Losing their homes along with their past that they have built brick by brick, the residents of Uttarakhand's Joshimath now spend their time in fear and trepidation. Dreams of children are being crushed under the debris of relentless construction work and unregulated gentrification.
In Chamoli district, located at a height of 6150 feet, nature's fury is on full display in Joshimath as land is sinking, water is leaking, and houses and buildings are beginning to show deep cracks. People have had to flee their homes. One such resident, Chandralekha Bhatt, tells The Quint her gut-wrenching story.
Holding back her tears, Chandralekha said, "we are four sisters, my father rears goats and takes care of the family. My mother was an only child, so my maternal grandfather built us a house. We were living happily. I also studied up to the intermediate level and hoped that I would be able to support my family after completing my education. Nature, however, decided to play this cruel joke on us."
She added that "those who are staying in their homes during these cold nights are the most fortunate."
"Of course I am young, but when I see my mother's tears, I am afraid that my mother's time will come before me. She had told me that she built our house by carrying stones on her back."
Chandralekha, whose younger brother left the family a long time ago, laments that her mother has stopped talking to her and the rest of the family.
"Maybe she is worried about how my daughters will get married. Now, the house is abandoned, the fields and apple orchards have collapsed along with the maanasik santulan (mental state) of our family."Chandralekha Bhatt, Resident, Joshimath
Being the eldest, Chandralekha said that she is well aware of her mother's situation. "As our house is collapsing, my mother is lurking in the corner of the courtyard. Even if I want to, I cannot shed two tears because if I break down, my family will break down. I have a duty to my family."
"The Palaces Will be Swept Away, Only Ashes Shall Stay"
Famous folk singer Girda's lines seem befitting for the current crisis in Joshimath:
On the one hand, I see ruins, on the other it's you.
On the one hand, I see sinking boats, on the other it's you.
On the one hand, rivers running dry, on the other it's you.
On the one hand, a parched world, on the other it's you.
Your ways are amusing, you're the merchant of water
The game is yours, and you're the player, this chessboard belong to you
You suck all the water, you plunder seas and oceans
In the bosom of Ganga-Yamuna you pound pebbles and stones
Alas! This greed of yours, how long will this selfishness last?
The day this planet will shake, from this madness you will awake
The palaces will be swept away, only ashes shall stay
When you will yearn for every drop, tell me O merchant - what will remain then?
What will remain of your balancesheets?
Today you can do what you will, you can starve the rivers
Make the Ganga murky
But the day this Earth shakes
Tell me O merchant, what will remain then?
Tell me O schemer, what will remain then?
What will remian of your balancesheets?
Input Credits: Madhusudan Joshi
(This story was originally published in Quint Hindi.)