What does a 16 year old girl normally converse about? School? Career? Dresses? Movies? Music? Boys? Well, when I and Astha Srivastava (name changed), a sixteen year old from Bal Bharti School, resident of Saraswati Vihar, Delhi had a chat, none of the above topics were discussed. She instead narrated to me an incident or rather an accident of her life which left a deep impact on her mind.
The night of 24th May 2010 had progressed as usual, – dinner, easy banter with her brother- in other words family time. The first signs of unusualness was noted when the electricity started fluctuating erratically, but they thought it to be some power problem in the electricity board, and ignored it.
At around 11.45 pm, call it divine intervention or a miracle, the door bell went off. Her brother opened the door to see who it was but surprisingly there was no one at the door. He was just about to shut the door when he noticed smoke coming out from the outer room in the portico, the room where the electrical meter box was placed. He screamed for his father, who then rushed into the room to find the meter box on fire. It was spreading fast, on to the curtains and the inflammable sheets or awnings there. He tried his best to contain the fire by beating it with a blanket (no water, as it was an electrical fire) who was now joined by his wife. He somehow managed in between to call out to Aastha to switch off the entire electrical appliance and evacuate the house fast and to his son he instructed to call the fire brigade. Meanwhile sparks were flying in the electrical wiring of the house. Aastha managed to switch off the lights and alert the other family members (theirs was a joint family). Her mother started taking handy items to safety as they realized it was a losing battle. Within minutes the fire had engulfed the outer room. Her father retreated and concentrated on saving whatever he could. All of them made a mad dash outside with whatever few they could grab like laptop, purse, bags, phone etc… Helplessly, they stood from afar to see the destruction – motor bike, new scooty, television, ACs, computer, furniture, important papers- they saw it being destroyed. Her grandmother was in tears. Her mother in shock: only her father managed to maintain a stoic calm. She was numb with grief and fear at the sight of her early memories being reduced into ashes. Finally the fire brigade arrived and saved the rest of the house, but the three front rooms suffered massive damage. The cause of the fire was electrical fault.
What followed was worse. Aastha and her brother were bundled off to their relative’s place till the renovation was completed. Their parents stayed back to repair the damage. Other than the worldly possessions, some papers and passbooks were also lost in the fire … The insurance papers of the scooty and the bike were in the vehicle itself. It meant more running about. Her heart went out to her parents who had stayed back at the amenity less damaged house to restore it and who toiled the whole week to make it a home from a burned down house. At last the week was over and their life started coming back to normal gradually. But that one week taught Aastha some important lessons, which even we as responsible citizens may not be wholly aware of.
First- The electrical connection you opt for should be as per your requirements. The kilo watt should be as per the power appliances you will be using. There should be no overload.
2nd – Always go for periodical check up of the wiring of the house. Defective wiring causes short circuits which leads to fire
3rd- Try to insure your house in a comprehensive package against fire damage, robberies etc. These are rare but why take a chance against fate? Here I would like to request the private players of insurances in the market to try reduce the premium for better compliance.
4th- always try to scan your important papers and store in a secure e- mail account. Of course there lies the threat of hacking, but the effort saved in case of an eventuality is note worthy. There are always the trustworthy lockers again.
5th- Try to acquire a fire extinguisher which is effective for all fire types, There is no harm and only gain in keeping one at home.
6th- In case of electrical fire it is important to call along with the fire brigade , the electricity board to cut off the supply at that area in order to contain the fire.
Aastha’s family survived the fire and its aftermath, but I feel Aastha was the true survivor, to not only face this adversity with a maturity beyond her years but also turn it into a learning experience of life.