Anasuya Swamy is still waiting.
Since the devastating floods in South Asia on Dec. 26, Swamy has not heard from a close friend vacationing on India's southeast coast. Late yesterday afternoon, she shared her concerns with a group of nearly 100 fellow Hindus of Indian descent who had gathered at a Carroll County temple to pray for the victims of the natural disaster.
Swamy said her friend, a Baltimore City public schoolteacher, is scheduled to return Tuesday.
"I just hope to see her," she said.
She also expressed hope that survivors of the floods could be reached with donations of food, water and medical supplies before the tragedy spreads.
"Even though we are so many miles away," she said, "we are all connected."
The members of the Greater Baltimore Temple joined together last night in Finksburg to express their solidarity with the millions left stranded or homeless by the devastating earthquake and floods. They offered prayers for the more than 140,000 who have died, and they donated money for survivors suffering in their Indian homeland and other affected nations.
After a one-hour ceremony of praying and singing, the group collected about $15,000, said Atul Patel, secretary for the Greater Baltimore Temple. Several members stood before the congregation, which sat or knelt on the floor before a wall of Hindu deities, to tell of their grief and of their conviction that they could help.
"The world is numb at the enormity of this natural disaster," Dr. Geetha Raja, a member of the temple's board of trustees, told the group. "I want to be there ... to be able to help with the relief work. The best we can do is raise funds for the region."
Elyathamby Vignarajah wanted to be in his native country of Sri Lanka on the morning that the world learned of the floods. The Baltimore schoolteacher's two sisters live in the island nation's capital, Colombo. He said they escaped.
But he said that his wife's cousin was missing and that his sisters shared horrible stories about families caught sleeping by the raging waters and a church whose congregation was swept away by the floods during morning Mass.
Several members relayed unbearable stories from relatives. Some said aftershocks were rattling the nerves of survivors.
"It's so hard to even imagine," said Swamy, an administrator at Morgan State University. Her friend on vacation was staying in the southeastern Indian city of Madras, one of the worst hit.
She said the best they could do for now is to pray, think positively and send donations.
Dr. Chitrachedu Naganna, a member of the temple's board of governors, hails from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on the nation's east coast. He said that his wife is in India and that her visit may have saved the lives of her relatives.
"Her family is on the coast," he said. "But they went to see my wife inland and escaped the waves before they came."
He said the coastal areas of his homeland are lined with expensive vacation houses as well as impoverished fishing villages.
"They all got hurt," he said.
Naganna said groups of doctors in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were organizing trips for doctors to go to India and other countries to help.
"They have doctors but not nearly enough," said Naganna, a cardiologist at Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster.
Temple member Dr. Natvar Rajpara said his organization, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, was sending a team of physicians this week and was in need of donations for supplies.
Another fund-raising and prayer event hosted by BAPS Care International, a charity organization, is scheduled for today in Beltsville.
The temple, which counts as members about 300 families of the Hindu and Jain faiths, has not designated which nongovernmental organization will receive its donation.
In 2001 the temple raised $120,000 for earthquake victims in India. The money was donated to the Ramakrishna Mission, which used it to build 250 houses, schools and a new water supply system.
"The disaster is enormous," Raja said. "I'm sure our community will rise to the occasion."