Weathering the Storm in Ersama – Moments – Class IX – English – NCERT

Weathering the Storm in Ersama
By Harsh Mander

About the Author

Image reference: thehindu.com

Harsh Mander is an activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger, as well as homeless persons and street children. He is the Director of the Centre for Equity Studies and a Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India in the Right to Food case. He is associated with various social causes and movements, and writes and speaks regularly on issues of communal harmony, tribal, dalit and disabled persons’ rights, the right to information, custodial justice, homelessness and bonded labour.

Harsh Mander teaches courses on poverty and governance in the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and St Stephen’s College, Delhi. Past teaching assignments include the LBS National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, and the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. He has also lectured at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco; the Centre for Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi; Institute for Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK; NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad; MIT, Boston; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Universities of Stanford, Washington (Stanford), Austin, among other

Born: 17 April 1955 – Shillong

Reference: enwikipedia.org

Introduction

A cyclone hit Orissa in October, 1999. It killed thousands of people and devastated hundreds of villages. For two dreadful nights Prashant, a young man, was marooned on the roof of a house. On the third day, Prashant decided to go to his village. He reached there with great difficulty. He found destruction everywhere in his village. He at once gathered some young people of his village and started helping the poor and the needy. This is the story of Prashant’s courage in the face of a great calamity.

This lesson conveys the message that when a natural calamity strikes, the members of the community should help themselves. The youth should provide a leadership role to solve the problems of the common people. They should not be totally dependent upon the government to provide help.

Summary

On 27th October 1999, Prashant went to meet one of his friends who lived in Ersama. The place was eighteen kilometres from his village. In the evening, a super cyclone came. It brought heavy rains and strong winds. Houses and people were washed away in the flood. His friend’s house was made of bricks and cement. It was strong enough to survive the wind blowing at 350 km per hour. An uprooted tree fell on their house and damaged some part of its roof and walls. To escape the waters rising in the house, Prashant and his friend’s family took refuge on the roof. For the next two days, Prashant sat huddled with his friend’s family on the rooftop. They froze in cold and rain. In the early morning, Prashant saw the destruction caused by the cyclone. There was a sheet of water everywhere. Only parts of cemented houses were still visible. All other houses had been washed away. Even huge trees had fallen. Bloated dead-bodies of animals and human beings were floating everywhere.

Two days later, the rain ceased and the rainwater slowly began to recede. Prashant was worried about his family. He took a long stick and started on the eighteen kilometres long and difficult journey to his village. There was water everywhere. He had to use his stick to locate the road. After some distance, he found two friends of his uncle. They decided to move ahead together. He feared that his family could not have survived the cyclone. At last, he reached his village Kalikuda. His heart sank. His house was gone. His family was nowhere. In order to look for his family, Prashant went to the Red Cross shelter. Fortunately, his family was alive. They were very glad to see Prashant.

The cyclone caused a lot of damage in Prashant’s village and surrounding areas. Prashant decided to help his own family and the others. Prashant managed to unite them and work for one another. Thus in the hour of grief, the people of the community joined hands under the leadership of Prashant. They came forward to help one another. Prashant brought the survivors together and formed a youth task force. The people of his village felt much grateful for all his efforts.

Textual Questions

Q1. What havoc has the super cyclone wreaked in the life of the people of Orissa?

Ans. The super cyclone brought heavy rains and strong winds. It devastated everything in Orissa. Houses were destroyed, people lost their families, belongings and source of sustenance. Majority of the houses had blown away and only the strong cement houses were spared. Dirty water covered the land as far as the eye could see. Many people lost their lives. There were floating human bodies and bloated animal carcasses all around. Even the strongest of the trees had been uprooted. Many people lost their relatives and many children had become orphans. There was shortage of food. People were sad and helpless.

Q2. How has Prashant, a teenager, been able to help the people of his village?

Ans. Prashant showed the true leadership qualities. He decided to step in as the leader of his village. He motivated people for self-help. He organized a group of youths and elders to jointly pressurize the merchant to give rice for the people living in the shelter. He was successful in this task. His next task was to organize a team of youth volunteers to clean the shelter and to tend to the wounds of the people who had been injured because of the cyclone.

Prashant also brought a number of orphaned children together and constructed a polythene shelter for them. While women were mobilized to look after them, the men secured food and other essentials for the shelter. When he realised that the women were becoming too grief-stricken, he persuaded them to start working in the food-for-work programme, which was initiated by an NGO. He also organized sports events for children.

Q3. How have the people of the community helped one another? What role do the women of Kalikuda play during these days?

Ans. Men and youth worked on arranging for food and shelter. While women took care of cooking and looking after orphaned and injured. The people of the community got together and began to help one another under the leadership of young Prashant. Together they pressurised the merchant to part with his rice for the people in the shelter. They gathered branches from fallen trees and lit a fire, on which they cooked rice for all to eat.

When the military helicopter dropped some food parcels but did not return, the youth task force gathered empty utensils from the shelter and made the children lie in the sand with the utensils on their stomachs to communicate to the passing helicopters that they were hungry. The message went through and the helicopter made regular rounds of the shelter, airdropping food and other basic needs.

Q4. Why do Prashant and other volunteers resist the plan to set up institutions for orphans and widows? What alternatives do they consider?

Ans. The plan to set up institutions for orphans and widows was resisted because it was believed that in such institutions children will grow up without love and affection and widows would suffer from stigma and loneliness. Instead, Prashant and his group suggested that the children and widows should be resettled in their own community where they can get a homely environment. They suggested setting up of foster families made up of childless widows and children without adult care.

Q5. Do you think Prashant is a good leader? Do you think young people can get together to help people during natural calamities?

Ans. Yes, Prashant is a good leader. He didn’t ponder over his loss and started helping everybody else. A good leader manages to utilize people and resources to bring the fruitful results. The need of the hour was to fulfill physical as well as mental needs of people in crisis. Prashant managed and motivated his village folks to fulfill those needs.

In times of natural calamities if people come together, it gives them a sense of strength to tide over the crisis. The feeling that somebody is with you is enough to lift your spirits. The sense of loss and helplessness during crisis is almost impossible to fight with if somebody is alone. People should and people do get together in times of crisis. During floods and earthquakes usually it is people who take the initiative to fight the mishap.

Long Answer Type Questions

Q1. Write a character sketch of Prashant.

Ans. Prashant is a young boy of 19. He finds himself in a village devastated by the superstorm in Orissa in 1999. He visits the storm shelter in his village and decides to help them out. He takes up a leadership role and starts organising the people. For several months, he helps the people to overcome their difficulties and come back to normal life. He becomes a saviour of orphans and widows. Thus we find Prashant to be a born leader who is ready to work hard to help people to solve their problems. The people of his village are grateful for all his efforts. He is a role model for the youth of our country.

Q2. Describe the destruction caused by the super cyclone as narrated in the story *Weathering the Storm in Ersama’.

Ans. On 27th October 1999, Prashant went to meet one of his friends who lived in Ersama. The place was eighteen kilometres from his village. In the evening, a super cyclone came. It brought heavy rains and strong winds. Houses and people were washed away in the flood. His friend’s house was made of bricks and cement. It was strong enough to survive the wind blowing at 350 km per hour. An uprooted tree fell on their house and damaged some part of its roof and walls. To escape the waters rising in the house, Prashant and his friend’s family took refuge on the roof. For the next two days, Prashant sat huddled with his friend’s family on the rooftop. They froze in cold and rain. In the early morning, Prashant saw the destruction caused by the cyclone. There was a sheet of water everywhere. Only parts of cemented houses were still visible. All other houses had been washed away. Even huge trees had fallen. Bloated dead-bodies of animals and human beings were floating everywhere.

Q3. Describe how Prashant reached his village after the cyclone?

Ans. The destruction caused by the cyclone and the waves of the ocean continued for the next thirty-six hours. Two days later, the rain ceased and the rainwater slowly began to recede. Prashant was worried about his family. He took a long stick and started on the eighteen kilometres long and difficult journey to his village. There was water everywhere. He had to use his stick to locate the road. At places, it was waist deep and the progress was slow. Sometimes, he lost the road and had to swim. After some distance, he found two friends of his uncle. They decided to move ahead together. They had to push away many human bodies floating on the water. There were also carcasses of dogs, goats and cattle. In every village they passed, they could barely see a house standing. He feared that his family could not have survived the cyclone. At last, he reached his village Kalikuda. His heart sank. His house was gone. His family was nowhere. In order to look for his family, Prashant went to the Red Cross Shelter. Fortunately, his family was alive. They were very glad to see Prashant. He came to know that eighty-six lives were lost in his village and all the ninety-six houses had been washed away.

Q4. Prashant did not help his family members, but he helped the whole community during the cyclone. What is your opinion on this matter?

Ans. On reaching his village, Prashant found deplorable conditions all around him. He had leadership qualities so he took the initiative to rehabilitate people. He made a team of young volunteers and cleaned urine, filth, vomit and floating carcasses. His team was fully dedicated to serving others. He persuaded grief-stricken women to look after children. In this way, he became a ray of hope for all. Undoubtedly, Prashant is a good leader. He has all the qualities of a leader. He has a special quality of taking initiatives. His vision is quite clear. He faces adverse circumstances courageously. He is a source of energy for others and has great motivational power. I think that youth is power. This power can be used to assist society during natural disasters.

Q5. Do you think adversity or crises bring people closer? How? Explain with reference to the lesson ‘Weathering the Storm in Ersama’.

Ans. Man is a social animal. Despite food and other common needs, he cannot live without company and love of his near or dear ones. In adversity or crises, it is noticed that they come forward to help one another without any previous ill-feeling for one another. Adversity or crisis brings people together. There is a bond of humanity. The victims of the cyclone in Erasama helped one another. They worked together during this resettlement. They took care of orphans and widows. Prashant managed to unite them and work for one another. Thus in the hour of grief, the people of the community joined hands under the leadership of Prashant. They came forward to help one another. Prashant brought the survivors together and formed a youth task force.

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