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My Experience With Cyclone Hudhud

By: for ISKCON News on Oct. 17, 2014
Opinion

This is what's left of the Midday Meal Kithcen at the Visakhapatnam ISKCON Temple after the cyclone

It was like any other day. I was on my way to a Life Membership program -- nothing was different except for little gossips here and there, people making fun of those TV commentators talking about the so called cyclone. Oh well, a couple of months ago people had gone crazy about a cyclone, which, at the last moment changed its direction and nothing happened.

The boy at the petrol pump interrupted my though, asked me teasingly:  “Shall I give you a full tank swamiji, you know the cyclone is coming?” I laughed back at his joke.

At around 7 PM, I was back in the temple, took bath and went for arati. After the damodarshtakam, I gave my day’s report to the Temple president and went to take rest.

A little later I awoke as the devotee I’m sharing the room with was moving a little too much in the bunk bed above me.

“Prabhu, can you hear it”, he asked. “What?” and the noise outside answered my question. It was raining heavily, and was unusually windy.

I told him not to worry, the newspaper said the Hudhud cyclone will pass by Sunday afternoon, and he should dream about the Sunday feast and go to sleep.

When my alarm rang in the morning it was still raining and the wind was more violent. I came out of my room and saw some of the devotees packing bags and moving into the guesthouse. The brahmachari ashram of our temple is housed in a long temporary asbestos shed alongside with a manual kitchen, a midday meal kitchen, a homeopathic clinic, storages, Deity kitchen and the temple hall.

We have beautiful Deities of Sri Sri Radha Damodar and Jagannath Baladev Subhadra Maharani. The altar has a cement slab, which again, is hidden under an asbestos sheet. Since our site is in he Coastal Regulatory Zone we were not given permission to build any permanent structure. The guesthouse structure with a restricted height of 9 meters was permitted in 2007, since then we were trying for permission for the main temple.

I also quickly took whatever I could grab and we started moving towards the guesthouse. The wind was getting wilder and wilder, it was difficult to walk.

My cell phone was ringing. Pradeep prabhu was on the line, saying frantically that the TV said it was going to be really bad, no one should be on the first floor, and the wind was going to blow at a speed of 200 km/per hour.

We started doing kirtan loudly. Krishna was our only shelter, and the only one who he could hear us, as our site is far from the city and practically there was nothing and nobody around us in many kilometer radius. 

It started, the cyclone was really on now. The asbestos sheets on our long shed started to fly up in the air one by one. The sharp things started to move fast and in all directions, they smashed the guesthouse glass windows one by one.

It was a horrifying experience. We chanted more loud. All the sheets on the vehicle parking shed were gone. The sheets on the mid day meal kitchen were next, and then came the homeo clinic --  we could hear the sounds of the glass medicine bottles crashing on the ground.

Something above our heads made noise. We realized the huge tanks on the terrace were falling. Our heart were beating fast. Something behind us was cracking -- it was the north side boundary wall. It fell with a thud.

At around noon I reached for my cell phone wanting to call somebody to get some info about how long this thing was going to last, but the signal was already gone. None of us had signals.

Now it started to sink in that something very disastrous was happening and our connection with the outside world was lost.

A little later the kitchen roof flew away, along with some bowls and plates. When I saw the sheets on our temple hall flying away tears went rolling down my cheeks. We all prayed very sincerely: “oh, Kishna, please protect yourself.”

The Deities were under a small concrete slab but we were still worried as we could not go there to protect them. Our hearts were shattered seeing the Sunday program flyers, the charanamrita pot, the tilak mirror flying away one by one.

Then we heard the cows mooing very loudly. The sheets above their shelter were gone. Some of the brave devotees went to the goshalla to untie the cows so that they could move away from the falling debris.

Then we quickly brought the cows into the guesthouse. At least now we had some company in our kirtan.

In the meantime, it became dark, we couldn't see anything. We could only hear the waves from the beach, which is right opposite our temple. We were wondering when would the ocean swallow us.

Somehow I managed to fall asleep. When I got up in the morning, everything was silent. The sun shone brightly and the plain sky smiled naughtily as if nothing had happened yesterday night. As I looked upon them I also wished if this was all only a bad dream.

I quickly started walking towards the temple. The temple president was already there hugging the Deities. I could see, his eyes were wet. So were mine.

We hugged each other. 

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