‘I want them back’, cries woman looking for kin

Haridwar, June 30 (IANS) For three days Sneha Sharma, 21, desperately searched hospitals, police stations and relief camps to trace her parents, two brothers and two sisters who had gone to Kedarnath shrine, but failed to get any answers. It was only when an army official told her that they have cremated one of her sisters that her world collapsed.

The frail-looking Sharma looks stupefied at the realisation of the bitter truth – that maybe her entire family has been wiped out in the rain-flood tragedy that hit the Kedarnath valley in Uttarakhand two weeks ago.

“I want them back. The tiny little flicker of hope that maybe they are alive is slowly extinguishing. I don’t know what I will do, where will I go. I just want to take them back with me,” Sharma told IANS. She is staying in Shantikunj, headquarters of the spiritual and social organisation of All World Gayatri Pariwar (AWGP) that was established in 1971.

A computer programmer, Sharma came to Haridwar June 27 to look for her lost family.

“At the railway station I went to a relief camp set up by the Madhya Pradesh government. They asked me to stay at Shantikunj. I am here. And for the past three days I have been searching for my family. But no one has any information. From the hospital to the police stations, there is no word,” she said.

Shantikunj has also set up relief camps for the states of Gujarat, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh as the state authorities rescue people trapped in the June-14-17 rains and landslides in the hill state.

Carrying photographs of her family, Sharma met an army official, who after seeing her 17-year old sister Jyoti’s photograph told her that they have cremated her.

“He told me that they found her body and cremated her. I don’t know about the rest of the family members. No one is able to help me out. Where should I go, what should I do,” she wailed.

She said if she had been the only survivor in her family she would have killed herself.

But she has to think of a younger sister who is in college.

“I don’t know what to tell her. I have told her that all of them are stuck in Gaurikund. She is so innocent. I am still brave. But she will break down completely,” she said.

Sitting in her room in the Shantikunj complex, the 21-year-old said she last spoke to her father Suresh Sharma, 50, who works as a local contractor, June 15.

“He told me that they have reached Gaurikund and had a good darshan. They were planning to come down. He told me not to worry and to take care of ourselves,” she said, wiping her tears with a handkerchief.

She said every year her family used to visit Kedarnath, one of the revered Hindu shrines.

“I was supposed to go too. But as I am working I couldn’t go. So this time, my two sisters and brothers accompanied my parents,” she said. Her brothers are 10 and 12 years old, while another sister who is untraceable is 15 years old.

“Where will two lonely women go? Relatives and neighbours will come for a few days. But after that, we will be left all alone to fend for ourselves. People will try to exploit the situation. Except for my parents, how can I trust anyone else? The question that haunts me now is, where will we go? We live in a rented house. How can I stay in that same house where we have so many fond memories,” Sharma told IANS.

Although, she is being constantly counselled by state officials and a volunteer from Shantikunj looks after her needs, she looks completely dazed.

Even as she was talking, she suddenly started mumbling about committing suicide so that she does not have to face her sister.

“How can I live? Maybe this was god’s act. I don’t know if it was right or wrong. I just want him to take me too or give my family back,” she wailed.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at [email protected])

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