Friday, November 9, 2012



The news of Nilam cyclone kindled my memory of the cyclone I witnessed years ago.
It was November 1966 to be precise. The northeast monsoon was active. I was in the M.M.C Hostel then. It was a holiday or a holiday declared on account of bad weather. The cyclone was expected to hit madras. Newspaper was the only source of information. The radio in the common room was of no use as the power was erratic.
In the morning we were watching the effect of gale in front of the hostel. The trees looked like dancing demons. Hoardings were being blown off. As our curiosity increased we went to the terrace to see all around the hostel. It was raining. The winds were so severe that some of the window shutters were shattered and blown off the building. The gale pushed us around. Balancing ourselves and holding the parapet wall we were trying to see far and wide. The light was poor. Everything was looking grey. Rain drops were hitting us like tiny stones. But we persisted watching the cyclone live. On the eastern horizon we spotted a ship struggling against the fury of winds and rough see. Tall waves were slashing over and above the ship. Strong winds would push the ship towards the shore. The ship would frantically try to move towards deep waters. The tug of war was going on for some time. It was a losing battle for the ship and finally it ran aground. In the haze it looked like a dead whale from a distance.
Around the same time another ship the Stematis ran aground at Marina beach opposite to the University buildings. A third ship also got stuck at the shore south of Madras. By noon the cyclone weakened but gusty winds continued. On hearing about the ship at Marina we went there to see it. Strong winds were blowing the sand like sand storm. We felt like being poked with needles. One of our hostel mates was taking photographs. Stematis was stuck in the sand slightly tilting to one side. Though there was no casualty then, number of drowning accidents occurred at the site of ship wreck during the following years. It remained there for a long time.
When we were writing exams at the university the ghostly appearance of the disaster stuck ship disturbed our psyche.
Later when I was going to my native place I saw several iron electrical posts bent like pins and telegraph posts broken like match sticks besides a number of uprooted trees. The devastation was enormous.