On December 26,2004, what Anthony Mary Arockiasamy and 12 ofher friends were left with was just their faith. The tides washed away their small shops on the beach, leaving them no better than beggars. “We were clueless. We could not find even the remains of the shops,” said Arul Susai Mary.
Things got worse as days passed, and the women started losing hope of rebuilding their shops. “We pleaded to the relief workers from World Vision India for supplies, as we did not have even a single rupee to rebuild our shops or purchase the required supplies,” said Aruldas Vijayakumari. Initially, the aid workers were hesitant to help them as they had to concentrate on the relief work. A week later, however, the women got supplies from them.
Ten years on, things have changed dramatically. The group of desperate women is now a confident bunch of entrepreneurs. They have their own shops and sufficient savings. Under a self-help group called Mariannai Small Merchants Association, they have spread their businesses. “I could not even sign my name; now I have a bank account of my own. We are treated with respect when we walk into the bank and get loans easily,” said Rani Anthonysamy. The biggest gain, however, is the lesson learned. “We have learnt to live life,” said Anthony Mary. “We have bank savings and we know the techniques of raising capital.”
Geetha was inconsolable and she did not speak for weeks. Baskar thought maternity would bring her back to life, but she had already done surgical contraception. It was then they came to know about a reversal procedure. “I decided to go for the surgery as I was still young then,” said Geetha.Baskar and wife, Geetha, live a few yardsfromtheseainAkkaraipettai, a village of around 2,000 people in Nagapattinam. On December 26, 2004, Geetha and their daughters were asleep, when Baskar ran from the beach seeing the killer tides. The waves sounded like “a train” and they hit with brutal force. They chased him down, but he grabbed onto a tree and swam home, where he found his wife injured and his daughters missing. He carried his wife and sister-in-law on his shoulders to a relative’s place. Though he searched the whole day, he could not find the bodies of his daugh
ters. One of them was five years old, the other two.
The surgery was not a pleasant experience as she had continuous bleeding. The life in the relief camp
did not help, either. But she was determined to survive it.
Today, Geetha and Baskar have two sons. Wounds have healed but scars remain. Baskar goes fishing only twice a week as he prefers to spend time with family. He still has not forgiven himself for not saving his daughters.
HANDS OF HOPE
The last birthday Karibeeran Paramesvaran, 50, celebrated was 10 years ago. On December 26, 2004,
he invited a few friends and relatives to his house in Nagapattinam for a party. As usual, he took the guests and his two daughters and son for a walk on the beach. They were having a good time when his son screamed, “Daddy, look at the sea.” Karibeeran had not seen anything like that in his life. The waves were as tall as a three-storey building. They started running but the tide chased them down. He could hear his son calling him but did not see him. He held on to a tree and swam half-a- kilometre to his house.
His wife, Choodamani, who had stayed back to cook, and his mother were on the first floor of the house, as the ground floor was flooded. “Where are the children?” she asked
Karibeeran, though she had realised the moment he came back alone what had happened.
“This is where we had placed eight dead bodies in a line,” said Karibeeran, pointing at the floor of his drawing room. The couple were well off—he is an engineer at ONGC and she an administration officer at LIC —but they did not have even a single piece of cloth to cover the dead bodies as water had washed off everything.
Now the house is home to 37 children who had their lost parents in the tsunami. The couple has two biological sons as well—Shemaiah, 8 and Michaiah, 6. “God wanted us to live and expected something big from us,” he said. They had thought of committing suicide
The house of Karibeeran Paramesvaran and Choodamani is
home to 37 children who lost their parents in the tsunami
when they lost everything. But three days after the tsunami, Karibeeran brought home four children he found on the beach. “My mother wasn’t comfortable. But Choodamani started talking after three days when she saw the children,” he said. Three of those children—Sakthivel, Balakumar and Sangeetha—are graduates now, and Priya, who was only a year old then, is in school.
SEA OF TUMULT
Life had never been easy for Valli Pakkirisami, 58. She lived in a thatch-roof hut near the beach in Velankanni with her daughter and physically challenged granddaughter. On December 26,2004, Valli was looking for her daughter who had gone to the beach to sell fish when she saw people running away from the sea. She went back to the house, lifted her granddaughter and ran with others. They were rescued by a few men in a