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The water scares me.

I look out on the river beside my house. Everything is serene and quiet.  The inhalations and exhalations of the tides add a beautiful rhythm to even the gloomiest day. The glistening and the ripples, the sparkles and the splashes. It’s calmness personified.

But now, this water scares me.

It frightens me because I saw yesterday what water can do. I have seen the live TV images of huge waves pushing themselves inland, carrying trees, cars, boats and houses as if they were matchsticks. I have seen, as we all have now, the sudden loss of possessions, of dreams, of lives, of everything, in a cancerous upwelling of this self-same liquid that flows silently past me every hour of every day.

Those images will not leave. The cars turning and reversing in panic. The houses crushed to a pulp in an instant. The fishing boats floating drunkenly over roads and streets. The manicured fields: one second ordered and cultivated; the next, crushed under a mass of human detritus and shapeless debris. A vast battlefront, more powerful and destructive than any army ever launched against an enemy. A formless hegemonising goo exerting its dominance over our civilisation. The immediate nullification of decades of patient human labour. Vast swathes of land reclaimed by a master more powerful than the greatest of our technologies.

What makes it scariest of all: its unconsciousness. Its indifference to the vast suffering it inflicts. This monster is nothing but a function of physics and geology. All else is moot. You get in the way, you die; no matter how virtuous or deserving your plight. The greatest cruelty is unleashed when no mind or conscience is involved.

I look out on this expanse of water and I imagine a giant black wave of destruction turning the corner and advancing up the channel towards me. I imagine stone buildings turned to rubble in front of my eyes. I imagine the windows exploding and and an unconscionable mess flowing into every room of the house. I imagine the walls of the house groaning and capitulating under the relentlessness of the planet’s most powerful weapon. Beyond this, my imagination fails me.

So you may babble away, dear water. You may bubble and sigh. You may lap upon the shore and twinkle under the passing flutters of a playful breeze. But I cannot trust you. Your darkness knows no limit.

It’s now just over 4 years since the tsunami hit South Asia.

These two videos convey to me the horror of the event. They were both taken in Banda Aceh in Indonesia at the very moment the huge wave forced itself upon the city, causing unimaginable devastation and a legacy of suffering that will last a long, long time.

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