Life & death: A flood story | india | Hindustan Times
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Life & death: A flood story

india Updated: Sep 04, 2008 00:20 IST
Neelesh Misra
Neelesh Misra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The youngest member of the relief camp is two days old. She has no name.

Her grandparents-to-be had cried desperately as the water swept them away last week in Kolaipatti village and hundreds fled. Her mother, nine months pregnant, had begun a long walk that would decide the fate of both mother and daughter.

For Nazrun Khatun, 35, it was a battle to save her life — as well as that of her baby, ready to be born any minute. “The water was rising so fast.. I was losing my mind,” said Khatun, holding her baby in her lap as other homeless villagers looked on, smiling at the baby and trying to play with her. The baby half-smiled; then changed her mind and began to frown.

The family’s dramatic tale began on the morning of August 21. The Kosi was in fury. In Khatun’s home in Madhepura district, people screamed and ran from their homes. Many carried children, and cattle, on their shoulders. Khatun and her husband Mohammed Abbas, 35, decided to flee as well.

Before they knew, they were up to their chests in floodwaters. The family considered its options: waiting it out to see whether the river would rise further, or flee and leave their two buffalos and two bulls behind.

“I had to choose. It was tough but I had to leave behind the cattle,” said Abbad, wearing an undershirt and red-checked scarf hung loosely over his shoulder.

As Khatun groaned in pain and walked, her husband held her hand and walked ahead of his father Ahmed Ali and mother Jebun Khatun, who were supposed to follow. “They got left behind. They ran here and there. Then they disappeared and died,” said Abbas, a farmer who has lost all he had.

Khatun walked 15 kilometres, then took a train, then walked to a relief camp three days ago. She began experiencing labour pains soon after she joined the camp — a large school of two dozen classrooms where more than 2,600 people live now in a helpless, hostel-like existence.

Two days ago, she was ready. “There was no doctor, so two of my friends from the village helped me,” said Khatun, her face weary and sunburnt.

Khatun’s Hindu friend, who helped deliver the baby, takes her into her arms now, swaying her amid laughter from the crowd.

“What’s the name,” someone in the crowd asks.

“We don’t know yet,” says Abbas. “Who has had the time?”