Sunday 8 August 2010
At tea time, I was using socks to wash our bedroom windows. Two other members of the group were intending to go to a group meeting, and I wasn't going to bother, then Laurel said she would wait for me to finish and we should go up together. Luckily I did.
We heard shouting and saw the villagers up on a high ridge. The mountain burn servicing the village had swelled with the torrential rain. High in the summer pastures, over the days of rain, a huge natural damn had built up. The water had increased in volume and eventually burst through, sweeping down the field fringed gorge, carrying fields, trees and animals with it. It was finding it's way to the Indus.
Sonam, one of the villagers, had been up at the summer pasture, the 'drok', in Ladakhi, and had seen the water building. He anticipated the water breaking through. He ran all the way back to the village to warn people. The village girls wash their clothes in the river. The children play around in the shallows beside their siblings. Sonam reached the village in time to give 15 minutes warning.
When we were up on the ridge we heard a terrible rumbing fill the air. The land shook beneath my feet. Energy shock waves reverberating up from the gorge hit my body, as from safely on high, I watched a mini tsunami power like cosmic vomiting over the land. The water was grey, brown, thick, turgid. Wave upon wave of liquid energy forced down the gorge. The huge stone road bridge was swept away in a second. The power in the air was exhilarating. The devastation was heartbreaking. Mature trees cracking and snapping like thin, dry sticks in a fire. Huge boulders and wedges of earth whirling in the water, as lightly as tumbleweed blowing along the American plains. Nothing can withstand such elemental force.
Some villagers were crying. Some of our group were crying. People were shocked and bewildered.
After time, the volume of water became constant. Luckily, it had swept a natural dog leg to the Indus and avoided the houses of the village. I figured if there was going to be another surge there would be a window of 30 minutes before it reached. If there was another surge, there was a possiblity of it breaking the dog leg open and sweeping along the main street. My family's home would be directly in the path of the water. We would need to spend the night high up.
Some of us decided to go down to our homes to fetch water, warm clothes, supplies. Our home and the mayor's home were the lowest down. But, I figured if I went now, I could get stuff and be out of the house before anything else happened. I went down the hillside to the houses. The village was a ghost town. Everyone was up on the ridge. I walked along the streets to Kaptopa house. I can see it now as I write this. I got my suitcase, put Laurel's spectacle case in it, made sure there were warm jumpers and my first aid kit. The house is low on the land, I heard the water's deep menacing growl filling the room. My heart was racing, my blood pounding in my ears. I could see myself doing things as though I were watching someone in a film. At times I thought I could hear the river becoming louder. My rational mind had worked out the probabilities, and I trust my own judgement, but another part of me was thinking - what if I had got it wrong? Gathering things together, I sent love from my heart and soul to my family at home, and I thought to myself, ' If I am swept to the Indus in a power of muddy water, I've had a good life and I'm ready for the next stage of the journey.'
On one hand I wasn't scared at all, and on the other I was terrified out of my wits. Years ago, a fisherman who survived his boat sinking, told me that we have two minds. I said I understood what he meant, and that day, in Takmachik, I experienced it.