Date: August 16. Time: Around 12 am. Location: A neighbourhood in Aluva, Ernakulam district. Heavy rains woke Deepak up in the middle of the night. He opened his window to look outside. To his horror, he found water all around his house, with only a few minutes left for the water level to rise up to his window. He immediately alerted his mother.
Expecting panic outside, the mother and son rushed to open the door. They were instead greeted with silence and stillness, as there was no electricity. Worried if everybody evacuated their houses, Deepak called a few neighbours, only to find that they were all asleep. He quickly made calls and sounded the alarm before water entered the houses.
The two joined others in evacuating their low-lying houses and made a rush to a two-storey house, located a few blocks away. However, it was not that an easy task for Deepak, whose lower limbs were paralysed following an accident 20 years ago.
Realising his difficulty, a few neighbours rushed to help wheelchair-ridden Deepak. While they managed to wheel him to the two-storey house, getting him to the second floor was another challenge before them. They winged it.
â€śAs the stairways were narrow, my wheelchair could not go through. So, a few of them shifted me to a chair and pulleyed me to the second floor,â€ť recalls Deepak. Several other residents, too, took shelter here.
But before long, with incessant rains, the water levels threatened to go up to the second floor. People gathered at that house knew they had to relocate to another safe place before it was too late to escape.
Deepak then sought help from Thanal Paraplegic Care, of which he is a member. As the roads were flooded and no vehicle could go by, the group came to the village with a small boat to evacuate people. However, another challenge stared at Baby and Deepak.
â€śIt was impossible for the boat to carry my wheelchair or me. With no option left before us, my mother and I decided to stay back, while others left to a relief camp closer to our village,â€ť he says.
By morning that day, the mother and son were alone in the two-storey house and their immediate neighbourhood. Worry and anxiety swelled in their hearts, as they were clueless what will happen to them if it rained more in the coming days.
Luckily, the residents of the house had filled the water tank the day before the floods had begun. So, they had access to water.
The family had also set up a makeshift kitchen on the second floor before evacuating. Basic provisions such as rice and bread too were stocked up on.
â€śBarring electricity, we were lucky to have water and sufficient food supply. And we survived for four days there,â€ť recalls Deepak.
â€śOn the first day, I had noted a point on the wall of a house, where the water level stood then. Since then, every day, I was on a vigil and observed if the water level receded or increased. Luckily, the water remained stagnant,â€ť he explains.
On the fourth day, as the water receded, residents returned to their homes. Deepak and his mother Baby, too, returned to their destroyed home when the water completely receded.
â€śMy mother could not keep the furniture and other goods on an elevated platform, all by herself, before we evacuated the house. So, we had to leave the house as it was, during the floods. Now, everything, from the mattress to the kitchen, has become unusable or non-recyclable. With the relief kit provided by Rajeev Palluruthy of Thanal Paraplegic Care and other groups, we have managed to clean the house and take care of the essentials for now. But, a pungent smell still lingers in the house. As we have no other place to go, we have to stay here,â€ť says Deepak, who like thousands of other, have to live with the painful remnants of the 2018 Kerala floods.