A Lifetime Gone in The Floods
The floods that devastated J&K also destroyed Masiod Hussain's art collection
SRINAGAR: It took him years of tireless effort to complete each one of his priceless paintings yet all his magnificent works of art were wiped out within a day in his art studio at Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar.
The floods that devastated Jammu and Kashmir, also finished Masiod Hussain collection of art. A small price perhaps when compared to the over 300 dead and thousands displaced in the catastrophe but like everyone else Hussain is trying to come to terms with the losses he has suffered.
A renowned artist of international repute, Hussain is barely left with seven of his art works that he completed couple of weeks before the flood. The seven paintings based on poet Aga Shahid Ali’s unpublished couplets that were handed over to him by Ali himself was all Hussain could put his hands on during the deluge.
“During his visit to Srinagar 15 years ago, Aga Shahid Ali wanted me to paint on his couplets while handing over them to me. Soon after, Shahid returned to US where he died of Cancer,” said Hussain.
On the intervening night of September 6-7, when most of the surrounding areas around Jawahar Nagar were submerged, Hussain first sensed danger. Knowing that his house is situated between a flood channel and river Jhelum that had turned violent by the time, he decided to shift his daughters to a safer place in the dead of night. Hussain was taken aback when he returned to find that the waters had come gushing in, and he had to walk in knee deep flood waters from Zero bridge to reach his house.
“On seeing the situation outside, I rushed to my art studio on the first floor of my house. I wanted to shift all my work, but could only grab these seven paintings and shift them to the attic of the top floor.”
That night Hussain explains was the longest and most horrific. Morning came but brought no relief. The unimaginable worst was yet to be witnessed. “On September 7, at 8 in the morning, water levels started to rise fast. Within no time, the water seeped into the first storey of my house. I was trapped inside with my family that includes my wife, my brother, his wife and a friend who had fled to save himself from his house in Padshahi Bagh to our place,” Hussain told this reporter.
It is for the first time in the living history of Kashmir that the state has been hit by such a disaster in the form of floods. Hussain and his family had never expected it to be this fierce. The moment a house collapsed in their neighborhood was what petrified Hussain and he began thinking of possible ways to escape. “At that point of time I was scared that our house too might collapse due to its old construction. Luckily my brother had two small fishing boats. We immediately pumped them and took the risk of moving out from the window of our first floor to our neighbor’s house about 200 meters away.”
The flow of water was such that many a times the boat went out of control. However, Hussain acknowledges his school Tyndale Biscoe wherein long back he acquired training skills like swimming.
“After ferrying the females in our family to a bigger house nearby, we (me and my younger brother) were encouraged to save others. I was specifically encouraged by the daring efforts of my brother.”
With no visible help in rescue from Government, Police, Army and other agencies, the duo took the task on themselves. Husaain along with his brother Nasir Hussain who is 10 years younger to him were able to save 40 other people in their locality with merely two rubber boats.
“We did not stop ferrying people until one of the boats got punctured and a chamber of the other got pierced. When a person like me and my brother, inexperienced in operating in such situations were able to help each other, I wonder why the authorities couldn’t reach out.,” Hussain states.
For three days, Hussain along with his family and other 40 people were trapped on the fourth storey of their neighbors higher residence. His family is one of the very few civilians that were airlifted by the Indian Air Force. “For the first two days, nobody came for our rescue. The military choppers just kept on hovering above the area. However, on the third day, we were airlifted and took us straight to air force base next to the airport from where I along with my family shifted to a relatives place,” said Hussain.