On June 11, 2013, Anita Sharma’s biggest concern was that her 12-year-old son Deepanshu had got left out of a family trip. Twenty-two members of the extended Sharma family and seven of their neighbours had left for a Chaar Dhaam yatra, but Anita had stayed back with Deepanshu. The boy had insisted on going, but the seats had filled up and the driver wouldn’t take any more passengers. “No one on that bus returned from that trip. Kripa hai bhagwan ki, Deepanshu mere paas hai (Thank God, Deepanshu is with me),” she says.
On June 14, three days after the bus carrying 29 people left the Sharmas’ Khanpur Extension house in Delhi, Anita got a call from her husband confirming that they had reached Kedarnath and would visit the shrine the next day. That was the last conversation they had.
A year later, the family’s three-storeyed house wears a deserted look. “My husband, daughter, in-laws, brother-in-law, his wife and son used to stay in this house,” says Anita. Now she lives here with Deepanshu and two of her husband’s nephews who lost their parents in the floods.
“The entire family used to go on pilgrimages every year — Vaishno Devi, Amarnath… My husband wanted to take his ageing parents to Kedarnath. But God had other plans for them,” says a tearful Anita, showing a large picture frame that has photographs of all the family members who died last year. “I have nothing left. I keep hoping my husband will come back some day,” she says.
Anita’s eldest brother-in-law Yogesh Sharma, 55, and his family, who live in Saket, weren’t part of the Kedarnath tour. Immediately after the tragedy, Yogesh visited Kedarnath twice, staying behind for several days each time, hoping to get some information. “The list of survivors had names of some of our family members. We went to the rescue camps but didn’t find any of them. Maybe there were other people with the same names,” he says.
A year after the tragedy, the family continues to wait for the compensation amount to reach them — the death certificates were released only in April this year. Yogesh also plans to go to Kedarnath again this year. “It has been a year. Maybe there will be someone who can tell us something about our relatives. We keep hoping that at least one of them will come back,” says Yogesh.