August 23, 2018
“It was not planned. I just prioritised humanitarian action over anything else,” says Fatima Al Mansoori, who was among the hundreds of visitors who witnessed nature’s fury in Kerala. But amid the devastation, there have been several unlikely heroes, and Fatima Al Mansoori is one of them.
A well-known Bahraini yoga teacher, Fatima arrived in Calicut on Aug 11 on a friend’s invitation. It was supposed to be short trip.
She would enjoy the sights before heading to Mangaluru University to conduct a short course. But her plans went haywire as the weather took a turn for the worse. The rains began, and they wouldn’t stop.
The torrential rains were followed by floods and landslides which ravaged the southern state. Fatima was trapped: she couldn’t leave the state or the country as the airport was closed. But instead of worrying, Fatima plunged herself in relief work.
Without wasting time, she offered her help to the flood-affected people of Kerala and thus won millions of hearts.
“I was there on an invitation by my friend Rajeev Kumar, who lives in Bahrain,” Fatima told Bfirst.in. “But situation worsened there all of a sudden and I could not make out what to do. That is when I also decided to do my best for the Keralite community.”
The 35-year-old Bahraini has travelled 120km in Kannur and Wayanad districts and visited rescue centres, temporary schools and safe buildings used for accommodation for the homeless and seen the devastation up close, including a collapsed house in which two people died and the scene of a landslide.
Her journey across Kerala was made possible by Bahrain TV journalist Sirajudheen, who connected her to his friend Noufal, a volunteer working with a youth NGO in Kerala. Noufal guided Fatima to flood-hit locations.
Though she could not understand Malayalam, she says she understood the language of their feelings and sorrows. During her stay in flood-ravaged state, the first thing she did was to highlight the grave situation of Kerala.
“Many twitter and Facebook accounts were stating that the situation in Kerala is not that worrisome and the photos being circulated were either older ones or morphed. But I used my social media accounts to counter them and highlight the gravity of the situation,” she says.
But in rain-battered Kerala, it was not that simple. The internet quality was inadequate in many places and some places didn’t even have it. “Whenever possible, I highlighted the situation with live social media feeds.
In other areas, I just recorded videos and photos and uploaded them later,” Fatima says. During her visit to relief camps, she would get information about the immediate requirements and share it online. “Moreover, they needed emotional support.
There were no language barriers when understanding their emotions and feelings,” she says, recalling her visit to the relief camps. Fatima, who hails from a place called Muharraq in Bahrain, has chosen to dedicate her life to humanitarian work since her mother passed away earlier this year. “It’s a God-guided mission and all I had to do was to respond,” she says.