Bihar Diary-I: First Impressions
The Delhi Walla goes to volunteer in the flood hit region.
[Pictures and text by Mayank Austen Soofi]
These are jottings that I scribbled on the notepad during my drive to Purnia, the town closest to flooded regions of north Bihar where I volunteered in relief efforts.
I left Delhi yesterday, left Bhagalpur railway station a few hours ago and now this ramshackle, over-heated ambassador car is driving, or rather bumping its way through Ganga, though Kosi, towards Purnia. I’m going there to volunteer in flood relief efforts.
I stop on the way. Water everywhere. I see the sky with my head down. The river Kosi is not looking deadly. At all. Instead, it is flowing serenely. On the river’s surface, my eyes are following white cranes following each other.
Is this the river that has ravaged north Bihar?
As I drive on, it is hard to believe that an unprecedented human tragedy has been unfolding in such a beautiful landscape. Perhaps hell too is stunning to look at.
“This was all khet,” the driver says. Now it is all ruined. Huts half-sunk in water. A half-submerged hand pump. A takhat floating past a village well. An old woman, perhaps alive, sitting still on a dry spot. Three young men waving goodbyes from a transformer that appeares to be abandoned in the middle of water. And yes, lest I forget, occasional refugee camps lining both sides of the highway.
Used to seeing the dry bed of Delhi’s Yamuna, I look out of the window into the watery expanse and rub my eyes in disbelief. All this was farmland. All this was food. Makai ka khet. Now, it’s over.
At one turning, I see a cow calmly gazing towards the flooded fields. She seems not to be worried where her next fodder would come from. Lucky one.
However, as I near Purnia, the water world is giving way to green fields. Once in the hotel, it is like being back in civilization till the receptionist reminds me that “the ground zero starts not far away.” But it’s already very late. I’ll go there tomorrow.
Take us to some dry place
Open air hamam
We don’t need hand-pumps