Most houses and shops in and around the main market of Karnaprayag,on the road from Badrinath to Rishikesh,are damaged,yet the residents work and sleep in them. For they dont have a choice.
And they take heart from the belief that they understand their environment. It is possible,Parsingh Kandwal,a musician,explained,to sense an impending disaster if one spares time to understand the mood of nature in the hills. If the colour of river starts to change,we sense trouble. The colour change comes from silt and mud that goes in after heavy rain upstream.
Yet this time,Kandwal was taken by surprise. Karnaprayag is located near the confluence of Pindar and Alaknanda so when the flood swept in,it came with double the fury. I thought the level of the river would not rise. But I was wrong, Kandwal said. I woke up to blast-like sounds; stones being broken up by the powerful currents of the river.
They had built a wall around their house to keep the river out,Kandwals wife said. But there is no trace of it now.
The water poured into the house,cracked it and made away with household items,a computer and a music system.
Now that it has ebbed,Karnaprayag is getting back on its feet. Kandwal has started repairing his house. As for his and his familys safety,he hopes his intimacy with Mother Nature would stand him in good stead.
Vinay Dhimari,who lost a portion of his house to the flood,too has hedged his safety on Mother Natures subtle warnings. When Alaknanda rises,it blocks the flow of Pindar. So Pindars water accumulates in our areas, he said. There is a long stretch between Pindari glacier,Pindars origin,and here. We keep in touch with villagers upstream to know if there is cloudburst or rain. That alerts us.
This time,however,Dhimari said,it was just too much.
But Rampati,who has seen many a disaster in her 67 years,blamed the young generations lack of touch with nature. It rained continuously for three days but the younger people ignored natures warning. They waited for the disaster to happen, she lamented.