It was like any other day, I was on my way for Life Membership preaching, nothing was different except for little gossips here and there, people making fun of those tv commentators talking blah blah about the so called cyclone, same thing had happened a couple of months back, people went gungho about the cyclone and at the last moment it changed its direction and nothing happened. The boy at the petrol pump interrupted my thoughts,he
asked me teasingly shall I make it 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, I took bath and went for arati, after the damodarshtakam, I gave my days report to Temple president and went to take rest.
I got up with a start, devotee sharing the room with me was moving a little too much on the bed above me. He said“ prabhu, can you hear that? it has started” I said“ what?” and the noise outside answered my question, it was raining heavily,and it was unusually very windy. I told him don’t worry the Newspaper said this hudhud cyclone will pass away by Sunday afternoon,dream about the Sunday evening feast and go to sleep. When my alarm rang in the morning it was still raining and more voilent winds,I came out of my room and saw some of the devotees already packing bags to
move into the guest house. The brahmachari ashram of our temple is housed in a long temporary asbestos shed alongside with a manual kitchen, mechanised mid day meal kitchen, homeo clinic, Rice godown, book godown,diety kitchen and the temple hall.We have beautiful dieties of Sri
Sri Radha damodar and Jagannath baladev subhadra Maharani.the altar has a cement slab, which again is hidden under a asbestos sheet.
Since our site comes under a crz zone (Coastal regulatory zone) we are not given permission for any permanent structure. The guest house structure with a restricted height of 9 mtrs was permitted in 2007,since then we are trying for permission for main temple.
I also quickly took whatever I could grab and we started moving towards the guest house.The wind was getting wild, it was difficult to walk, the
wind was pushing us madly,suitcase slipped from karunamaya prabhu’s hand, we together lifted it up and ran as fast as we could to the guest
house.My cell phone was ringing,pradeep prabhu was on line,he said frantically the TV says it is going to be really bad, no one should be on
the first floor, slab may fall, the wind is going to blow at a speed of 200km/per hour.
So somehow some of us managed to go upstairs and brought TP and family downstairs immediately. We started doing kirtan loudly, krishna was the only shelter,and only he can hear us, as our site is far from city and practically there is nothing and nobody around for kilometers.
It started, the cyclone was really on now ,the asbestos sheets on our long shed started flying one by one in the air ,they were looking like sudarshan chakra – sharp moving fast and in all directions,they started banging the guest house glass windows one by one.
-It was horrifying experience. We chanted more loudly.All the sheets on the vehicle parking shed were gone,sheets on mid day meal kitchen were next,and then the homeo clinic,and we could hear the sounds of the glass medicine bottle crashing on the ground. Something above us made noise,we realised the huge tanks on the terrace were falling.heart was beating fast. Something behind us was cracking, it was the north side boundary wall. It fell with a thud. It was already noon.I reached to my cell wanted to call somebody for info, how long is it going to last, but the signal was already off, everybody started checking their phones, signal was gone. It was now sinking in, that something very disastrous is happening, our connection with the outside world was lost.
Something was happening inside my stomach. I realised we haven’t eaten anything since morning,but no choice, as I was looking out of the window I could see the sheets on the kitchen shed were also flying with some vessels and plates flying in the air. At one point I felt funny as if I am watching some stupid horror movie where a ghost is making everything fly in the air, but next, when I saw the sheets on our temple hall flying
away, tears went rolling down my cheeks.
We prayed very sincerely, oh krishna please protect your self. The dieties were under a small slab but we were still worried. Neither we could go there to rescue them and watching the temple hall flying away was very difficult. Our hearts were shattered, one by one the notice board, the sunday program flyers, the charanamrit pot, the tilak mirror everything was flying one by one, the sweet memories were coming in my mind, how we enjoyed the sunday programs together, today was also sunday, infact till yesterday afternoon rasesa govinda and guptaji were practising the drama on life of Maharaj Ambarish in the seminar hall with all enthusiasm and they were supposed to present it today.
I looked at my watch, it was 5 pm,the drama would have started by now. We had a snack break with some Moori which we always had a stock under our
beds and they were handy today. We again continued kirtan, mouths went dry, slowly the voices wanning away. There was no water, no food, no electricity only wild noises of the ghost air in the now empty 2 acre Hare krishna land.
The cows were mooing very loudly, we ran to the north side windows and we now knew why were they mooing so loudly, the sheets above their shelter were fast flying away. TP asked the braver devotees among us to go in the goshalla and untie the cows otherwise the sheets will fall on
them, by the time few of us reached their one cow was already injured with her nose bleeding. We quickly brought them all to the guest house.
We now had some company in our kirtan with the cows giving a background music. It was dark now,we couldn’t see anything,only hear.our temple is just
opposite the beach,we could hear the waves making big noises. Our hearts thumping heavily, everytime the volume of the noise made by the waves
increase we feared the ocean is closing close on us.
As we were singing the damodarashtakam “rudantam muhur netram jugmam mrijantam”, the youngest of all of us brahmacharis Kanti prabhu, son of Gour Nataraj prabhu got up, his face all red with fear went to TP and asked “prabhu is this pralaya?” prabhu hugged him and said -I don’t know!
Samba prabhu’s second son little Nimai immediately responded with a tinkle in his eyes “Kanti dada, if this is pralaya, krishna will send boat for us.”He looked around for us to respond as we usually do by laughing at his witty answers but this time no body did,everybody only had tears in their eyes.we sang and sang,prayed.we are reading bhagvatam everyday,we are chanting,we are initiated,we are together but still we felt insecure,specially when the temple sheets flew away. Why?? It is easy said and heard when u come face to face with situation like this you can check for yourself how much faith u have on lord.
I don’t no when my eyes closed I finally slept,when I got up in the morning,it was very silent.the sun shone brightly and the plain sky smiled naughtily as if nothing happened yesterday night. As I looked upon them I also wished if this was all only a dream and someone pinches me and wakes me up and says it was a bad dream.
I quickly started walking towards the temple,tp was already in there hugging the dieties,I could see his eyes wet,he looked at me and said see,I told you he will be fine.yes prabhu I said and went and hugged him.I don’t know from where has he got this capacity to tolerate,I have been observing since last 15 years.he came with his wife in 1999 all alone with few books and started this center and since then his life has been a constant struggle.first the fight with ritviks,then the financial crunch,then constant struggle to get land from the govt,after his 600 and odd visits to and fro to hyderbad,In 2005 we got the beautiful 2 acre Hare krishna land from govt of AP to make a beautiful temple facing the ocean for Radha damodar,but then with crz coastal regulatory zone rules ,again started a fresh struggle and a series of visits to and fro to delhi to get permission for construction.Everytime the permission letter seemed almost done and they had some other excuse, some other new condition to not give us the paper.Finally he suceeded in getting permision from delhi in sept,submitted the papers to the local gvmc office just a week before and we made grandiose plans the other day on how to celebrate our victory on the upcoming Govardhan puja day.it was such a great challenge to get the permission papers,and here we are back to square A.We will have to start a fresh with the boundary wall and then sheds etc etc….He put a hand on my shoulder and said let’s read from Prabhupads biography.
We all sat down in the guest room which is now our kitchen,our
storeroom,our goshalla our temple and everything.our only shelter.
As he read passages from the chapter “crying alone in the wilderness”we
heard some vehicle coming in.Some of the congregation devotees had come
with bikes with some prasadam and water. As one by one devotees were
coming ,they were entering the broken temple, crying, hugging each other,they all had their stories of the night,their realizations and how krishna protected them.Some of the matajis were like why dint krishna
protect the temple room?? etc etc.and I noticed mataji started a bhagavtam class for them right there on the guest house steps quoting some sloka here and there,as I passed by I remembered when I was in pujari dept, I often heard mataji teaching bhajans to the sunday school kids,my favourite
was “Mare krishna rakhe ke,rakhe krishna mare ke”.yes, I felt today from the core of my heart krishna did protect us all the devotees.infact more than the city center our site which is right on the beach,where there isno buildings to stop the wind was supposed to be more dangerous,but all of
us devotees were safe.krishna protected us.
I am the taste of water says krishna.yesterday we drank the rain water,but
could not taste krishna in -it.today some devotees brought mineral water we were almost fighting for a sip. I accompanied a devotee on his bike to the city,the whole city looked like a warzone.trees and electric poles
telephone poles r uprooted.we passed Andhra university,the pride of andhra,but it has lost its green cover,the schools,the
colleges,hotels,malls shops,bus stands,showrooms,everything is
devastated.We passed by a petrol pump atleast a 1000 people are in que and some r fighting over a litre of petrol,the police intervened to stop
them.A half broken departmental store was overcrowded with people pushing each other.the shopkeeper was shouting on top of his voice in telugu”neel ledu”(there is no water)there is no water.please don’t push,whatever is left will also fall apart.we went to some other shop and then another, same situation everywhere.I remembered the shop where I regularly go, they gave one bag of rice for Janmashtami,the owner was not around,they were selling 1 litre of water for 50 rs.the owners wife was on the cash
counter,she looked at me and said in hindi Swamiji apka bhagavan meri koi madad nahi kiya.sudama to 5 muthi poha diya itna madad kiya ,me to ek bag rice diya mera koi madad nahi???
(Swamiji your lord dint help us sudama gave handful of puff rice he got so much in return,we gave one bag full of rice but no help sent to us)I was in no mood to give her a bhagvatam class,I paid for the bottle and left.As
we move around we see the whole city looks as if durvasa muni has cursed it.The bike stopped suddenly,and we looked at each other ,we knew what we had done ,as we kept watching the destruction around we lost the count of time and we exhausted the petrol of the bike.we pushed the bike along and started walking back to the temple.It was futile to stand in the petrol que,we would end up being there till late evening and would get only a litre.there were long ques everywhere,I remembered the story I read in school of the shepherd boy who spoke lie 3 times to the villagers that the lion has come to eat his sheep,and finally when the lion really came,he
shouted for help, he spoke truth the 4 th time but none of the villagers came to help him.and the lion ate away all his sheeps.same thing had happen to vizag,many times the news channels, the cyclone warning departments spoke about cyclones but they always changed there direction or became weak and never touched vizag,so people were confident that nothing can happen to there vizag,nobody was prepared,no body had stocked enough and now there was panic buying. As we strolled, we saw relief vans from orissa and from other parts of AP distributing food packets.I saw the pictures of kedarnath,I saw the pictures of srinigar but I never thought one day such vans will be on the streets of visakhapatnam.Oh this is not my visakhapatnam,oh this is not that city named after the beautiful sakhi of radharani,visakha devi,this looks like lanka burnt by hudhud hanuman.We pass by the zoo,the wall is broken,birds have flown away and some animals have died 2 pythons and a wild cat is missing they say.we can see the
rhino in the cage right from the road side.Huge trees r uprooted,newly constructed building slabs have fallen apart as if they are paper machie.the whole incident is a perfect example of adidevik klesha.this has convinced more so ever ,that this material world is dukhalayam asasvatam.krishna is the only shelter and we can be happy
only when we go back home back to godhead. we reached the temple, devotees
were doing kirtan in goshalla,when I went near I saw Mother Ganga has left us,she was a very strong cow with three calfs,but recently she had developed ill health and probably this cyclone was too much for her to tolerate.we carried her and burried her at the ocean side.we took bath in
the ocean,there is no water back at the temple.I came back to my room and updated my diary,I wanted to share this with all of u devotees but no net connection,In the city center near the bus stand I heard some internet cafe have been restored but no petrol in my vehicle.I walked 13 km straight and finally reached,I see the army and navy men are all trying their best cutting down trees making way,I see the bus service is
restored,4 wheelers have started moving around.May be within few weeks current wiill be restored but vizag will never be the same vizag again It has lost all its beauty. to get help now from the local donors is very difficult,people are angry,people are broke,they themselves have suffered
so much loss.At this moment of calamity we appeal to the devotees world wide to help us in whatever way they can to rebuild ISKCON visakhapatnam and again make it a center where people can be brought back to krishna consciousness. At this tragic moment we don’t want to ask people of visakhapatnam help we want to give them, srila prabhupada’s mercy in the form of prasadam, in form of his books and a strong center where people can take shelter from this material pangs.
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