Though in the company of his loved ones at Wazirabad village, the physical and emotional trauma of the last few days is still evident on 13-year-old Sahil Yadav’s face.
He went with seven of his family members to Kedarnath, but came back alone - after fighting starvation, extreme cold and the haunting images of the dead.
“Two other family members have also returned. I also came back all alone after veering through mountains,” said Sahil, still shaken by the disaster.
Sahil had reached Kedarnath on June 16. “Next day, we went up to the temple in two groups.
I was with my grandmother. Suddenly, water and rubble came hurtling down. In utter fear, we all started running away from the temple. I was washed to one side, only to find my dadi gone,” said Sahil.
Luckily for him, he got onto the roof of a house. “Someone came and told me that it was unsafe there. So, I again wandered onto the roof of another house. A helicopter in the evening came as a ray of hope, but it just hovered above us and left. I felt so disheartened that I cried,” said Sahil.
“There were no provisions with us. Once there was an air drop, but that of wheat! We searched the demolished shops and found some biscuit packets. That is all I ate,” he said.
Sahil joined a crowd of stranded pilgrims, this time to arrive at a mountain where they were made to queue up to get into a helicopter.
“On June 19, we went to Guptkashi and a helicopter landed there but I could not get onto it,” recalls Sahil.
By sheer luck, a television camera caught a glimpse of him.
“We saw him for a jiffy on the TV screen and started hugging each other. Next day a relative went there and brought our Sahil back,” said Sunil Yadav, Sahil’s uncle.
Fourteen people went to Uttarakhand to search for the five members still missing, but they came back with empty hands and heavy hearts on Thursday.