'Surviving' U'khand disaster: A report on the living dead

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Bangalore, July 3: Deoli-Brahmagram is a village hamlet, 7 kilometers away from Guptkashi. A small village with a few households, living on the earnings from pilgrims on the 'chaar-dhaam' yatra. The men of the village, most of them mule operators ferrying pilgrims from one place to another, visited Kedarnath everyday for work. But things would change from now on.

With the pilgrimage facilities halted for a year, this means of earning is gone. While this is just one side of the coin, village men are worried more about what lies on the flip side. Most of the men in the village are dead.

The gram-panchayat here have reported 57 men missing, presumably dead, branding it as the village of the 'widows'. As heart-wrenching stories pour in from all quarters of the state, what stuns one is the extent to which the villages in Uttarakhand are bearing the after-math of the calamity. With most of them inaccessible due to broken roads, even meeting the everyday requirements is a challenge for these people.

20 year old Sangeeta does not know what to do now. She is pregnant with her third child and there is no trace of her husband since the flash floods. Almost similar to her story is that of Vanitha, who was married just a year ago and is now grieving her husband's death. She has stopped eating and there is no one to console her because the situation is the same in every second household here.

Uttarakhand

Children too are missing in some cases. Around 13 children between the age of 14 and 18 years have been reported missing here. Students of Rudraprayag Govt School, these children used to learn the business of mule operators in the Kedar Valley during th epeak season. Afterall, that was to be their bread and butter when they grew.

Located on a steep slope, how the village survived the landslide is a mystery.

Grief, trauma and loneliness, post-Uttarakhand floods, is a story that is not resctricted to the villages. Families of the missing and the dead in the cities and the urban areas too are coping with reality. While some have committed suicide, not being able to face the reality, life for the rest is a routine. Words and phrase like "cannot forget", "dead bodies", "death", "help", "nightmares" are not uncommon for the survivors or the families of the dead. In fact, some have decided not to re-visit Kedarnath again because that would bring back nightmares.

Lessons learnt or not, this chapter in the history of India has left an indelible mark in the minds of the people, especially those who are trying to live with the memories of the loved ones they have lost forever.

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