Hiroshima Day: How Flowers Brought Hope to a Ghost Town

Hiroshima Then and Today (R)
Amitabh Kumar Das
Amitabh Kumar Das

6th August is the Hiroshima Day. On the 6th August, 1945 the USA dropped an atom bomb on this Japanese town. 80,000 residents, men women and children perished within minutes, nay, seconds. And  thousands succumbed to their injuries in coming weeks and months till the death toll rose to 1,50,000! A vibrant town was reduced to rubbles and ashes. And vultures feasted day and night. Hiroshima turned into a ghost town. The world was horrified. Mercifully, no live telecast took place because there was no CNN cameras back in 1945.

But first the background. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Uncle Sam (the USA) was not involved. The War was by and large a European affair. But in 1945, the tiny Japan, riding on a wave of unbridled militarism and jingoism attacked the US navy base at Pearl Harbour. The US-Japan war began and blood flowed making the Pacific Ocean red. Japan, the land of “samurais” (war-lords) gave the mighty USA a bloody nose in initial stages. Japan was having the upper hand and the Sun Goddess was smiling. But America had an ace up its sleeve. Project Manhattan was in full swing and scientists were working day and night to make an American A-bomb.

On the 16th July, 1945, the USA tested an atom bomb in the state of New Mexico. The bomb was the most deadly arrow in the American quiver. Meanwhile, the War in Europe was coming to an end. Hitler was dead and Nazi Germany was on her knees. At Potsdam in the occupied Germany, a summit of victorious Allied Powers took place. The Big Three were there. President Truman of the USA, Prime Minister Churchill of Britain and Comrade Stalin of the Soviet Union. The Potsdam Conference issued an ultimatum to Japan: lay down arms or face total destruction. But the Japanese were blissfully unaware of the A-bomb. They refused to surrender and fought tooth and nail. “Kamikaze” bombers were diving into chimneys of American warships. They were suicide bombers who strapped explosives on their bodies and  jumped from the sky into warship chimneys causing massive damage. While the American General MacArthur was in favour of conventional bombing, President Truman was losing patience. He wanted the War to come to a quick end. And Truman decided upon the use of the most deadly of bombs.

A B-29 fighter aircraft was readied for the mission. The aircraft was named Enola Gay after its pilot’s mother! The atom bomb was code-named Little Boy, up to some mischief. And at 8.15 in the morning, the aircraft dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima! The “mischievous” Little Boy took 80,000 innocent lives in seconds. Hiroshima was a graveyard  with thousands of corpses strewn across the town. But Japan didn’t surrender. Only after an atom-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, Emperor Hirohito announced unconditional surrender on the radio. As waves of jubilation swept the USA, several Japanese took their lives unable to bear the indignity.

Hiroshima was a ghost town for months. A byword for death and destruction. To Japan it seemed that all was lost. And then one fine morning, Oleandor flower bloomed in Hiroshima! Oleandors are bright yellow flowers, known as “Kaner” in Hindi. Japan was overwhelmed with emotion. There was still hope in the air. Oleandor was declared Hiroshima’s city-flower. Japan rebuilt herself and today ranks among world’ s most developed nation.

When Raj Kapoor sang “Mera joota hai Japani” he was only referring to the industrial boom Japan witnessed during the post-Hiroshima years!

These days, to me India looks similar to Japan after Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies. Fascism rules the roost. Mob lynchings are the order of the day. Corrupt leaders rule the country and the honest Indians face “surgical strikes” day in and day out. Terrorists have become MPs and MLAs rape minor girls. Narendra Modi with his 56-inch chest and 10-lakh suit, wears make-up for a Discovery Channel programme. My eyes also look for flowers. And hope springs eternal in my heart. Yellow oleandors gave hope to Japan. Nehru’s red rose gives hope to India!

(Mr. Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch IPS Officer. His views are personal.).

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