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Children relive horror in telling tales

What is a tsunami? Every child in Andaman and Nicobar has a different take on it ? depending upon the extent of damage.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2005 02:40 IST

What is a tsunami? Every child in Andaman and Nicobar has a different take on it — depending upon the extent of damage.

"Tsunami is a killer. It takes away parents and they never come back. It comes through the sea quietly, and is God's curse," says six-year-old Chemraj.

His father went fishing like he did every other day last December 26, and never returned.

The tides swept away their small house, along with his mother. Chemraj himself was found floating in the arms of a neighbour.

"Tsunami is a special earthquake caused by black magic," differs 13-year-old Geeta, who lives in a temporary shelter in Padaktikri, Hutbay.

The waves claimed Geeta's mother, but spared her three-year-old brother in her arms. And they broke the spirit of her father Ramachandran, 32. Neighbours say he lost interest in life and has taken to drinking.

It is the same several other survivors, who have given up on life. Housed in temporary shelters, schooling in anganwadis set up by NGOs, these children and adolescents are still struggling to come to terms with December 26, 2004.

Various NGOs are hard at work counselling the children, but when it comes to explaining the true meaning to tsunami, they hit a wall.

"After school, the children come to the anganwadi and spend time. We have discussed tsunami in great detail, but what do you do when their own community sometimes adds to their misinformation," says a volunteer with Butterflies, an NGO in Hutbay. It publishes a newspaper called Children Times which acts as a creative outlet for children. Interestingly, however, it has not managed to explain exactly what a tsunami is.

"We can only give the people the facts, they need to grasp them. It will take them years to comprehend what changed their lives forever," says a senior government official.

The last word perhaps is a book called Through Tsunami - A saga of courage, published by the local administration.

It is full of pictures of government visits arising from the tsunami — but like everything else, forgets to explain what it means.

First Published: Dec 26, 2005 02:40 IST