lalgarh to prevent the state police from entering their area. 'Tree felling' incidentally finds its mention as a suitable anti-adminsitration confrontational tactic , in the history books. Some have 'credited' the freedom fighter Matangoni Hazra (from Medinipur)of using such measures to disrupt the administration of the colonial British rulers, nearly 70 years back. What,of course, never finds a mention in the national dailies is the fact that in the tribal areas of West Medinipur, 'Tree Felling' has been used frequently by highway tribal-dacoits to waylay, rob & murder unsuspecting travellers for years together. Am sure that the same elements are now used by political parties of all hues to score their brownie points in Bengal. So much for our fighters!

But Aila was no ordinary robber. She was more like an one-eyed pirate who rose from the sea and gushed ferociously over the land of South Bengal destroying rural & urban vegetation & structures at will and bringing to a near total shutdown all forms of traffice (road,rail or bus)for over 4-5 hours. While it passed, I attempted to capture it on my cellphone video. For all those who want to experience the roar of Aila, heres a clip below. To be played in full volume,
video

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