I was having a disturbed sleep for quite sometime now. In the past weeks, they went past the church, in an auto rickshaw, asking us to exercise caution as there could be flooding in the area. It did create a flutter of emotions and initiated some serious talk about the threat; however, it always stopped at ‘Ah! Last year the waters came only up to the gutters. And the sun rose and set on a very usual busy day for businessmen, servicemen, postmen, watchmen and other men and women.
Since last two days it has been raining quite heavily. It has made me quite worried. Then this evening the auto rickshaw was here again. But the oft repeated response was heard again. I know the entire conversation by heart even now.
It is Monday today. It has been pouring since morning. There has been a flurry of activity in town. The police were here. There were shouts and whistles everywhere. The municipality men were tying ropes across the road – a sign not to move about in the area. Suddenly, the area started filling up. People moved their belonging in a frenzied manner. Some still said, ‘It won’t rise more than this’. But it rose and rose - and rose. Do you know Philip, the parish cook? He saw the water coming. He was in a fix not knowing which of the things to save. Our Lady’s statue lay stranded in the grotto. Surely, she was praying for her flock to be saved. He could not let her be drowned. He waded across the water and fetched her. ‘Well done good and faithful servant’. Two hands and a hundred things. In the confusion, though he hurt his hands, he managed to close the church windows. Philip had made his decision. He had to leave the Church and move to a safer place. I saw his bow before the Blessed Sacrament, then whispering a prayer to Our Lady and jumping off. He could no hear me yelling out to him to save me. The water had risen till half way mark towards the roof of the Church. Philip managed to reach safely to the building on the other side of the road. He could not see me waving out to him. I had consigned myself to my fate. I saw the altar cloth getting soaked in the muddy water. I could imagine the Chasubles and the vestments and the consecrated vessels all taking their turn and getting soaked in the muddy – and mucky water. St. Joseph in the corner was praying continuously. All the other saints too had joined in with their bit. But today nature had come with a vengeance that nothing could withhold. Humanity’s selfishness? Global warming? Artic meltdown? Or the Tsunami’s after effects? Choked drains? Garbage? Or sin? Nature had to wage its war and this was it. I was a mute witness to its fury.
One by one all the articles in the church are getting submerged. I await my turn. I had never prayed so hard. Yet the more I prayed the more it rained. But suddenly I noticed something. The water level hadn’t risen for quite some time now. I surmised the flood waters had reached the sea and the tide had receded. ‘Ah! I would live to tell the tale.
The very next day the parishioners and youth of Ambernath parish pitched in with their efforts to clean the church. They could not believe what they saw. There was muck everywhere. This was the place that they had worshipped in. Then there was a sudden uproar. Someone was yelling out side that the dam had broke open and the entire area would be flooded. I saw a panic stricken lot in the church, all rushing towards the bus and in a jiffy the premises was empty.
Well from then on till today, it has been almost two weeks to get things in place. The final salvo was fired on 15th of August. Father Lancy requested the Parishioners to help in cleaning the church. Yes, that’s when I really saw the community spirit in this small parish. The young and old, men and women, girls and boys – some cleaning chairs, some the walls, some the furniture, some cooking, some arranging – all busy with getting the Lord’s place in order. ‘How can you live in comfortable homes when my dwelling place remains in ruins?’ I could imagine how the Jews would have felt when their temple was desecrated.
Nobody heard me singing Alleluias. I am sure I was singing the loudest. I was so happy to be back in business and to know that the Lord had spared my life. It was indeed exciting to know that Masses had begun. Though my boss has not come to stay with us yet. They stay at Ambernath. Vijay does some cleaning everyday. Water is scarce as electricity keeps coming and going. Things are coming back to normal. But we definitely need help – Anybody?