The past three days have seen us making hot meal distributions in three different parts of town and we find each neighborhood is in a unique position in terms of their recovery. On Thursday we distribute food at Konia, and here the thick mud is making access for residents treacherous. On Friday, we return to Nagwa at the confluence of the Assi and Ganges rivers, where mud is secondary to the destruction of almost all the shelters along the riverbank. And today at Samne Ghat, we still walk through knee high water to meet community representatives who then carry the sacks of hot meals balanced on their heads as they wade in chest high water back to their still isolated community. In these past 3 days we have still distributed over 700 hot meals to families in need.
What struck me here was the mud. Not just the quantity of mud, but the quality of the mud these people are living in each day. They have placed planks of wood from roof to roof and walk these planks to cross the street. They know where the mud is deepest and avoid this. And it is everywhere. It is difficult to navigate the mud on the motorbike so at a number of points I walk. The mud is so soft. It is like custard and my foot sinks straight in, looking for a foundation. The ladies excitedly point the best way for me to go, and I am eager to follow their instructions and get through this sticky, seemingly porous lake of black mud.
On returning to Nagwa I am struck by how much the water has dried out in this open area at the mouth of the Assi river. There is no shade and no protection and even though originally under many feet of water, much of the surface is now cracked and dry. However, almost every shack has been destroyed along this stretch of the river. The dampness under the surface, the piles of trash and wet building materials remain as further evidence of the flooding.
We place our bags of food on a wooden trolley and begin to distribute the meals in front of a pile of rubble, iron sheets and bamboo poles that had once been a home. The mother and girl who once lived here calmly wash plates beside us. Theirs is one of a long line of homes now destroyed. Some have begun reconstruction with the wet bricks that remain, others have not yet made any progress. Standing in front of these ruins, we are quickly surrounded by many dirty, ragged children reaching to receive their meals. Once they have their meals, they gather their friends and return. We give them meals and then they watch us silently, with a shy but ready smile whenever we look towards them. They bring their parents as well, and many parents take extra meals back to their other family members. As we finish an old lady limps up to us and says in English ‘Thank you”.
Before Saturday’s distribution at Samne Ghat we have the opportunity to visit some local areas where the floodwater has receded. Walking down a lane towards the Ganges we are met by abandoned vendor carts still mired in the mud. A dead dog lies at the front entrance to a house. The shop owners next door are sweeping and shoveling the mud from their tiny shop into the mud outside. People are returning to their lives. Further along bamboo sticks and a few flapping pieces of cloth mark what remains of a shanty town. Many of the haphazard shacks built along the road are still empty, but the slum dwellers from here are gradually returning to what remains of their world, rebuilding their lives from this rubble.
The distribution at Samne Ghat is a flashback to the few days of our team’s distribution. We round a building and face dirty muddy floodwaters filling the alleyway. Some buildings are now above the waterline and the residents encourage us through. As we approach a second gate, the food is moved into smaller sacks and taken by some local community members. A woman shows us the watermark on her house, at approximately 7ft. We pass houses where the water is still at door handle height. Another woman sits on her steps to the second floor, her wooden bed still immersed in the water on her ground floor, the water outside her house over my knees. We round 2 more corners with the water becoming dirtier, muddier and deeper the further we walk. Then we are told to stop. The community members continue onwards into the water, raising the bags onto their heads as the water continues to deepen until they disappear round the corner with the water at chest height.
Although it is 2 weeks since commencing, each experience still has great impact and the people we meet continue to be an inspiration, their gratitude and Light a beacon on the muddy waters.