A decade after tsunami tragedy, orphaned children move on

Chennai, Dec 24: Twenty-three girls who landed in a Tamil Nadu orphanage after losing one or both parents in the tsunami tragedy 10 years ago have moved on with their lives - with dreams of becoming an IAS officer or getting hitched.

A decade after 2004 tsunami tragedy
Their lives changed forever after the tragedy on the morning of Dec 26, 2004. But students living in the Annai Sathya Government Orphanage in Nagapattinam district, 325 km from here, have chosen to look forward.

They cheerfully talk about their studies, career goals and interests.

"I want to become an IAS officer and that is why I am studying B.A. in history," Gomathi told IANS over phone from Nagapattinam.

Over the years, they have become close to the hostel warden. For them, the warden is their mother and friend.

"We want to go back to the beach. We do not fear the sea now," Abhirami, a first year student of B.A. in English Literature, told IANS.

"I chose the course as suggested by our mother (warden Mahalakshmi)," Abhirami added.

"I like English and Maths subjects and do not like Social Science subject. I like to play carrom and watch actor Vijay's movies," Meena studying in Class 8 told IANS.

"The tsunami wounds have healed. The girls are now looking ahead," Mahalakshmi told IANS.

She said most of the girls who had come to the orphanage a decade ago are now married. "Their surviving parents or other relatives wanted them to settle down in life," Mahalakshmi added.

"Earlier the tsunami children (as they are called), used to have a forlorn look. But now things have changed...," Angalammal, the other warden at the hostel, told IANS.

They were brought to the home by a government official who found them as three to four-year-olds, crying alone after the tsunami wave.

Barring two girls at the orphanage - Meena, 14, and Sowmya, 15, - all other girls have relatives - mother or a father, brother(s), sisters and others.

Over 100 children were brought to the orphanage after the tragedy stuck, but many of them have left the campus after completing their studies.

The tsunami, triggered by an undersea quake off the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, hit the Tamil Nadu coast killing around 8,000 people in Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Chennai and Kanyakumari.

Around 6,100 lives were lost in Nagapattinam district alone.

Over 230,000 were killed by the tsunami in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

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