As rubble settles on the flood-ravaged plains and hills of Uttarakhand,thousands of pilgrims are being brought down and with them tales of hope,lucky escapes and heroism in the face of horror and grief.
And there are scores of such tales: of a professor who saved not only himself but a fellow pilgrim whose identity he might never know; of a family from Chittagong in Bangladesh that watched one of theirs being swept away,only to see him come out unscathed.
Sunil Kumar,an assistant professor of pharmacy from Bhiwani in Haryana,went down to the ground floor of the lodge in Gaurikund he was staying in with his family of seven to get some warm milk for his nephew. Just then the flood gushed in and swept him away. The athletic professor,however,managed to catch hold of an iron gate a few yards down,climbed up and jumped on to the railing of an adjacent building. Then he saw a hapless floating down. He lowered a leg to the man,who clung on to it and was saved. I managed to drag myself up to the second floor and helped the person who was covered in mud. I did not even see his face clearly. The only thing I remember is that he touched my feet and thanked me for saving his life, Kumar said.
The flood caught Debanand Bashist,65,of Chittagong unawares at Gaurimat and swept him away before he or his family of four could do anything. His family,on their way back from Kedarnath shrine,had given him up for dead when he resurfaced. I do not know myself how I survived. The water just carried me around for several hundred meters. And then,all of a sudden,I was thrown out on firm land, Bashist recounted. It is a miracle.
A dream unfulfilled
For Sadhu Ram,Sarabjit and Dadu Ram,residents of Bihar,the pilgrimage to Kedarnath was a life-long dream. The three poor men,part of a group of 12,had visited Badrinath and were heading to realise their dream when the flood poured into the Gaurikund base camp. Their lodge was submerged three floors and part of it was blown away. The ferocity of the water was tremendous. The area around us was under water. It was a miracle that though the building was under water,it did not collapse, Sadhu Ram,70,who was airlifted to Jolly Grant Saturday,said. His two friends said it took them an entire day to get out of the submerged lodge. We shouted out for hours and finally some strangers helped us out, Sarabjit said.