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Ganjam to celebrate a dark Diwali

11-year-old Balia,who lost his father and his home,shares the fate of an entire village

Written by Debabrata Mohanty | Ganjam | Published: November 3, 2013 12:25:25 am

More than two weeks after Phailin tore through Ganjam district,it’s going to be a dark Diwali for children like 11-year-old Balia. There will be no colourful lights adorning the entrance to his house,nor will they be any fireworks dotting the skyline in front of it.

More than 400 villages in the district live in darkness,unsure of when the government will restore their electricity after the cyclone ripped apart the power lines. It seems as though the devastation that Phailin brought has made residents look grimmer.

Balia lives in Podampeta,a village inhabited predominantly by fishermen. He lost his father Krishna three months ago. Krishna had gone fishing in a neighbour’s boat and his body washed ashore a few days later.

When Phailin hit,Balia’s brother was away at his maternal uncle’s home and the child was forced to drag his ailing mother Kameshwari to a cyclone shelter in his village.

When they returned on October 13,they found the house in shambles — one wall had collapsed and the asbestos roof had blown off. The only wooden cot in the one room was swollen with rainwater that constantly dripped though the open roof. “All my books and notebooks must be drenched. My uncle told me not to go inside as it may collapse anytime,” he said.

This story is not an isolated one. Before the cyclone hit Podampeta,there were around 300 homes,most of them thatched houses. As waves rose to 15 feet and wind clocked more than 250 km per hour,over half of the houses on the beach were washed away by the sea. Mud and concrete house that were around 50 feet away from the sea were also devastated in the cyclone.

Balia and his mother often have to go hungry. “Some days he (Krishna) would earn something or else we would go hungry. He would sell fish in the local market and with the little money he would get,he managed to replace the thatched roof with an asbestos one.” With so little to eat,Balia often longed for the mid day meal he would get in school.

Balia and his mother,last week,took shelter in his uncle Babaji’s one room pucca house. But villagers in Podampeta ask who will take care of him in the event that something happens to his mother. “When his father was alive,at least he could get a decent meal. Now his mother cannot repair the house. God knows what would happen to the poor child if anything happens to his mother,” said Adyamma,a villager.

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