Soon, the water will come and claim…


By Samir Alam

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?”

– Gautama Buddha

Kabir didn’t imagine he would be a refugee right next to his own home. A clothes washer at dhobi-ghat in Batla House, Kabir has spent most of his life supported by the river. His normal routine was spent in trudging through the dirty laundry of the neighbourhood and giving it a whitening shine, a service he felt proud to provide. Doing this job for the last 3 years he had finally be able to bring his family, a wife and three children, from his village near Agra to Delhi.
His plan for his family was finally coming together one small step at a time; steady livelihood, followed by a home in the capital and a stable environment to raise and educate his children. However, when the unseasonably heavy monsoons hit Delhi early in September, Kabir couldn’t help but curse the very river that provided him with a living. In the subsequent flooding Kabir not only lost his livelihood but also his home and possessions.
What was once a bustling centre of life in Batla House, filled with working men and women, families and joyous children, is now nothing but a flooded waste land. All its former residents, like Kabir, have been relocated nearby in one of the thousand relief camps in Delhi, right alongside the Yamuna river, just a short distance from the very houses they lived in a short while ago. Now living in a tarpaulin tent, reminiscent of Palestinian refugee camps, Kabir doesn’t know what to do next.
“Life was difficult before but we were managing, making ends meet; now with no home, no work, I don’t think I can support my family anymore.” For Kabir and the many like him, there is little do except wait for the rains to subside and for them to get back to work, away from these refugee conditions. Kabir says, “We are still waiting for some response from the government. They just relocated us here to these tents, but what do we do about food and water? How do we take care of our children?”
A few NGOs have taken steps to resolve these issues such as the case with Delhi based NGO, Society for Bright Future, who distributed plastic sheets to the 41 families at dhobi ghat. But concerns over nutrition and hygiene are still not attended to by the local municipal authorities or civil society.
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~ by samiralam on September 24, 2010.

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