This personal essay by Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca is dedicated to those who lost lives and homes in the recent Himalayan Glacier Tragedy in India.
In 2019, I wrote a poem titled ‘The Poetry of Homes.’ In the opening lines, quoted above, the metaphor of the burst dam had an exhilarating feeling for me as a poet. The raging water was ‘unmuddied and clear’, referred to words that flowed powerfully. The floodgates, that had blocked the waters of creativity, opened, bringing a release of hope and joy, as poems came pouring out. When my inner dam burst that year, what poured out did not destroy anything. It built me up, and my family shared my elation. People in my home or the natural environment remained pristine and unharmed. The burst dam was life-giving. The words that created poems were life-affirming. I was able to record my memories of the different homes I grew up in, in verse.
The burst dam in my poem was a vastly different kind of dam, from the tragedy reported in the news. It was in stark contrast to the metaphor in the poem. On February 7th, 2021, I read with horror, that a chunk of a Himalayan glacier had broken off and caused a dam burst, accompanied by devastating flash flooding in North India, in the State of Uttarakhand. It trapped workers, working on the hydroelectric project, in deep tunnels, and leveled homes in the area. Many were still missing. The loss to life and property was significant. A lot of sheep were also washed away. When animals suffer, whether in the Australian bush fires, or in the floods that happened here, their lives are precious too, and they must be remembered in our prayers. Villages downstream and along the banks of the Alakananda and Dhauliganga rivers had to be evacuated. Many other safety measures had to be taken for those in case of the possible repercussions that might ensue. Rescue efforts were still underway at the time of writing this article. Many experts say that the breaking of the glacier was due to global warming.