In my last post, I have covered up to my primary school and was talking about the impact of family practices in to the professional life. Now I am feeling little clueless about what to write next. My 62 years life is full of many incidences (like anybody else) and these are stored(?) in the memory profile in such a scattered way that it is not easy to pick them up at a right time and put them at a right place. 

Some time back, I was going through an article on ‘memory’, written by Michael Hopkin. It said that the smell, sound and sights of past are stored in our memory for a long time and can trigger on the entire memory spool with appropriate stimulant. Therefore, I am now looking for the stimulants in my present to trigger on my past. One such stimulant I find is the present flood situation in Bihar and West Bengal and that reminds me of the year 1968 (most probably) when I was in 6th standard.

Many of you must be knowing that the ‘Durga Puja’ festival is one of the most important festival of Bengali community. We belong to that community and were living in a small country side near city of Kolkata in the state of West Bengal. Every year during ‘Durga Puja’ vacation our family used to make a trip to our home town Jalpaiguri, situated in the northern part of the state. 

Jalpaiguri town ship was developed on the bank of two rivers named ‘Teesta’ and ‘Karola’ originated from mountain Himalayas. Teesta particularly was very aggressive in nature. Couple of times in my childhood when I visited the bank of this river and looked towards its speedy stream of dark water, every time it conveyed a masculinity, a sense of fear within me. River bank was full of small and big smooth rounded shaped boulders and gravels. Those were the stones came down from the hill top, rolling along with the sharp stream and got transformed in to a round shape because of constant erosion during the journey. 

Karola was comparatively calm and was a tributary of Teesta. 

Anyhow, point I want to make here is that, I had already developed a fear about the fierceness of river Teesta in my subconscious.

In that year also we did arrive in our ancestral home during puja vacation. I need to mention here that our house was made of wood plank built on a 3ft. high cemented plinth, covered with corrugated tin shed at the top. Similar to a typical house in the hill region of west Bengal at that time. There was a courtyard at the front and the entire boundary was fenced with bamboo slits and barbed wire. There many big trees like mango, jackfruit, berries, grapefruit etc. were also standing here and there inside the premises. Some bushes of flower and lime trees were also there. Overall, a very pleasant, quiet and natural ambience. 

So, the time was passing joyfully under the love and favour of my grandmother who was the head of the family. In a big room all we used to sleep in two groups. My father and grandmother in one bed, me and my mother in another. 

One night, just before the day of ‘Laxmi Puja’- another very auspicious home ceremony in every Hindu family in Bengal- suddenly, I woke up from my sleep, hearing some noise outside. It was like, many people were talking and screaming loudly in our locality for something. I couldn’t understand but out of fear and anxiety, hastily called up my father, immediately opened up the door and tried to run out to the courtyard. 

But where was that courtyard? I had to pull a sudden brake. What I saw seems like a scene from a fairytale story in front of me. I saw in the white moon lighted night, our entire courtyard had changed in to a beautiful lake, small waves were dancing and dazzling here and there within it up to the plinth level of our house. I think I was mesmerized until I felt a strong pull from my father, who quickly took me inside the room again and shut the door.

It was a flood in the city. The soughing and screaming outside was for the help. Everybody was trying to draw attention of others within a darkness of night. I recall, at that time no electricity connection was available there in our locality. The situation became frightening and we could guess that, what was happening, was something surely related to river ‘Teesta’. 

Seniors quickly started to chalk out a survival strategy. Started putting up important items and food staffs on the upper shelves of the room. Collected all cash in one place and put them in a waterproof clutch hand bag belongs to my grandmother. Water slowly entered in to our room and the level was continuously rising. We were waiting for the dawn. 

In next one hour or so there was morning light and we could see through the window that it was only water flowing everywhere outside, just below the window level of our house. What to do? A pucca house of one of our relative was about 100meter away and now we could hear that they were calling us, asking us to go and take shelter on their concrete roof top. 

My parent was just wandering the possibilities because opening the door of our room would cause a sudden rush of water inside. I offered my childish solution: I can break one window rod (wooden), jump in to the water and swim out to our neighbor’s house. I can even carry the money bag in my mouth (I was a certified swimmer in boy scout). They agreed to that and decided that first I will go from out side and after that they will slowly open the door and try to swim out there following the inside boundary line, crossing the courtyard. In case they fail, they will try to climb a tree. Following this plan, we all could reach to the secure shelter finally. Need not to mention that it wasn’t at all an easy task and was involving life risk.

That was a devastating flood in 1968 in India and claimed thousands of lives. Water height reached up to 17 feet at many places and lasted for more than 24 hrs. before started receding. Root cause was a heavy rainfall in Himalayan region and subsequent breakage of dam on Teesta at many places.

Now, from management science view point, I find it as a classic example of Application of Problem-Solving Techniques. We wanted to save our lives at the first place and with minimum risk.

Let me elaborate the basic four levels of Problem-Solving Techniques applied unknowingly in our case:

Level-i

Defining the problem: Water was rising and it might drown us in some time if we didn’t move to a higher place.

Cause of the Problem: Not known exactly. Probably river Teesta was overflowing.

Is there any sign of the problem anywhere in the surroundings? – Obviously. We were in the mid of it.

Level-ii

Identification of various available options for solutions: 

a)    We could stack up wooden beds one over another and sit on it.

b)    We could go out and climb a tree inside the premises.

c)     Swim and reach to the near by pucca house jumping from the window.

d)    Swim and reach to the near by pucca house from inside the house boundary.

Workable Ideas to solve the problem: 

a)     Try swimming from outside first as it would be a free access and safe from poisonous reptiles, who might also be taking shelters in the trees. 

b)    Swimming from inside the boundary as it had supports of house walls and trees. Better for elderly person (grandmother) and those (parent) who didn’t know good swimming.

c)     Climbing trees was another option, though little risky as tree also might get uprooted or might be infested with snakes. 

Level-iii

Evaluation of the Options:  All options were evaluated as a team.

Best Option available: Swimming to the pucca house.

Easiest Option available: Swimming from the outside and inside probably.

Prioritizing the Options: First swimming from outside for me and swimming from inside for elders afterwards.

Level-iv

Implementation of chosen Option: Implemented

Does it work: Worked with some obvious pains, natural in that situation.

Any need to try any alternate Option: Not required to take the option of climbing a tree.

Though after so many years, now I think, it wasn’t absolutely correct to choose the option of swimming from outside at the first place, but at that point of time that appeared to be the best option to all. I also find a mental set up in that junior ‘me’, that was ready to take  a challenge without fear and ready to give best to conquer an unknown situation.

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Reference: Valdellon, L. (2017, March 7). Problem Solving Techniques and Tips (That Actually Work). [Blog post].Retrieved from https://www.wrike.com.