Rajarajan, a victim himself of Cyclone Gaja, is busy helping others

Nagapattinam: It’s been a fortnight since the landfall of the aggressive Gaja cyclone that hit the Cauvery Delta districts on 15-16 November.

Though its effects have not been estimated completely by the State government, it is said at least 80 lakh people have faced losses due to the disaster which destroyed their shelter, livelihood and happiness at one go.

Since then, the rest of Tamilnadu and the government are taking up possible relief measures to help the granary of south India that is feeding them with rice, fruits and cash crops, recover.

Thousands of NGOs, individual volunteering groups, political parties and people welfare movements have been entering every day the districts of Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Pudukottai to extend support to the affected families and communities. When this happens, it also leads to a lot of inspiring stories as well.

When this News Today correspondent visited a score of the disaster-hit villages across Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur district recently, he encountered a lot of such inspiring stories and people. Here is a series about such people, who are working day and night at ground zero, and prove ‘not all superheroes wear capes’.

Rajarajan

REACHING OUT

In this coconut farm-filled coastal village of Pushpavanam, which is in south Nagapattinam, resides Rajarajan, a retired head constable of the police department. Since 17 November, the next day after Gaja crossed the land, Rajarajan wakes up early in the morning.

It is not for working out, gardening or doing his family-man tasks, but to visiting every house of his neighbourhood to analyse and understand what they have lost.

Subsequently, the former police personnel reaches out to his friend circle spread across Tamilnadu and seeks help for the families he identifies. What’s more surprising is, he himself is a victim who lost his entire coconut farm to Gaja.

“My farm had 80 coconut trees and a number of mango trees. There is nothing left now,” Rajarajan said. The farm was raised by Rajarajan over 25 years. “The farm earns me about Rs 8,000 every week. Which means, it is all enough for me to run my family and meet my monthly expenses. Apart from that, the mangoes fill my pocket in excess. Now we have to reboot the whole farm from scratch,” he added.

He also said, “If my farm survived, it would have earned me a profit of about Rs 3 to 5 lakh every year. Now, all we get from the government is Rs 1,100 per tree. This amount will not be enough even to clean the entire damaged area and plant new trees.”

He pointed to a big space inside his farm that was filled with a pool of rainwater after the landfall. “This poll itself needs to be cleaned and it spreads over acres of coconut farms. Ours is just a portion of all this. There are many who have lost 10 to 20 acres of farms to the cyclone.”

However, Rajarajan was not dejected by the loss and he has not taken it personally. “There are over 100 families in this area alone. They belong to different castes and communities. I wish to uplift this hamlet as a whole,” Rajarajan aspires.

Panneer’s house

Panneer, a barber from the same area, said, “I lost my home and barber shop completely to the cyclone. I had both buildings next to each other that had thatched roof. At the time, Rajarajan came up and consoled my family. He promised to help us. Until then, he is offering me relief materials.”

When News Today met Panneer and his family, Rajarajan was giving him a pack of relief materials – a bag of rice that would be sufficient for the next 15 days for a whole family.

“My friends are sending me funds from various parts of the State. Also, there are a lot of good souls who visit our village with relief materials, whom I guide to distribute to the truly needy,” he said, and added, “After this, I am planning to draft a complete plan of rehabilitation for the entire village before they get depressed by the loss. I hope everything settles down soon.”

Rajarajan can be reached at 9445333712.

Santhosh Mathevan