Jagannath Chatterjee was sheer lucky. On Wednesday morning he gathered two trunks of banana trees and bound them together with ropes. It became a ferry to transport the gruel to his family in the village school nearby. Two hundred families housed in the school were not so lucky – they got almost nothing to eat in the past 48 hours.
Welcome to Chhotomollahkhali, a village in the Gosaba block of south 24 Parganas where water, disease and hunger were ruling since Monday noon when monster Aila struck with fury.
Mongal Chandra Vidyapith, where the Chatterjees took shelter, was not the only school. And Chhotomollahkhali was not the only village. All the neighbouring villages like Kumirmari, Amtoli and Satjelia were flooded.
Reality started hitting hard as one reached Dhamakhali. The jetty was thick with people who were complaining that not a single boat had reached the areas of Sunderbans with any relief material yet.
The real extent of damage started showing up once we started moving through the river. We were a part of a small relief consignment of 2,000 kg of parched rice, 100 kg gur and 100 kg milk powder which telecom giant Airtel was transporting to Chhotomollahkhali.
As we passed through Amtoli village, after a straw came the corpses. Men, women, children and even entire families, Aila had spared none. We spotted six corpses, including a family who were entangled in a tree.
As we disembarked and started walking down the road inside Chhotomollahkhali, not a single house, except a few built of bricks, stood erect. It was here we spotted Jagannath Chatterjee. The Chatterjees could salvage some rice and potato from the kitchen before the water washed away its walls.