A nightmare and a miracle turn 19

A nightmare and a miracle turn 19

The story of the boarding pass I refuse to throw away.

Tanmoy Goswami
I know I wasn't supposed to publish another edition this year, but I hope you'll agree with me after reading this that the day that is today deserved a memorial. Also, here's your last chance of the year to contribute to the survival of Sanity. Pick one of the options below and help me keep going next year.

On December 26, 2004, my family was nearly wiped out by the Indian Ocean Tsunami, which killed at least 225,000 people across a dozen countries. We were holidaying in the Andaman islands at the southernmost tip of India, sponsored by my parents' employer, the Steel Authority of India, whose benevolent travel perks had, in a mini-revolution, erased the gap between frequent-flyer executives and the labouring class where we belonged.

The plane that took us from Kolkata to Port Blair, the capital of the Andamans, was my family's first flight ever. And the plane that ferried us back to safety was my life's biggest miracle till then. I was 21.

Every year on this day, a scrambled montage floods my brain. It starts with us narrowly missing being swallowed by the waves on a beach in the small town of Rangat, which we left minutes before the tsunami hit (~6.26 am local time).

It rushes forward to the tiny village of Kadamtala, where hundreds of tourists desperate to head back to Port Blair were stranded for hours, as a lone policeman with a solitary wireless set tried to find out if the road ahead was safe for cars.

A sliver of my brain is still trapped in Rajesh Bhaiyya's Maruti Omni, in which over a dozen of us began the race to reach Port Blair in complete darkness, cutting through protected territory reserved for the Jarawas. We sat in petrified silence, broken only by our involuntary gasps triggered by the innumerable aftershocks and my mother's chants of "Sita Ram, Sita Ram, Sita Ram".

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