Life is a paradox in the flood-affected island villages. Those trying to rescue are more worried than those marooned. The temples are being ignored, and a river is being offered prayers. And livestock seems to have more value than lives of people.
Pamula Sudhakar (30) of Pamurlanka had left the village on October 2 to attend a last rites ceremony in the next village. On his way back, he saw the floodwaters swarming the fields and surrounding his village, cutting off the road.
“Since that night we haven’t slept. We’ve been on the watch out. We’ve sent away our women and children, but men stayed back for the cattle,” he said.
Not all the women have left. Thirty of them have stayed back though only 20 of the 450 houses in the village stood their ground. “Many cattle only respond to those who have milked them for the first time. And if we don’t milk them for two days, then it affects their health," says Veeramani (45), who stayed back with her husband.
Government officials are having a tough time convincing them to evacuate. “We leave 40 people in the village in the evening. But by the next afternoon, there are 300. They all come back in the relief boats," said D.V. Krishnand, a government official.
The galloping floodwaters pose a challenge to evacuation. The boats are plying on what were green fields. They have to pick their way through electric poles and trees that are submerged till their necks. The snakes are on top of the trees, so the boats can’t get closer. The fences also create problems for the propellers of the lifeboats.
This is a snapshot of the island villages of the Krishna district caught in the floods. The villagers keep coming back and officials are hard at work.
“Each buffalo costs at least Rs 25,000. We have lost our crops and we can't afford to lose our cattle,” said C. Venkateswara Rao (65), a sarpanch.
The villagers have been getting food packets three times a day and they have their ‘logic’ in place. “We will wait till the water is head high, then we will release the cattle. Few of them may survive like that. We will then take the two boats that are on standby, reach the bank and send more boats back,” said Nagendra (30), a villager.
The nearest bank in Thotlavallur, almost 3 km away, looks reinforced with fresh red mud and sandbags. It has turned into a tourist spot of sorts.
People have been coming to look at the surging water or perform pujas. “When Krishnamma (the Krishna River) is in floods, we offer pujas to calm her down,” said Lakshmi (33).
The women who have left Pamurlanka are waiting for their husbands. “The first two days, a couple of cell phones were working in the village. They charged it with the help of the battery in the church. But we haven't spoken to them since,” said Sunitha (40).