Awoken by the buzzing sounds of my mobile phone, I read the numerous text messages from my friends. I was at a relative’s place in Chennai and woozily walked across the house asking everyone if they had felt the earthquake. Most of us were clueless. I put my mobile aside and continued with my morning. Walking into the living room, where my uncle was watching the news, the cup of tea almost slipped from my hands. That morning I learnt a new word—Tsunami.

Ten years have passed since the morning and I am still curious to know more about this natural phenomenon which has happened only five times in history. I read voraciously and wonder what can be done to avoid such phenomena in the future. Devastated, I stood that morning realising how lives had changed completely- some of them washed away, some stories of hope but most stories of helplessness. That morning I learnt the meaning of power.

I would never be able to express why such natural phenomena gets the better of me. Perhaps because I travel to these places, meet such stories and stay attached with them. While I was trying to understand the science behind Tsunami that morning, a part of me was trying to recover from the fact that I was there 24 hours ago. I was cycling around the promenade, crossed over to the rocks and sat by the ocean to see the sun arise from Pondicherry’s horizon on December 25, 2004. That morning I learnt about being lucky.

Whether it was Rishikesh flooding in 2011 and the flash floods in Uttarakhand last year or Kashmir being washed away in 2010 and again this year, these are indications which we cannot ignore anymore. Like the morning of December 26, 2004, I have stood frozen in time, with tears fill my heart many times. And as I pen this, I still feel fear. I hope none of our lives witness such moments ever. But for that, we have to change every day. We have to limit our carbon footprints, if not reduce it, we have to create self-sustaining environs and lives, we have to travel responsibly and most important, we have to give back to our land all what we have taken. And even though that may take forever, I wonder if we’d rather start with one step than lose everything we hold dear.

The afternoon of December 24, 2004. My first visit to Pondicherry, it was love at first sight.
The afternoon of December 24, 2004. My first visit to Pondicherry, it was love at first sight.

Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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