<i>'When I was stranded in Kashmir last week...'</i> - The 5 Minute WrapUp by Equitymaster
Investing in India - 5 Minute WrapUp by Equitymaster
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'When I was stranded in Kashmir last week...' 

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We are taking a break from our usual 5 Minute Wrapup edition to share a deeply moving account of one of our research team members.

So what you're about to read is unlike what we have ever written before. This editorial piece is not about stock investing or the state of the world economy. It is an account of an experience, a true story that we felt compelled to share with our readers... That we believed has some truly inspiring lessons for every human being. So kindly allow us to make an exception here.

This is a story of how capricious and unpredictable our lives are... Of human will and survival... And the immense power we hold within ourselves often without quite comprehending its enormity.

The story involves none other than our dear research team member Richa Agarwal. As many of you would already know, she is the Managing Editor of our smallcap stock recommendation service - Hidden Treasure. Richa has been with us for four years now and has played a key role in building a solid process-driven stock picking approach to discovering high potential smallcap stocks.

Being a travel and adventure enthusiast, she took some days off from work at the start of this month and set sail for a week-long trek around the mountains and lakes of Kashmir. Little did she know that she would soon find herself in the midst of the worst floods in the state in over 100 years!

It was a tough battle of survival. Being stranded for days without food and water... Facing the wrath of cold nights without a shelter... And almost no connectivity!

In the end, her strong will and the benevolence of strangers won over the nature's fury. We are glad to inform you that she is safe and back to work with a bang. But we were keen that our readers get a glimpse of her experience in her own words. So over to Richa now...
    3rd September. The first bout of panic struck as I made my way out of the tent on the second morning of the trek. From the lush green beauty that had enveloped me the other day, everything seemed to have transformed overnight. Everything had snow painted on it. For a while, this novel sight was pleasing to behold. But not too long... For we got stuck in that same place for two days...

    5th September. The trek had to be cut short because of the adverse weather. And we had to make an emergency return by foot. And cover a distance of about 16 km in just one day. We trudged our way through endless patches of snow. The extreme cold had numbed my feet. But I held onto a helper and dragged along. Finally, at the end of it, we saw that the army had been sent in to rescue us. Big relief! Finally done with my dose of adventure, I thought.

    6th September. We made our journey from Sonmarg to Srinagar. With two of my friends, I headed to a hotel facing Dal Lake. The flight was scheduled for the next day. So we spent the day shopping around and taking in the freshness and the beauty of the place. Now that we were in the state capital, we felt safe. Only until we realized we weren't.

    7th September. It was around 9 in the morning when we saw water gushing in and around our hotel and the surrounding area. Water levels were fast rising. And soon enough, the first floor of our hotel was submerged under water.

    The flood didn't show any sign of retreat. We cooked and ate with the staff on the hotel terrace... Waving and shouting at every passing chopper for help...

    9th September. The real alarm rang when the hotel staff said that it could be days before the flood levels receded. And that we had to be evacuated to a safer zone. Only that there were no means to do that...

    That night, the people who operate the lake cleaning vessel came searching for people who needed to be rescued. In five minutes, we packed our bags, headed to the hotel terrace and jumped onto small boats that took us to the large cleaning vessel.

    Mind you, these were not people from the military or the administration. They were common people like you and I. Going out of their way, putting their lives on the line of fire... Just to help absolute strangers... They were so kind they even offered us money, which we politely refused.

    We made our way to another hotel that was at a relatively higher altitude and safer. A big moment of relief! Now we only had to make our way to the Governor House from where choppers would drop us to the air force station. From there, free flights were being offered to some major cities. And then, home wouldn't be too distant.

    10th September. A military truck drove us to the Governor House. And we soon realized that the adventure was far from over. We saw a kilometer-long line of stranded tourists and locals outside the gate of the Governor House. Some said there were over 15,000 people. Could be even more... All waiting to take the chopper ride to safety... But since we were under the care of the administration, we thought we were safe and that help would be prompt.

    But as it turned out, this was the most challenging part of our never-ending adventure.

    We spent two full days and a night on the streets without shelter and help... No food... No water... No sleep... No means to communicate to our families that we had survived...

    The place was in absolute chaos... People were distressed, angry, hungry... There was slogan shouting... Almost a riot-like situation emerged.

    11th September. After the long trial, we finally found ourselves on a chopper at around 6 pm. During that brief, 20-minute ride, we saw the entire city submerged under water. There was devastation everywhere. On reaching the air force station, we were taken on board a flight to Delhi.

    12th September. After spending the night at the Delhi airport, we finally got back home next day morning. Home, finally!
This was the most intense and extreme experience of my life. Now when I look back at the entire episode, I feel immensely grateful to all the help that came my way from absolute strangers. The experience, despite its trials and tribulations, has left me with a totally renewed perspective on life and on people. Here are some key lessons that I felt were worth sharing:
  • 'It can never happen to me'

    We always think this way until it actually happens to us. Never take anything for granted.

  • Prudence always pays; but that doesn't mean you stop living

    Prudence doesn't mean not taking any risk at all. Because not taking any risk means doing nothing at all. So don't shy away from taking calculated risks and be prepared for what comes.

  • Sometimes it's better to not know how bad things are...

    On returning back, I realized that my folks and friends had been way more worried than I had been. In fact, given the 24x7 news updates, they knew a lot more about the flood situation in Kashmir than I did. But I'm glad I didn't know too much. Sometimes too much unnerving information can be less help and more trouble. It can break your morale, your most valuable asset in times of distress.

  • The genie that resides within each one of us

    It is only during such extreme experiences that you see the most raw and undiscovered aspects of your personality and that of others. When crisis struck, the power to deal with it came along. Human will and hope prevailed. The survival instinct prevailed. Goodness prevailed.
And that was not so bad an ending after all.

Happy and Safe Living! Happy and Safe Investing!

Warm Regards,

Richa Agarwal


Have you or someone close to you ever experienced a close brush with disaster? How did it change your life and your perspective towards everything? Let us know your comments or share your views in the Equitymaster Club.
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20 Responses to "'When I was stranded in Kashmir last week...'"

S.R. Jagganmohan

Sep 21, 2014

Dear Ms Richa Agarwal,

You are a stronger person after this experience. Your kind nature also got renewed. You are an asset to the community.

Best wishes

S.R. Jagganmohan

Like (1)

Mitesh Shah

Sep 19, 2014

The experience and the key lessons are real hidden treasure which will be an inspiration to all.

Like (1)

Dr Malpani

Sep 18, 2014

Dear Richa,

Congrats for sharing.

Please upload photos of your experiences as well !

Aniruddha

Like (1)

pratish

Sep 18, 2014

Hi Richa ,
I can very well corelate of what you have witnessed in the midst of nature's fury since I had a similar experience getting stuck in Odisha's supercyclone in 1999.Life is a blessing.God bless.

Like (1)

Bhushan

Sep 18, 2014

Hi Richa,
While the news gave us an update on the Kashmir floods, this is the first time that I read a first person account of the ordeal faced.
I am sure you and your friends must have gone through much more.
Thanx to the almighty for your and your friends safe return.
And thank you for sharing your experience which I must say moved me deeply.

Like (1)

menezes

Sep 18, 2014

So we spent the day shopping around and taking in the freshness and the beauty of the place. Now that we were in the state capital, we felt safe.
Well the above was the most unreasonable thing to do
Because SNOW MELTS & WATER will rush DOWN STREAM
We made our way to another hotel that was at a relatively higher altitude and safer
Well the local people KNOW what to do
We saw a kilometer-long line of stranded tourists and locals outside the gate of the Governor House
Like I said earlier U should not have gone shopping / take things for granted .U should have rushed to Q up & get back HOME
Well we should always give due regards to NATURE no matter where we are

Like (1)

pankaj

Sep 18, 2014

Richa

It is heartwarming to hear that you are safe.Having lost 3 of my relatives in kedarnath last year, I can relate to what you went through.
I guess you keep so many of us out of troubled waters through your research, someone up there is taking good care of you.
God bless & thanks for sharing.

Pankaj

Like (1)

vishal

Sep 18, 2014

wow ...richa survived...great...maybe there is a greater purpose to that....maybe she will make the subscribers to the smallcap stocks recommendation RICH (A)....ha!....

Like (1)

Lester

Sep 18, 2014

This is truly inspiring! Thanks Richa for sharing your story, I admire you fighting spirit! Cheers!

Like (2)

JAYESH MISTRY

Sep 18, 2014

Dear Richa & friends,

God is Great.....Good experience for the fact of life...some time with such experience, we know the fact of life...and also know how poor people live life....We can come out from such situation if we have faith in God, Patient, ability to adopt risk and at all humanity of stranger who save and help to change location...
long long Happy life...

Like (1)
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