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Tsunami: What the picture didn't show

Indira, the subject of that award-winning photo, today looks gaunt and emaciated, writes GC Shekhar.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2005 04:14 IST

It was a frame of a helpless woman: cheek on the wet sand and arms stretched, perhaps asking a question. She is wailing right next to a bloated, lifeless hand.

To this day, it remains one of the most starkly emotional images of last year’s tsunami.

Indira, the subject of that award-winning photo, today looks gaunt and emaciated. She wears a disappointed look as she settles down to tell her story in her hut at Sonankuppam, a fishing hamlet in Cuddalore.

         Wailing Indira

Indira has just returned from an NGO, failing to convince them that the Rs 2,000 they promised her will not be sufficient to replace the tattered thatched roof of her hut.A part-time fish and snacks vendor, the 35-year-old says she still has no idea what her future holds. She fends for herself, her two daughters and a son, after her husband left her for another woman a few years ago. “My Anni (sister-in-law) Maheswari was my only moral support till those cruel waves killed her,” Indira says. It is Maheswari’s hand that you see in the photo.

Indira and Maheswari had gone to the beach to buy fish for lunch. “I saw the waves, ran to a coconut tree and clung on to it. I shouted ‘Anni, Anni’ till I almost drowned.I was almost naked when some people rescued me.

But there was no sign of my Anni. The sari you see in the photo was given by some villagers.”

   Indira now

“Two days later (on December 28), neighbours told me that Anni’s body had been found on the seashore. When I saw her body, bloated beyond recognition, I could only beat my chest and wail,” she says.

After having exhausted the relief, Indira was forced to pawn her ornaments. She remembers the photographer, Arko Datta of Reuters.

First Published: Dec 23, 2005 02:53 IST