The drive to Nakhki Ghat is long. We have to turn back and find an alternate route on occasion as the access roads are still covered in knee-deep water, too deep for our auto-rickshaw and motorcycle to safely negotiate. Smiles and waves greet us as we travel through unfamiliar neighborhoods, repeatedly stopping to ask for directions, the flood relief banner on the back of the rickshaw telling people of our mission. Although the water has receded in the narrow streets we are travelling, the watermarks are clear on the buildings and everywhere the ground is covered in thick mud and trash.
The distributions have been organized through local community leaders. The names of the families to receive assistance have been listed. The fathers, mothers and children are gathered in the meeting area, a small communal park that has a swarm of dragon flies blessing all gathered. Here the names are read and we distribute the food parcels. The scene is completely orderly. The people crowded around us are calm and gracious. Their quiet thanks is evident in their eyes, the nods of their heads and in their eagerness to assist others to receive their share. There is such nobility present even in their obvious need and poverty.
At the same time as we are sharing with the people gathered at the distribution point, another 200 meals are being taken by one of the community leaders to more distant areas of this large community. Once all those in the park have received their hot kitchari, we begin to walk door to door distributing the remaining meals.
The community is built right on the river’s edge, and we are told the water has already dropped significantly. The depth is hard to gauge, but the distance is over 20 feet in this low lever area. As we walk along the single lane that is above water level, we give food to mothers couched in their doorways, and to fathers unable to come to the distribution point. They watch us arrive without asking for anything, but eagerly reach out to receive the food as we take the parcels from our bag. They are reserved, but there is a warmth evident even beneath the hardship so present in their features and body.
The destructive force of the water is evident in this community. Here a house has collapsed, the foundations of another are eroded away leaving the brick walls precariously balanced. Another lean-to has no soil in front of it, the entire floor area having collapsed into the river. The mud walls of other houses have been dissolved by the floodwaters, leaving holes that look as though chunks have been nibbled away.
Moving into the center of the community, we continue to distribute meals, and children begin to run up to us to see what is happening. They walk with us as we move house to house, watching and waving shyly, craving handshakes, photos, but most of all, our attention. We finish the distribution, having offered about 600 meals to this community, and as we walk back to our meeting point, the children begin to laugh and wave openly. One girl begins to dance. The women smile as we pass back by them to leave. Each moment with these people opens my heart, and to offer each small token of love and care on behalf of our global community is an exquisite gift.
It is dark now walking through the narrow streets back to the main road. One of the Asmita volunteers grabs my hand and says “You are my friend”. We hug and begin to talk: she practicing English, me practicing Hindi. The conversation is halting, but filled with love. In this moment it seems like the only possible end to a week spent together serving these communities in need.