NEW DELHI: With 15 lakh of them in the city, the Malayalis have been fretting about the floods back home.
The home of chef Jinson of Mahabelly restaurant in DLF Mall at Saket was washed away and his family is stranded in a church. Having lost everything they owned, the Jinsons don’t know what lies ahead.
“The disaster is of an unprecedented nature and warrants an unprecedented community mobilisation,” declared C Chandran, secretary, Delhi Malayalee Association (DMA).
Most Keralites now settled in Delhi came here in 1942 and were employed in the supplies service of the army, according to Chandran. Their populations are concentrated in localities such as RK Puram, Mayur Vihar, Srinivaspuri, Rohini, Ashram, Janakpuri, and Kalkaji.
Safe in the capital, they are extending all help to the flood ravaged society back home, from providing financial aid to collecting clothes, from relaying distress calls to providing free mobile phone recharges.
At DMA’s office in RK Puram, distress calls about untraced relatives are fielded through the day.
“P Manoj was unable to his parents and parent-in-laws, but using our network we located them near Sabrimala and a speed boat will reach them,” Chandran revealed.
The biggest challenges are in and , where “most of the residents are elderly people whose children are in the Gulf countries”, according to George Matthew, who is coordinating flood relief from the temporary office at Kerala House on Marg.
“Their plight has been compounded by the sparse population in the region and the numerous overflowing dams there.” Mathew said that relief was pouring in at Kerala House, but preferred assistance in cash. “It is very difficult to transport physical relief material because the roads and airports are all damaged,” explained Mathew.
Unmindful of this fact, a group of south Delhi youngsters has formed a network of drop-points in their houses where people can bring medicines, clothes, footwear and packed food. Allan Jacob of Ayur Vigyan Nagar, a member of the group, said, “We are 11 friends who felt the government wasn’t doing much. And until Kerala becomes stable, the people there will need a lot of different things. The network we set up is expanding, but for the time being we are sending the things we collect to the AIIMS Male Nurses’ Association.” People from as far as the United States have been liaising with the nurses’ association.
“We dispatched the first 2,000 kg of relief material two days ago,” said Rakesh KP on Saturday. “We started the initiative a week ago, and many nurses and doctors from other government and private hospitals too are involved.”
A few kilometres away in Saket, eateries serving cuisine are chipping in. Mahabelly at the DLF Mall, whose chef lost his house, has become arelief drop centre for NGO Goonj. DK James, manager of the eatery, said that barely a few hours into the drive, they were able to dispatch the first batch of aid by helicopter.
“We are collecting clothes, dry packaged food and sanitary napkins. We need help packing these in cartons and neatly labelling the contents,” said James. Helping, however, does not necessarily mean rallying mass action. Individuals too are stepping forward in their own ways. Abhishek Bakshi, founder of Gurgaon Book Club, for one, is providing free mobile recharges to those in Kerala who are unable to get it done there.
“A couple of unscrupulous people may take advantage of this, but that’s okay. I have faith in the innate goodness of people,” he said.
With the Malayali community itself so engaged in easing the rehabilitation, both immediate and after the waters recede, there is a quiet optimism among the Keralites. Chandran of DMA, whose 25 area chapters have been pressed into action, for instance, is ready with his plans. “What we collect in our joint effort with NGO SEED will go to 1,000 needy families,” he said.
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