Autumn Resilience

Those were the Autumn days, about two decades back,
Was out and about with family, had festivities to make.

Was on my way back home, when the warning was issued,
The Cyclone was approaching, we tried to rush all we could.

Efforts were not enough, and we got stuck in a bad traffic jam,
With huge trucks around us, ours was a tiny car in the open.

The hours passed, a veil of darkness descended upon us,
We heard big roars, as if the devil’s lung was about to burst.

The Cyclone went about its business for the whole night long,
Destroying vehicles, houses, as if licked with its thorny tongue.

Twisted trees and power poles alike with all its might,
Wiping out years of mankind and civility in just one night.

We stayed in that car for the whole time, huddled and scared,
The winds tried to toss us, and we thought we won’t be spared.

That was one scary Autumn night, like none I had seen before,
With everything else destroyed, as if we were left to tell the lore.

It was long before, when cyclones were without any names,
Less powerful, and may be a slightly less in fearsomeness.

Rising temperatures have made them more common than ever,
Autumn is synonymous with cyclones now, and will be in future.

When the world prepares for festivities at the arrival of Autumn.
My tribe is either preparing for a cyclone or is recovering from one.

As mankind “progresses” towards a better “future” elsewhere,
There will be people here who pay more than their fair share.

Not paying for the “progresses” they haven’t made, not a choice,
Autumn and its cyclones are now a story of my tribe’s resilience.

Having stood steadfast in the face of the cyclone of this year,
They pick up pieces, preparing for the next without any fear.

Autumn Resilience
An old man looks at the restless sea under black clouds as he prays using prayer beads, at Puri in Odisha, India.

My first encounter with a cyclone was way back in 1999, when me and my family were caught unawares while coming back from a roadtrip during Dussehra. We spent a night inside the car, stuck in a traffic jam on the then infamous Andhra-Odisha border. The storm raged on outside, and tried hard to toss and turn our car as the eye of the storm passed right over us. When the storm passed and dawn broke, almost everything around us was destroyed. The super cyclone of 1999 followed it, and became one of the worst natural disasters of the Indian subcontinent.

Over the years we moved to naming cyclones in the Indian ocean region, but the cyclones didn’t relent. On the east coast, Odisha became their primary target, and they came back every year during Autumn, the festive season in India. As global temperatures have risen, Odisha has been gearing up for cyclones, every year since, that is, after facing its annual bout of floods.

And for the people of coastal Odisha and the adjoining hills inland, they don’t understand what on Earth is worth the price they pay for every Autumn, year after year. The industrialisation that doesn’t exist in their backyard, the infrastructure that is just beginning to show up, the vehicles that don’t ply on their roads, or the over-consumption of resources that they are not party to? Or is it that they pay the price for someone else’s luxury?

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© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

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Amrit Panigrahy

Amrit is a freelance photographer and a storyteller.

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