Dehradun: For three days, Atul Negi, 29, was a possessed man — he lost his voice, turned violent and needed at least seven people to hold him down whenever someone asked him how he survived in the floods that have wreaked havoc in parts of Uttarakand and killed hundreds, perhaps thousands.
The family was really surprised to see the docile, quiet man so violent. Their only conclusion was that he was a changed man because of what he saw before he was rescued by the army choppers.
Negi worked in one of the hotels in Ghangharia, on the way to the famed Valley of Flowers.
Lying in the state-run Doon Hospital, Negi’s condition has improved a bit. And much of the credit goes to the loving care his family has given him, enabling him to forget some of the horrifying images he was getting whenever he would close his eyes.
“He has quietened down now. In the initial days, he was very difficult to control. He was very violent. He couldn’t speak and that angered him further,” his nephew Sandeep told.
Ask Negi how he is, and the diminutive man just nods his head, indicating he was well now.
Negi is still not in a position to talk even after being rescued a week back.
Sandeep said his uncle was swept away by the flood waters and was carried a long distance away. As he was drifting in the water, he somehow managed to climb atop a hotel structure that was in some height and was intact.
“He stayed at the roof top for five days – without food and water. When he was rescued on June 25 by the army, he was motionless, but was breathing,” Sandeep said.
Negi, who still looked frail and in a trance, was then transferred to the Doon Hospital.
“He has not told us what has happened. He just mumbles. We have guessed that perhaps he has seen some bodies – maybe someone he knew – and so much devastation that has totally affected him. At night, he suddenly shouts and says ‘leave me, leave me’. I am scared about his mental health. I hope he improves soon,” Sandeep added.
Asked whether any psychologist has come to meet Negi, Sandeep said his uncle was being treated for cuts and bruises.
“I don’t think any psychologists have come so far,” Sandeep told.
Rakesh Lal, 26, who worked as a porter and had a pony, looks extremely dejected. His right leg had to be amputated.
His relatives allege that though Lal was rescued in time, the state government transferred him to at least three hospitals before bringing him to Doon hospital.
“They wasted so much time. By the time, he reached here (Doon Hospital), it was too late. The septic had set in by then in his right leg, which had to be amputated,” Lal’s brother-in-law Keshav told.
Lal was at Rambada when rains pounded the place, triggering landslides on June 16. Survivors have described how the once-bustling place has turned into a ghost town.
Lal ran towards the jungle, but was hit by a boulder that crushed his leg.
Writhing in extreme pain, Lal stayed in the jungle without food and water. But the damage had been done.
He was rescued by the army three days later.
“He was taken from one hospital to another, wasting crucial time. The doctors here had to then amputate his leg,” Keshav said.
Lal even doesn’t know whether his pony has survived or not.
“He is not eating properly. He is consumed by guilt that he couldn’t rescue his pony,” Keshav added.
Lal, who was the only earning member in his family of six, also worries about his livelihood.
“He has two small children and elderly parents. He does not know how he will survive after he comes out from the hospital,” Keshav added.
Gajendra Giri, a 50-year-old sadhu from Benares, had come for “darshan” of Lord Shiva at the famed Kedarnath shrine.
He along with three other sadhus were just returning from the shrine when water gushed out in the Kedarnath market, bringing down boulders, trees and stones, and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
He saw his fellow sadhus being swept away by the water, but managed to cling on to a tree for eternal life.
Giri then ran to the nearest forest and hid for five-six days without food. Like everyone else, he was rescued by the army.
As he had to lie in the dirty water, Giri’s skin has peeled off in many places.
Speaking to from the hospital bed, Giri continuously scratched his scalp that was red and puffy. He also tried to tear his matted, long tresses, coiled in a bun.
“I was in tattered clothes and had not taken bath for days. Thanks to a woman from an NGO, I got a change of cloth and someone washed my hair too. But my skin is burning and I feel like tearing it away,” said Giri, as he started furiously scratching his skin, which turned red once again.
After another bout of scratching, he said : “They should kill me. They should give me a medicine that will end my life. I have seen so many bodies. My friends have gone away. I don’t know how I will live with these memories.”
“The state authorities are not bothered with us. They just dumped us in this hospital where again no one is bothered about us,” Giri added.