Monday, Sep 15, 2014

In school that survived landslide, many stories of death and life

Some notebooks at the school. Source: Arul Horizon. Some notebooks at the school. Source: Arul Horizon.
Written by Sunanda Mehta | Malin | Posted: August 6, 2014 2:09 am

‘Himmat Dava Thodi (Give me some courage)’

No, no please don’t, Don’t give me anything to eat, This hostile rain, Took my brother away from me/

Flood has destroyed,

Everything that I had, My dear house, And even my school bag/ I saw my doll, Floating away, None of my toys,

Could really stay/

Give me some courage, Don’t give money, To learn further I need, A school bag, not your penny.

Roughly translated, this is what the poem in Marathi, with lines that now seem almost prophetic, says. It occupies a page in one of the many notebooks that still lie — some stacked, some strewn — on the desks of the classrooms of the Zilla Parishad Prathmik School, Malin. It’s the only building, other than the four Dalit houses, that remain of this village in Pune’s Ambegaon tehsil where a landslide buried 150 people early July 30 morning. Of the dead, at least 21 were children, 19 from this school.

While the child who wrote the above poem was not among the dead, Savita Dilip Lembhre was not as lucky. The notebooks of the 11-year-old stand out for being the only ones covered in the typical brown paper associated with schools.

Her body was among the first to be fished out, along with those of her seven siblings and mother.

Her English notebook has three essays — ‘My School’, ‘My Pet’, ‘My Teacher’ — each of which fetched her seven marks out of 10. On her school, Savita wrote: “There is a garden (in) the front part of our school. This garden gives our school beautiful look. Students go there in the recess. They sit in the grassy plot….”

Savita wasn’t off the mark in describing the school. While it only had 72 students, the zilla parishad school from Classes I to VII that was set up in 1950 is one of the better ones in the area, also teaching its students through e-learning. Supported by Empathy Foundation, it got a new building in June 2012. Now in place of the “grassy plot” Savita wrote about is marshy land on which ambulances are parked. The school building itself got saved as it is located adjacent to the hill that was washed away.

In her History notebook, Savita has a section on the Stone Age. In reply to a question asking ‘What is archeological excavation?’, she writes, “Structures which are buried because of natural calamities like floods and earthquakes need to be excavated with least damage.”

Her brother Santosh Lembhe’s notebooks lie next to hers. The one on top lists over a hundred words alphabetically in English, with their meanings in Marathi. He starts with ‘Alive’, next to which is its Marathi translation, ‘Jeevant’.

The Class I room has colourful reinforced plastic desks and chairs. In a groove under the desks lie notebooks of students. Two of them, with early-stage letter-writing exercises, belong to Soham Zanjare continued…

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