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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Some experiences you can never forget- Kalpakkam 2004!!!

Debilitated by all the work for past few weeks, I could not spare time for my blog.In this post I will share my real life experience and explicate how that experience inspired me to help others in whatever small ways I could. As I always say, let's roll.

I went to an enrichment camp organised by our school in Kalpakkam in 2004. It was a 4 day camp starting 23rd December. This was the first time I was going out on a trip without my parents. As any teenager would be, I was really excited about this trip. I met students from all over the country, school toppers/state toppers and a couple of CBSE  board rankers as well. It was a fun experience to be part of such a precocious cohort and learn about what each one of them had planned to do further. It was also perplexing to see that these young chaps were not just exemplary students, they were outstanding in at least one other extracurricular activity as well. Some played music, others were good at painting,sports,writing etc. 

For 26th, we had plans to go to Mahabalipuram. I had made a lot of new friends and the night before we were discussing everything we would do there. We had read about Mahabalipuram and were really looking forward to visiting the historical place. Any guesses on what might happen the next day? Keep reading!!!!

My group got up early for the breakfast so that we could be the first on the bus. We were in this grand school hall chit-chatting while other students were having their breakfast. Suddenly ,the school peon came in shouting, asking everyone to run to the first floor of the building. We had no idea on what was happening. When we asked him, he said that there was a big crocodile that had escaped from a nearby zoo and thus we must run upstairs. Our teachers guided us to the rooms of the first floor and we sat their for about 30 minutes. Every student came up with suggestions on how to handle the situation with one of them even suggesting that "let's go and kill the crocodile ourselves". But we sat their waiting and then we all saw what was really happening.

We saw water flowing into the school and wondered what was happening. When we looked outside, our hearts sank. We saw water everywhere. We looked at the sea from the other window and could notice that the waves were unusually high. As the water kept rising inside the school and outside, we thought that it was a flood. But there were no rains and thus how could it flood. We kept asking our teachers on what was happening but no one had a clue. Everyone just asked us to remain where we were and calm down. How could you calm down, you could see huge waves in the sea, enormous amounts of water outside your building and water level slowly increasing inside the building. But we had no other option as well. There was only one floor in the building and then a terrace to which only the most fit students could climb to. Within the next few minutes we could see the chairs, tables, plates and other stuff floating in the water in our building. The intensity of water flowing outside had increased. We could see cycles, bikes and other heavy items being carried by water as if those items were weightless. That was the moment we realised that we may never make out of that building.

"It is a Tsunami", yelled one student. I had never heard such a word but the sound of it really sent shivers down my spine. He explained us the phenomenon and we wondered how an earthquake in sea could be the cause of all this. Knowing we were not even in a flood like situation but something that never happened in India further diminished our hopes of survival. We panicked, we cried and then consoled each other. After all what we could do. We had seen nature's strength that day and were powerless to do anything against it.We just waited there, in the hope that something miraculous would happen and we would live to see another day. 

After about 3 hours we noticed that the water level started decreasing. The level was about 15 feet in our school but it was nothing short of a miracle to see it going down. We could also see less water outside the school and thought that God had answered our prayers. Once the level was safe, teachers double checked that it was safe outside the school and then guided us outside. We got a bus to take us to the nearest safest place( arranged by the Kalpakkam nuclear power plant). On our way we saw a lot of things that are best left unsaid. I just don't have the words to describe the kind of destruction caused all around. That was the moment I realised what it feels like to be helpless.The only thing you expect is for someone or something to come and help you, to hold your hand and guide you to the end of the tunnel where there is again some light. This was the defining moment of my life. I did live to see another day and promised myself to make it meaningful, to make a difference.


  1. I was in Goa on a school trip when the Tsunami happened. Though there was no real danger, all the beaches got closed down. We were all so scared, I cant even imagine how horrifying it must have been for you

  2. Hi Ritika,

    Thanks for the comment.As I pointed out it was worse than a nightmare. But, looking back I feel it was an experience that really shaped the way I look at things today. Good to see someone who can understand what we went through!!

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