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Our heroes: Colachel's father figure

By Ganesh Nadar in Kanyakumari
December 31, 2004 03:34 IST
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Father Stanley, the chief parish priest of Our Lady of Presentation in Colachel, Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu is very busy with relief operations.

His landline and mobile phones ring constantly. His office is full of people seeking help. The revenue department has entrusted Father Stanley with the task of distributing money to the displaced, at his office inside St Mary's School, which has become a relief camp.

Busy as he was, he took out some time to talk to about the tragedy and relief work:

I was in church that morning. When I saw people running helter-skelter, I knew something was wrong.

As people's houses had been washed away, I invited them to our school. The first day, it was very difficult to provide food to the refuges, but we managed. The next day, help started pouring in and all we had to do was organise everything.

Volunteers from far and near had come to offer their services. First, we noted down the names of family members and their house numbers. Then we took down the names of the dead. We still haven't been able to tabulate the names of those missing, but will do that too.

The government accepted our register of affected persons and that helped a lot. We gave a list to the revenue department after making a copy for ourselves. We had given tokens to the affected persons. One of the volunteers always sits with government officials when they distribute financial aid or any other assistance, to make sure that only affected persons got the relief material.

On Thursday morning, the Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank brought food for 3,000 people. I wish they had brought them in packets because distributing it became a big problem. But we managed.

Some people have come here saying there is no food in their villages. There is plenty of food now, but no containers to send them to the villages. I told one of my colleagues to do something about it.

We have to rebuild their houses and help the villagers get back to work. Till then, they will need help. Aid is coming in, all we have to do is see that it reaches the people.

It was 1600 IST. He had not eaten a morsel since morning. He was feeling faint. What else would you expect to happen to a man who has slept for only an hour-and-a-half every night since the tragedy?

He headed for the convent to have a meal. On the way, many people stopped him to narrate their problems. Some wanted food, others money; one wanted an ambulance. Father Stanley didn't tell them he was hungry or faint, just assured them he would be back in 10 minutes.

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Ganesh Nadar in Kanyakumari