• asdyarakoti 68w

    The weather on that particular day in the morning had shown some signs of little normalcy. Hence, many families had sent their children to the school, situated just few kilometres away, despite the heavy rain in a village in Uttarakhand. Meanwhile, as the news of the collapse of the wall of school building reached to the ears of villagers, their hearts sank again. They couldn't believe what had happened. After the rescue team arrived on the spot, it was found out that 18 children were buried alive due to cloudburst. The debris coming from the top in the hill had smashed the wall of the classroom where many students were studying on 18 August, 2010.

    This is the same school from where I completed my primary education till 5th standard. I was in Bageshwar on that day, probably in 7th standard. Our school had been also closed as per the orders of District Magistrate due to heavy rains. I remember watching the visuals of this tragedy on the TV. Later, my mother told me the detailed accounts of the dangerous situation in village, which still sends the shivers down her spine whenever she recalls it. I have narrated the same situation in a bit dramatic manner in the present tense to make it more impactful.

    "The thunderstorm, lightening, and darkness engulf the atmosphere as if the furious nature wants to burst its anger, making the people realise that they stand nowhere in front of it. The deafening sound coming from the collision of clouds in the sky appears more dangerous than the roar of a lion. The end of a village situated in the a backward region in the hilly area surrounded by lofty mountains somewhere in Uttarakhand seems to be imminent.

    This whole scene of terror and nature's wrath has been going on for many days. Earlier people thought that it was just another bad day. But as the days pass by and the intensity of the torrent keeps increasing, people get apprehensive. They become restless. They can't hide their fears anymore. Many trees in the outskirts of the village have been uprooted. The rooftops from some thatched houses have been blown away by the force of wind. Few wire lines of electricity connecting one pole to another have been disrupted.

    Many drains, small plants and bushes are nowhere to be seen, as these have been submerged under the water. The domesticated animals can be seen equally frightened. The sounds of lowing of cows, bellowing of bulls, screeching of monkeys, and barking of dogs have been drowned out in the thunderous ear-piercing voices coming from the above. Most of the water is flowing downwards due to slope of the landscape of the village, leading it to the river, which is quite far away at the bottom of the village, but the courtyards in front of the houses which are enclosed by cement walls are full of water. Anxiety, fear, sadness and all sort of negative emotions and thoughts invoking deep fears have washed over the minds of the villagers. Their minds freeze. The ground beneath their feet slips away. Literally.

    People are afraid of the possibility of some serious unprecedented mishappenings. The news of a village being completely wiped out due to the landslide that they had heard of not very long back adds to their fears. The tall rock that has stood firmly behind the village makes them fearful for the first time as even this solid rock also seems to be shaking. The sight of some naked stones protruding from the rock strikes fears into the hearts of people. And, as one big stone loses its grip from the rock and comes rolling down and falls into the fields with a thumping sound, just few meters away from a house, many people start visualising their death in their minds. Many are praying to the God for the mercy. They start collecting the important belongings such as jewelry and money in case they had to flee from the village if the rain didn't stop and the landslide took more horrible form.

    Old people in the village, who have never ever seen such horrible scenes and the disaster of such magnitude in the village where they have spend their entire life are shocked and awestruck. There are tears in their eyes thinking about the uncertainty that looms large over the survival of the people in the village. They invoke all kind of Gods, Goddesses, and deities in their deep prayers, but to of no avail. People whose houses are situated in the areas more prone to landslide have taken the shelters in the houses of others at relatively safe locations. It's not very effective though, since the village is tiny, and the danger is everywhere. As the only thing that is going into everyone's mind is about the question of survival, they shed the grudges that they held against each other over many trivial issues at least in this moment of crisis."

    The children who lost their lives were from almost all nearby villages. Some of them were from our own village. In fact, one happen to be my my cousin whom I knew as a smiling kid. The Uttarakhand government at that time had announced the compensation worth 2 lac rupee for the loss of each dead student. Many others, including a teacher, were also seriously injured. The school has been shifted to another location nearby the village in a newly constructed building. The old damaged building was turned into the cemetery for those lost 18 lives, with their names inscribed on the limestone.

    -Arjun