Thursday, 15 November, a date which the Bangladeshis won’t forget soon. It was a day of disaster, of destruction, of death. The coastal districts of the country were already on the highest alert from the previous night, warning the people of the ferocious cyclone ‘Sidr’, and thousands were evacuated from their homes to safer places. The cyclone, hell bent on destruction, made landfall in the afternoon, starting from The Sundarbans, making its way towards the coastal districts. As it moved over our land, all that it left behind was a trail of devastation. It grew ever more powerful as it drew towards the land, and when it hit, it was at the peak of its strength. ‘Sidr’ means the eye, in this case, the eye of destruction. Wherever it went, nothing was left of the place. Just as I am writing this, over 2,000 are already reported dead, and according to the Red Crescent, it’s being expected that the death toll may even rise to a staggering 10,000. For those people, it took their lives, and for those who are living, it took away everything else. People who got away with their lives returned to barren land. Their countless homes ravaged, roofs blown off, the fruit of their labor, the corn fields turned to dust. Many lost their families. The fisheries, which are the main means of income in the southern parts of the country, all washed away. These people now don’t have anywhere to stay, no ground under their feet upon which they can stand again, some don’t even have a shoulder to cry on.
The disaster wasn’t over yet. The next day the whole country went a hundred years back in the past, as the national electricity grid became dysfunctional, twice. There was absolutely no power throughout the country, partly because of the grid failure, and also the fact that the electric lines were cutoff in the southern region by the cyclone. Electric poles were broken off, or the lines were disrupted by falling trees. No electricity in this age means the civilization becomes more helpless than the ancient ages, as we are now entirely dependent upon it. We were feeling it too. As the sun went down, we had to switch to candles, as our IPS couldn’t provide much backup anymore. No one could charge their cell phones, and moreover, by night most of the mobile networks of the country were also out, as it ran out of backup power. No light, no TV, no cell phones, it was like we were all back to the dark ages. It was really a horrifying feeling of helplessness, the kind of feeling we’re not much used to.
As there was no electricity the whole day, we couldn’t see the news. Saturday when the power was back on, we got our first glimpse of the ferocity of this calamity. I saw the news at evening, and the images that I saw were indescribable. The destruction that was caused throughout the countryside, it was as if some child had desecrated his plastic toys with his bear hands. Homes lay in piles of debris, rice fields worth crores ravaged, humans, animals lying dead on the ground, floating dead on the water, and the millions homeless under the sun. They don’t have shelter, food, drinking water, medicine, spare clothes. Everybody saying, as if in chorus, “there’s nothing left”. I’m not an emotional person, and I’m not used to crying, but scenes like these brought tears out of my eyes. We don’t have the slightest idea about the despair of these people.
Barisal and Bagerhat are my Dad and Mom’s hometowns respectively, both suffering the severest onslaught of this killer calamity. An uncle from Bagerhat told us the day after the disaster that they haven’t seen anything like this ever. None of the trees or the electrical poles was standing up, other than the structured buildings, none of the houses were left unharmed, and it might take as much as a whole week to restore power. It’s as if the single purpose of this whirlwind was the desecration of civilization.
There are things to be learnt from scenarios like this, which most people don’t learn at all, or just overlook. All these lives, properties, homes, the fields, and all the immense hard labor and struggle we put behind them, are so fragile, that years, or centuries of hard work can turn to dust in just seconds. It just proves the point that all the effort we give for any worldly possessions have no value at all. The only thing that matters is what’s going to stay with us forever, and that is whatever we do only for the sake of Allah. I don’t mean just the prayers, but anything we do in our everyday life, with the purpose of gaining Allah’s satisfaction, within the guidelines set by Him, and keeping ahead as the goal not this world, but the afterlife. The only money that’s worth earning, is the money that we save in the afterlife’s account, the only home that is worth building, is the one in which we’re going to have to live for eternity, the life which we’re meant to live, is the life according to Allah’s will. With these eye opening calamities, scenes of disaster, moments of misery and despair, Allah wants to guide us towards the Truth. But for many of us, our eyes still don’t see it.
Now, after such a national tragedy, it’s our duty, as Muslims, as Bangladeshis, to do our best to stand beside the distressed. The relief work at hand is astronomical, and although the government is going to apply its full power to provide aid as fast as they can, but without the help of the common people, this huge task is not possible. So we should all ask Allah for help and do whatever we can, no matter how small, to help the country out of this crisis. May Allah forgive those who have lost their lives, may Allah help those who are still alive, may Allah help us to stand beside them, and most importantly, may Allah give Guidance to us all. Ameen.