Weathering the Storm Summary in English by Harsh Mander
Weathering the Storm by Harsh Mander About the Author
Harsh Mander is a social activist, author and a former officer of the Indian Administrative Services. He has founded and led many campaigns in the interest of social causes such as legal justice for survivors of communal violence, Dalit rights, the right to information, rehabilitation of street children and homeless people, among others. He serves as director in the Centre for Equity Studies and is also Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court in the Right to Food case. He has taught at many prestigious Indian as well as international institutions.
Some of his books include Ash in the Belly: India’s Unfinished Battle against Hunger and Unheard Voices: Stories of Forgotten Lives. He regularly contributes articles to leading newspapers, including The Hindu and Hindustan Times. Through his books and articles, Mander speaks of important social issues in India, such as communalism, poverty and caste discrimination, among others.
|Author Name||Harsh Mander|
|Born||17 April 1955 (age 64 years), Shillong|
|Profession||Author, Columnist, Researcher, Teacher|
|Education||Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, St Stephen’s College|
Weathering the Storm Summary in English
The story is set in the year 1999, in cyclone-effected Orissa. Seven years after his mother’s death, the protagonist, Prashant, goes to visit his friend in the coastal town of Ersama. That very evening, a menacing storm descends upon the town. Although Prashant’s friend’s house withstands the fierce wind, it is flooded with rainwater and also gets damaged by trees that crash onto its roof and walls. The devastation continues for 36 hours and Prashant and his friend’s family have to resort to taking refuge on the roof to escape the rising floodwater.
Prashant’s first glimpse of the situation outside conveys the horror caused by the super cyclone: only a few broken cement houses are visible in a sheet of brown water; there are animal and human corpses floating everywhere. Fortunately, the trees that had crashed onto Prashant’s friend’s house were coconut trees. The tender coconuts save the family from starvation during the next couple of days. Prashant and his friend’s family spend the next two days on the roof, exposed to constant rain. Prashant is anxious about the safety of his own family. After two days, the rain finally stops and he is determined to go back home.
With only a long sturdy stick for support, Prashant begins his 18-kilometer long journey home on foot, navigating the flooded roads. The floodwaters make the journey extremely difficult; at several points it is so deep that he has to swim to find the road. Fortunately, he is joined by two friends of his uncle’s, who are also returning to their village.
During their journey, Prashant and his companions come across horrific and painful sights: they move past floating carcasses of men, women, children and animals. These sights fill Prashant with despair about the fate of his family.
Upon reaching his village, Kalikuda, Prashant sees that his house has been destroyed and scraps of its belongings have been caught in the branches of trees. Prashant goes to the Red Cross shelter in the hope of finding his family. Once there, he finds his maternal grandmother who looks weak with starvation. He also meets his extended family, which includes his uncles, aunts, brother and sister. His family is extremely happy to see Prashant, as they had also feared him to be dead.
Next morning, Prashant decides to take stock of the desperate situation. Four days after the storm, there are 2500 people at the shelter; a total of eighty-six people have died and all ninety-six houses have been destroyed. The remaining stock of tender coconuts is too little to sustain this number of survivors. Prashant, who is only nineteen years old, takes on the role of a leader. He organises a group of young people and elders to secure rice from a merchant. It is suggested such an attempt had been made earlier but was unsuccessful. However, with Prashant leading the charge, this time they return to the shelter with food for everyone. He then decides to organise youth volunteers to clean the shelter and tend to the wounds of the injured survivors.
On the fifth day, a military helicopter drops some food parcels. After that however, no help seems to be coming their way. The youth volunteers ask children to lie on the ground with empty utensils on their stomach. This visual message communicates their hunger to passing helicopters, which then return regularly with parcels of food and basic necessities.
Prashant sets up shelters made of polythene sheets for the orphaned children. Women look after these children while the men secure food and materials for the shelters. Soon, the grief that the children and women are facing becomes apparent to Prashant. He asks the women to participate in the food-for-work programme started by an NGO. For the children, Prashant organises sporting events. The government plans to set up institutions for the orphans and widows. But Prsahant’s group resists this move as they feel that the best rehabilitation of the orphans and widows can happen within their own community. They want to set up foster families consisting of childless widows and orphans where they can resettle their lives with love and care.
Six months after the devastating super cyclone, Prashant has coped with his grief by helping the people of his community. To the widows and orphaned children of his village, he has come to symbolise the light of hope.
Weathering the Storm Title
The title can be interpreted on two levels—first, literally facing a cyclonic storm, and second, facing emotional upheavals. In this story, we find both aspects as we read the remarkable story of Prashant, a survivor of the super- cyclonic storm that struck coastal Odisha in 1999. He lost several family members and friends in the storm, but showed immense courage and resourcefulness to ensure that the survivors did not have to wit and depend on government help alone for survival, but took care of their own needs themselves.
Weathering the Storm Setting
The story is set in Odisha, against the backdrop of the aftermath of the cyclonic storm that hit the coast in 1999.
Weathering the Storm Theme
The story highlights the destructive powers of nature, and its repercussions on humans. It also showcases the courage and spirit of one young boy in bringing relief and comfort to the suffering villagers. ‘
Weathering the Storm Message
The message of the story is that even a single person is capable of bringing about a great change with courage, determination, and selflessness. It also highlights the importance of community in helping to deal with a calamity.
Weathering the Storm Characters
Prashant: He was a nineteen year old boy who lost his family and friends in a cyclonic storm. He was surrounded by devastation and loss, but chose to meet the challenges head-on instead of losing hope due to the situation he was in. Along with the rest of the villagers, he became a victim of the destruction caused by a cyclonic storm, but instead of crying about his fate, he decided to do something practical to reduce the suffering of his fellow survivors.
He showed remarkable leadership qualities by organizing the rest of the youngsters and elders into a group, providing food to the other victims, and helping them to work out a solution to their situation. He was very intelligent as he made the children lie down on the sand with utensils on their stomach to catch the attention of the rescue helicopters flying around with food supplies. He persuaded the women to start working to supply food for themselves and others, and most importantly, he brought the orphans and widows together to mutually benefit each other.
Weathering the Storm Summary Questions and Answers
Why had Prashant gone to Ersama? What happened there?
He had gone to Ersama to spend a day with a friend. He was caught in a terrible cyclonic storm, the likes of which he had never been a witness to.
Describe the storm that hit Ersama on the 27th of October, 1999?
It was a dark and menacing storm which had a terrific wind velocity of 350kms/hr. It was accompanied by heavy and incessant rain flooding the whole area.
How long did the cyclone last? How did Prashant and his friend’s family spend the stormy night?
The cyclone continued for almost thirty six hours. They spent the night sitting on the roof of the house in the open, because water had filled into the house.
How was his friend’s family luckier than the rest of the villagers?
His friend’s family had a strong house made of brick and mortar which was able to withstand the fury of the wind, even though coconut trees had fallen onto the roof, damaging it. However, these trees provided the family with food till they were rescued.
Describe the scene that met Prashant’s horrified eyes in the morning at Ersama?
It was a devastating sight. A raging, deadly brown sheet of water covered everything as far as the eye could see. Only a few fractured cement houses still stood. Bloated human corpses and animal carcasses floated in every direction.
How long did Prashant stay at his friend’s house? What were the thoughts that kept disturbing him?
He stayed at his friend’s house for two more days. The only thought that kept disturbing him was whether his family had survived the calamity or if he was going to lose his loved ones once again.
Why did the two days seem like two years to Prashant?
As he sat on the rooftop of his friend’s damaged house, unable to venture back home through the rain and flooded roads, he felt helpless and worried about his family back in his village. He was so keen to return to them that the two days seemed like two years to him.
What made Prashant venture out from the safety of his friend’s house in the dangerous situation?
Prashant was worried that his family may have been swept away in his village, and he was determined to find out what had happened to them without any further delay.
How did Prashant prepare himself for the long trek home?
He took a sturdy stick and then started on his eighteen kilometre long expedition back to his village, wading through the swollen flood waters.
What were the dangers faced by Prashant on his way back to his village? How did he face them?
The whole path back to his village was under water. He used his stick to determine the shallow parts that he could walk on. At places, he had to wade through waist deep water.