Meghana Rajshekhar was 12 years old in 2004, about to step into adolescence when the life she knew came to an abrupt end.
On the morning after Christmas that year, the waves took away her family – both parents and her little brother –before throwing her out to the sea where she spent a harrowing 20 hours, tossed up on the debris of ruined homes. She spent two days on the Car Nicobar island before she was rescued.
In the years since, life has been “like a dream”. “Sometimes, I get confused about which is my reality – the past or the present”, she said in a telephonic interview.
“Such situations either break you or take you to this place where you see a lot of spirituality and inspiration,” Meghana said, adding that her character was shaped by the time she spent with her father. “He was an amazing man. I was quite mature by 12 and it was all because of him. He gave me a lifestyle that really strengthened me”. Her father was a meteorologist with the Indian Air Force.
Today, the 22-year-old is an architect by profession and a regular donor to charities for orphans and cancer patients.
“There were donations coming from across the globe till 2007 and I would forward them to NGOs. I never touched any of it because it felt wrong. And when I finished that money I started raising more to continue helping,” she said, recounting the days when she would get hundreds of calls from people wanting to adopt and care for her.
“I never wanted to be adopted because somewhere I thought my family was alive somewhere. It was sort of a fantasy I had created and wanted to preserve it”.
But now, she has people whom she can call mom and dad. “Among the people who reached out to me was one woman who made me feel at peace. She was the reason I smiled for the first time in a few months,” Meghana said, speaking about the wife of an ex-army man based in Delhi. They gradually became close as she completed schooling at a boarding facility in Hyderabad. “She was the one who stayed in touch with me most”. The couple had lost several children to illnesses. “I am glad I could give them the experience of having a child”.
A big part of her life now is reaching out to others in need. “Among the more recent cases of where I am trying to raise money is for this kid I met at Warkala – a 5-year-old son of a lifeguard who has no legs,” she said.
“I have done pretty well for myself and I am content. I think life is going to be good.”