A riverside dream home, a fatal play with nature

A riverside dream home, a fatal play with nature

Subair near his son’s damaged house at Mattikunnu, Kozhikode, on Wednesday.  DH photo/ Janardhan B K

Seventy-year-old Subair had warned his son Mujeeb not to build their dream house on the riverside. For, Subair had seen the monstrous ferocity of the Thudara stream after a landslide devastated the hill side in Mattikunnu, Kozhikode district 23 summers back.

But having saved for this project for decades, Mujeeb went ahead, and paid the price. Barely 10 days before the house-warming, the building completely surrendered to nature’s fury. On the night of August 8, the flooded stream unleashed a flurry of boulders and wood, ripping apart his dream.

On Wednesday afternoon, as a steady stream of holiday tourists enveloped the area, Subair wore a desolate look. “I wish he had listened to me. As a load-lifter, life has been tough for him. Bit by bit, he has been building this, and hoped to complete the works after moving in.”

Lost in that father’s anguish, was a reckless trend of house-building that paid no respect to nature’s boundaries. Fancy two-storied designer houses had sprung up on either side of the stream. It was a trend that found its echo all across Kerala. But as last week’s devastation proved, nature was bound to hit back some day and change lives forever.

Weakened by the flood fury, the design flaws of the Mattikunnu bridge stood dramatically exposed. Boulders from the hills had come crashing down, blocking the narrow space between the closely packed bridge pillars. It was an invitation for disaster, as the fast-flowing stream changed course right here.

The locals had apparently learnt a lesson. Huddled in groups, they were seen discussing the merits and demerits of river-side buildings to the stream of tourists on Wednesday. But, hooked to taking selfies with broken buildings as a backdrop, the tourists only appeared curious. It was nothing more than a photo shoot for many.

Beyond the broken structure, stood a modest single-storey house that was only marginally better in damage. The flood waters had left a gaping hole on its side. The occupants thanked their stars that they could escape that edgy brush with death. But they were not sure the coming year would be any safer if they stayed on.

“Only God can decide that,” said a resident, silencing an inner voice that hinted that the tragedy was man-made too.

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