He also shared this idea with his friend in Kuwait, who could not contact his family in Kerala.

How Google Maps a strangers kindness helped Bluru man contact his grandma in Kerala Rishikesh (R) and his grandmother
news Kerala Floods Friday, August 17, 2018 - 13:18

Wednesday night was a frantic one for Bengaluru-based Rishikesh Ganga. The 30-year-old content strategist had been trying to reach his 77-year-old grandmother, who was alone in Chalakkara, 40 kilometres away from Thrissur in Kerala.

“She stays there alone and I wasn’t able to reach her on her mobile phone or her landline,” Rishikesh told TNM. His parents and sister who stayed in Thrissur had already evacuated their home and were staying in a hotel. They were not able to reach her or help either.

“To make matters worse, traveling from Bengaluru to Kerala was not possible as most of the roads were closed or flooded,” Rishikesh said. “And she only uses a very basic phone, meaning she could not even have used it to send location or video messages for help, even if she had power.”

After numerous calls to many helplines and control rooms failed to yield results, and after several Facebook posts failed to have the desired impact, Rishikesh came up with a smart solution on Thursday to reach out to his grandmother and ensure she was okay.

“I pulled up the Google map of the area and started calling up individual shop owners nearby. Luckily, I was able to contact a man called Benny, who worked at the nearby cable TV office,” Rishikesh narrates.

Turns out, Benny stayed about 800 metres away from his grandmother’s home. He promised to call Rishikesh once he was able to reach her as it was still pouring at the time.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon at 2:30 pm, Benny called back. “And sure enough, it was my grandma who said "Hello",” Rishikesh said, his relief palpable in his voice.

He was able to confirm that his grandmother was indeed okay, and so was her home. “Her house is on a slope, so the only thing keeping water from entering is the higher ground she is on. I learnt that just 500 metres ahead, the area was flooded. So, it did not make sense to move her either,” he said.

Finally, Rishikesh asked Benny if it would be okay to reach him in case he needed to check on his grandmother again. “Benny wholeheartedly agreed and assured me that he would do the needful in providing support,” Rishikesh said.

Rishikesh’s family owns and runs a jewelry store in Chalakkara, which his mother and grandmother take care of. That has also been shut because of the flooding since last Saturday. “We haven’t been able to assess the damage because we haven’t been able to go there and check,” he said.

Apart from helping his grandmother, Rishikesh was also able to give the idea to a friend based in Kuwait who was unable to reach his family in Kerala. “They were also able to reach a person who lived nearby using Google Maps, who then passed on my friend’s family’s information to local rescue groups,” Rishikesh shares.

Follow TNM's live blog on Kerala floods - Live updates: 164 people dead in the last 10 days, rescue ops continue on war-footing

Note: In case you are looking for someone stranded in Kerala or have information about someone, use this 'Person Finder', which crowdsources information, to help.

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