16th October 2013, 8am, Kotma
Today is my last day in Kotma, so I came out for a longer stroll today morning. I left the hostel saying I will be late today.
We came here on 5th for a one day visit. We had heard about Dr. Tulsidas and how after hearing about the Uttarakhand disaster he decided to dedicate his service in the region, choosing the remotest of villages for his medical camps. It was meant to be just one day stop. But the moment I reached the ashram (or the hostel) he has started here and stared at the mountains from there, I knew this place was special. A kind of a calm came over me despite the long trek to reach the village.
We left the next day back to the hustle and bustle of SNC :). After a few days, I found myself back in Kotma, staring at the mountains. Dr. Tulsidas started me on morning walks from the next day and a 3km down and up trek to and from the river has now become an everyday affair.
The first time I came down to the river and walked to the river, I had a feeling as if I was walking on the surface of some other planet. Boulders of every size – from the biggest to the smallest; rusted rods; parts of a truck; torn tin sheets all laid there. As if human beings once lived here.
Earlier I was told there was a hydro electric power plant on the river. It was hard to believe it looking from top because there was absolutely no trace of it except for a hanging pipeline along the mountain.
Next day I went further down the river and saw the left over building blocks of what must have been the plant. One day I also went up the mountain and came across the fore bay and signs warning people of the heavy water flow through the bay. I smiled at the irony of the board.
A couple of nights when it rained I could sense the fear and see the haunted look in the eyes of children staying at the ashram. Will they ever be able to see ganga as the calm river that it was known as? Children are scared of stepping into the river that had been their playmate since generations. On the surface life seems to be moving forward, people have found refuge in their faith and moved beyond the blame game. But going a little further deep exposes their wounds and memories.
The images of destruction that I have seen are nothing when I see some pictures that people clicked during the first 3 days. Archana had asked me in the first few days itswlf if i want to see pictures of destruction. And my instant response was no. I was reluctant to see them because what I saw on the ground was itself too much for me to take but eventually while preparing a report I did stumble into that folder. What I saw left my wih goosebumps and sent a shiver down. It been almost 2 weeks since I saw those pictures of floods, damage and of dead bodies yet they keep coming back to haunt me. And if that is my situation, I can not even think of being able to empathise with what the people here must be going through.
In about a week’s time I will be going back from uttarakhand. It will be the end of my volunteering time here in uttarakhand but in spirit I know I am leaving a part of me here. the part that will keep reminding me about my place in this universe, the futility of things we worry about when life has its own plan for us.
And now I feel the river is making me jump from one thing to another and I shall close my phone and just enjoy the sound of it.
Paradise on earth?
16th October 2013, 8am, Kotma