Editorial by Dr. Prasun Chatterjee - The Flood Project - TMYS Review Sept 2021

    Driven by Floods


    If we believe that development and progress always bring relief to people in their everyday lives, the current climate change debate should be an eye-opener. The era of frequent flying for work or vacations is increasingly being recognized as a major factor in human impact on global climate. While many of these activities are restricted due to the global pandemic, what we as people choose to do when the world resumes its regular rhythm is the important question.

    Linked to this is the question of preparedness to deal with migration and resettlement caused due to floods. In an interaction with Professor Arupjyoti Saikia, recorded in TMYS (link in the section of Digital Conversations) I was exploring the notion of displacement due to floods and it emerged from our common experiences about the Northeast is that the people on the banks of Brahmaputra river have always had to deal with floods. The experience of centuries of this mighty river overflowing its banks reflected in the rhythms of the lives of people settled on the banks. The houses perched high on bamboo, the different levels at which there is an arrangement to keep their modest goods as the water levels rise or the ease with which they navigate the flood waters to commute show amazing resilience which comes from the unique experience of living with the river than living against it. These rhythms have changed now, and we see concrete houses on the banks of the river which try to deny the river its rights of expanding. The mining of soil and creation of infrastructure on the river basin has also led to a situation where either the river is considered the cause of all miseries and sought to be tamed or it is being made to change its course. The problems of modern day living has given displacement a new meaning where flooding has become the bane of progress and people without many means who have adopted the new structures are increasingly at risk of being in the way of harm from river floods.

    Migration of which strata of people is at question when we think about progress on the flood plains of the rivers? Displacement, here, is a marker of the adjustment of modern life and the people marginalized during progress vis-a-vis the learnings gained from earlier modes of living and coping with ecological phenomena. When the wheels of progress go beyond the pale of environmental occurrences without taking into account the level of disturbance created in the existing ecosystems, this becomes a site of confrontation leading to displacement. Except the few exceptions of high class modern living on river frontiers, the increasing burden of population has led the marginalized to settle in the outskirts of urban areas which are often the floodplains. Here the living patterns are neither based on traditional methods nor address the concerns of flooding every year. Apart from shortage of food and shelter, this results in the displacements and resulting migrations as well as the spread of water-borne diseases and other unhealthy conditions of living when the waters recede. The case of Brahmaputra flood plains is similar to many other such stories of displacement in the Indian subcontinent. Big dam projects, other infrastructure constructions without a clear look at neighbouring ecosystems can result in stories of future displacements become even more severe.

    The September issue of TMYS Review, focuses on these and many other issues related to floods. There are essays, poems and short stories which take account of the suffering from the floods even as they delve into the poetic imagination of rains and floods as the beauty of nature combined with its rage. Ecological phenonmena are not one and the only thing, they have many facets—we slowly enter into these different aspects related to floods and displacements in the contributions to this issue. Weaving in epic and mythopoeic realms one of the essays here delves into the notions of morality around the flood narratives in ancient Indian traditions comparing it with the recent floods in Kerala. Another essay explores the depiction of the devastation of floods in three more recent Indian films while contextualizing them in the actual incidents that these were based on. The third contribution in the section analyses the effects of global warming, big dam projects and concretized urban jungles to understand the fury of floods in the contemporary scenario.

    The poems in the collection chart their own route, focusing on more universal human experiences. The poem on the situation after the floods indicates the difficulties faced in picking up the strands after the devastation and the ecological costs of these human interventions. The poets here leave us open to the widely varied rhythms of nature during the floods with their creation on the ‘boons and banes’ of the occurrences or the ‘despair’ of the situation of people who are at the mercy of gushing waters. The poems also explore the personal experiences and the coping mechanisms of the victims of floods while investing them with a range of human expressions from relating the ‘empty nest’ to recounting the ‘deluge’. All the creations here evoke the mixed emotions of awe and loss which take us as close to the displaced as possible, warning us of the costs of playing foul with Mother Nature.

    Collapsing territorial and national boundaries and those of age and experience, exactly as the river does at the time it is furious, the storytellers in this issue follow the flow of human experiences. From the stories that grandmothers tell the children of their children, to the memories of a son and father during the flood the section on stories is a bundle of exquisite experiences culled from the lives or hearings of the writers in this special issue on flooding, displacement and migration.

    We hope you will enjoy these writings and the discussions which set the theme of the current issue of TMYS Review.


    Dr. Prasun Chatterjee

    Guest Editor – TMYS Review September 2021



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