‘We sleep well at night’

Sib­lings Kr­ish­naki­ran, 19 and Surya, 16, spent up to 12 hours a day pack­ing sup­plies for flood vic­tims

Friday - - LITTLE HEROES -

Surya and Kr­ish­naki­ran Kis­han’s fam­ily hadn’t re­ally planned on any of the events that took place dur­ing their trip to Ker­ala. They had gone on a pil­grim­age to a tem­ple in Man­ga­lore and were plan­ning to re­turn to Kochi when they were told the air­port was shut. The de­tour took them to Kan­nur, in north­ern Ker­ala. It was there that Kr­ish­naki­ran saw what she de­scribes as ‘one of the most hor­rid things’ on the news. The fury of the flood­wa­ters that was de­stroy­ing ev­ery­thing in its wake. ‘We felt help­less sit­ting there as ev­ery­thing around us was col­laps­ing.’

It was their mother Jeeja who prompted them into ac­tion. ‘Mum has al­ways been into char­i­ta­ble work, and said we needed to do some­thing more than stay glued to the TV and pray,’ Kr­ish­naki­ran, fondly called Ki­ran, says.

So Ki­ran, 19, a stu­dent of law, her brother Surya, 16, a stu­dent of Our Own In­dian School, and Jeeja went to the Kan­nur Col­lec­torate – the lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fices – and asked how they could help. The camp was at the time col­lect­ing sup­plies for Wayanad and Cochin as Kan­nur had es­caped the brunt of the floods. So the fam­ily went out and bought clothes, bed­sheets, even mat­tresses, and rice, and de­liv­ered the ma­te­ri­als to the col­lec­tion cen­tres. Want­ing to do more, they of­fered to vol­un­teer at the cen­tre. ‘We asked if we could do some phys­i­cal work.’ Ini­tially, the staff man­ning the cen­tre po­litely de­clined their of­fer say­ing they had enough staff, but when the Kis­hans in­sisted they di­rected them to the main au­di­to­rium where they were given the task of sort­ing clothes.

That job grew in scope, and soon they were in the camp pack­ing health­care pro­vi­sions, grains, food and clothes – of­ten work­ing 12-hour shifts from 10am to 10pm. They learned to work quickly – at one stage their group packed 1,000 food pack­ets in 30 min­utes.

Once they got go­ing, even ill­ness could not stop them. When Surya was down with stom­ach pains, he de­cided to work from home pre­par­ing oral hy­giene kits for the vic­tims. ‘I wasn’t fully on board ini­tially as I didn’t know whether I’d be able to con­tribute any­thing, but soon I was in­tensely in­volved,’ he says.

Ki­ran asks if she can quote Spi­der-man ‘Where he says, ‘if I have the pow­ers and I don’t help, that’s on me’. We quite felt the same.’

The ex­pe­ri­ence brought them face to face with a calamity the scope of which they could barely fathom. Ki­ran re­calls the story of a woman who was forced to sit on the ter­race of her flooded house next to her hus­band’s body for three days un­til help ar­rived. ‘How do you even move on from that?’.

Jeeja has the an­swer. ‘We came out stronger. What the chil­dren saw there will hence­forth add value to what­ever they will do in life. Even the district col­lec­tor who’d be busy all day would change into work clothes in the evening and join hands with vol­un­teers at the cen­tre. It was a valu­able les­son for my kids: what­ever po­si­tion you are in, at times of distress it doesn’t mat­ter. When there’s a need all you do is roll up your sleeves and be there.

‘For kids raised in the lap of lux­ury in Dubai, I think they wouldn’t have un­der­stood that les­son un­til they had seen it play­ing out on the ground.’

Ki­ran says that one of the valu­able lessons she learnt was to be there for each other. Pol­i­tics, re­li­gion, sta­tus ev­ery­thing else was se­condary. Only hu­man­ity stood out. ‘The fact that sup­plies were flow­ing in – we had ex­cess ma­te­rial at one point – was proof that com­pas­sion, com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion was still alive.’

Sleep­ing for barely two to three hours a day, the fam­ily also raised Rs1 lakh (Dh5,040) which was used to pur­chase medicines for vic­tims.

An­other valu­able les­son they learnt was to learn to be part of a so­lu­tion rather than a prob­lem. ‘We are just happy to know that we put in even .0001 per cent to help vic­tims,’ Ki­ran says. ‘That means we can sleep well at night.’

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