As the news of the possibility of Cyclone Nisarga hitting Mumbai — first-ever storm to make landfall in Maharashtra’s coast in June — spread like wildlife on social media, I started receiving messages.
Messages on how, since I had missed reporting on cyclones from the east of India this year, which ‘normally’ faces more storms as compared to the west coast, a cyclone had decided to pay me a visit. In Mumbai, the country’s financial capital where I live (when I am not travelling to the hinterland for my stories).
Apart from the other development and environment issues I report on, I love reporting on weather. And, being a tropical country, India has its own share of cyclones, which means I regularly report on storms, too.
Reporting on disasters can sap one’s energy — both physical and mental. It can be a traumatic experience, like it was for me when I travelled to Puri in Odisha last May to report on Cyclone Fani that had pulverized Lord Jagannath’s town.
With those images of annihilation playing in my mind, I waited for the Cyclone Nisarga — a severe cyclonic storm — to make landfall on June 3, near Alibaug, over 100-km south of Mumbai. This wait, although only two days , seemed very long, and taught me five important lessons for life.
Waiting is an important process. Many times, in life when we are expecting something good or bad to happen, we want time to gallop past. We either want to grab the ‘good’ thing, or quickly be done with the ‘bad’ thing. This is exactly what I felt waiting for Cyclone Nisarga — I wanted it to come and go away quickly. The year 2020 has already given us enough to deal with.
But what we wish for isn’t what actually happens. So, I waited and learnt that this waiting — for a cyclone, or to achieve a goal in life — gives us time to prepare ourselves better. To think through things over and over again. If used efficiently, this waiting period can also prepare us to face failure, which is as much a part of our lives as is success.
In the present world of instant gratification, ‘waiting’ is underrated.
I learnt while waiting for the storm that things may not turn out as bad as we sometimes imagine them to be, and thus, in the process lose our peace of mind. As Cyclone Nisarga approached Mumbai, people painted a doomsday scenario (I stopped reading anything about the cyclone in my WhatsApp inbox). Warning and preparations are good, but not to the extent where they lead to panic.
Eventually when the cyclone made landfall on June 3 afternoon, Mumbai wasn’t as badly affected as most had imagined it would be (thank you for small mercies, 2020!). Similarly, in life we imagine a future filled with horrors, which mostly never come true. But, in the process we lose our peace of mind and are unable to enjoy present moments.
Yes, we need to prepare for the future, but we must live in the present.
I learnt the importance of finding anchor(s). No one likes to face tough times in life, but still most of us do. It is during the difficult times that we are able to find an anchor(s) in life. And this anchor may not be a large, heavy anchor, but can be mini anchors that help us pass through a rough patch in life.
So, as the news of Cyclone Nisarga scraping off Mumbai spread, I started receiving emails, text messages and phone calls to check if my family and I were doing okay. Friends or relatives who rarely call, made it a point to check on me. In this fast-paced life, we rarely realize it, but small gestures can provide much support to others.
Support others through little actions of care.
Breaking life’s monotony. The last two months have been tough on me, as they have been for everyone else because of COVID-19 and the lockdown. I wrote about my personal experiences of the lockdown in my previous blog. Regular reporting on impacts of COVID-19 has taken some kind of mental toll on me.
So, as the storm was on its way to the Maharashtra coast, I decided to take a day off — a mid-week working day — and paint. I enjoy Madhubani painting and spent the entire day of June 3 painting Radha and Krishna in the Madhubani art style of Bihar. In times of crisis, sometimes it helps to withdraw and lose yourself in art (or music). It is important to break the monotony of our regular fast-paced life and go back to our hobbies every now and then.
I learnt from Cyclone Nisarga, and the most important to me, it is okay to feel weak and express your weakness and fears. Because of my work profile and the nature of my job, I feel I have toughened up over a period of time. I try to overcome my weaknesses and rarely show them. The last few days had been tough, apart from the emotional toll of COVID-19, my daughter developed some infection in her toes. Amid a pandemic, the last thing you want is any health issue with your child. Although the infection isn’t bad, taking her to a doctor (thank you Dr Vivek Patel, my friend), getting a blood test and X-Ray done — during a pandemic and a cyclone — was really stressful.
I strongly felt the need to release my tension. I called up my husband (who, along with my younger son, has been living with my mother-in-law for the last few weeks due to my COVID-19 reporting — read more on this in my previous blog) and told him to come home. He was there within a few minutes.
I sat down next to him, started talking and broke down — how I was worried about our daughter’s toe infection, how I missed my son and him being around, how I missed my traveling and reporting, how I missed our ‘normal’ life. He listened patiently. And then said something very simple — “Do not worry. All will be well.”
Sometimes the simplest words can provide us comfort and support. To make me feel better, he cracked a few jokes and told me I had lost weight (he knows how to make me feel happy!).
Even the strongest of people have weak moments. Expressing weakness is neither unhealthy, nor unattractive. In our busy lives, we need catharsis. Reach out to your family members, friends or mentors and share what is bothering you. Release your emotions.
Just as a cyclone carries loads of moisture from the ocean and dumps it all on the land, we all need to release our pent-up feelings. Isn’t that a useful life lesson from a storm?