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In wake of Assam floods, a family struggles with the loss of their bubbliest child

Kamrup family lost their 13-year-old son last week after he fell into a flooded pit close to his home

india Updated: Aug 20, 2017 13:40 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Nagarbera
assam floods,kamrup,northeast
The younger brother and the aunt of the victim show the spot where the teenager drowned on Thursday. (Utpal Parashar)

Floods are an annual phenomenon in Nagarbera---like many parts of Assam. But despite witnessing surging waters of the Brahmaputra so close for several years, Kushal Das never learned to swim.

The oversight cost him his life. The 13-year-old’s lifeless body was found last Thursday inside a flooded pit located barely 200 metres behind his home in Medhipara village in Nagarbera circle of Kamrup district.

The student of Class VII had gone out late afternoon looking for the family’s cows. When he didn’t return, a search was launched. Kushal’s uncle discovered the body close to an inundated road.

The pit which resulted in Kushal’s death was dug up by earth movers to fill a newly constructed road and was never covered up. If he knew how to swim, he might have been alive.

The shattered family cremated the boy on Friday.

For officials, Kushal is just a statistic—one of the 63 killed in the second spate of flooding across Assam this season. But for the family of the only victim from Kamrup, he was the spark which kept everyone happy.

The second of Anil Das and his wife Sabhya’s three sons, the teenager was a livewire who used to play pranks with his brothers, parents, grandparents and uncles and aunts and help everyone with their tasks.

“His elder brother passed Class X board exams on his second attempt. Kushal used to joke he would take four attempts to cross that barrier. He didn’t get even one chance,” his mother breaks down recollecting memories at their home--115 km away from the state capital.

The annual deluge has taught people in Nagarbera to prepare for eventualities. The plinths of most houses, even the mud huts, are constructed a few feet higher to ensure flood waters don’t enter homes.

Anil Das, who works as a labourer in the public works department (PWD), had also done the same. But while his house was saved, the flooded paddy field where the pit was dug out brought tragedy.

With Kushal gone, his father is busy trying to complete the formalities needed to secure the compensation given to flood victims so that the last rituals could be organised well.

“Unlike his brothers, Kushal was very close to me. He would come to me and ask if I needed any help with the housework. Who would have known fate would snatch him away so soon?” Anita, the teen’s paternal aunt, said.

Elder brother Ajit is numb with shock. He stares blankly at everyone most of the time. Once in a while, the 17-year-old exhorts his mother to compose herself and stop crying.

“Kushal was very scared of policemen. He would hide every time he saw one. On Friday, however, his body was brought home on an ambulance from Guwahati (after the post mortem) accompanied by few policemen,” mother Sabhya said.

This year’s floods have had a heavy toll on human lives. The death toll in the two rounds of flooding (in July and August) has already claimed 147 lives.

Like Kushal’s family, lives of others who lost their dear ones would never be the same. Damaged houses would get rebuilt, but the broken lives of those left behind may never heal.

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 13:40 IST