We are just back from a hurried trip to Kochi in God’s Own Country – which looks more like God’s Own Jacuzzi right now. Although our trip was uneventful it was the uncertainty of what lay around the bend of the road that was nerve-wracking. Would we face mudslides like some of our friends did when they tried to reach Kochi from another route? Or be marooned in flooded towns like a couple of others?
Oh my Kerala! Our hearts wept for the watery destruction sweeping the coastal state which has such a close historical and contemporary connection with the Gulf.
This is the state which had the closest relations with Arab mariners, welcoming Islam to the sub-continent even during the time of the Prophet Mohammed.
From the 20th century onwards, Kerala has sent the maximum number of workers and professionals to the region and the care and compassion of the nurses of Kerala have helped to heal millions around the world.
As we passed through little towns and suburbs, the Gulf connection was flaunted so proudly – we counted at least three Al Manama supermarkets and one convention hall named for the Bahrain capital along with “Arabian” coffee houses and businesses named for other Gulf states.
Kerala is struggling with the worst flood disaster in 124 years! The water has levelled the rich and famous and the ordinary and poor with equal ferocity. The menacing quiet surge of the rivers we crossed were scary enough – just imagine the roar and roiling of a river in spate, entering towns, swallowing homes and landmarks.
The fact that this crisis comes during the most anticipated festivals of Onam and Eid is a commercial disaster too, for the state. Millions of rupees which would be spent on new household goods, dresses and other festive purchases have been checked by the focus on surviving the floods. Agricultural exports which contribute hugely to the state exchequer has been dealt a stunning blow.
In Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf, many clubs organise festivities for Onam that inevitably stretch over week-ends. There are lavish feasts and colourful entertainment – one of the largest clubs is said to host over 5,000 people for its Onam feast. I do believe that this year we must look at other ways to mark the festival. As a community, we in the Gulf must stand foremost in helping the people of Kerala who form such a strong link between India and the GCC. Just as these expats from Kerala gave off their mind and muscle to develop the Gulf, it is now the turn of the Gulf states to step up and support Kerala.
How, you ask? Besides the donations to government and NGO relief funds on a personal basis, we can offer our professional support.
Now may not be the right time to go dashing off to the flood-hit towns of your youth and offer to rebuild a rain-swept bridge ... the immediate concerns are urgent and basic – rescuing lives and providing food, water and medicines. But maybe we should start gathering our professional resources and be ready to offer help when the tide turns and the government is ready for Stage 2 of the relief ops.
Bahrain companies, which have benefited so much from the work of the people of Kerala can also support the rebuilding of Kerala – think of lending your professional teams for the work and giving them