55 year old Zeeba had never left her home in Gulzarpora village of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district not even to share best moments of her life, until the night of September 7.
The gushing waters forced her not only out of her home but out of her village also -- only to be sheltered in a nearby village of Reanzipora.
Everything was just appalling to her – as things happened so quick that she couldn’t realize what was happening around.
“I felt it was doomsday; everyone was wailing, crying and busy in saving their own belongings. Some boys came running in the village and started shouting that water is entering in the village through paddy fields; Jehlum had breached its banks,” Zeeba speaks while sitting in a temporary shed made of cardboards in Wani mohalla of Gulzarpora, which is hugged by railway line stretching from Banihal to Baramulla.
Exactly twenty days after the raging floods hit the locality, Zeeba is busy in preparation of tea in traditional copper samovar. Samovar is the only visible prized asset that her family could save from gushing waters.
“We found it near the gate. It was the only thing we could find after our return to home – which had caved in. We don’t understand how it has reached to the gate of the lawn. May be water has forced windows to open up.”
Zeeba, the mother of three -- two sons and a daughter – who has lost everything to floods – has no idea where to spend her winters.
“We don’t even have any money left to hire laborers to clear the debris of the house. Our income is dependent on agriculture and fruit business. But this year we lost both to floods, in addition to our home. Where will we go in winter? We will die in cold. Sometimes I think that God has kept us alive only to see more days of wretchedness and poverty.”
Few yards away from Zeeba’s house, three women are busy in separating tin, wooden planks and scavenging their own household items in rubble.
“We lost everything. We cannot build house again. We didn’t have anything to sell apart from this house -- which we lost as well,” says Zareefa, another lady in the locality.
“A contractor asked us to pay around 20,000 rupees to clear the debris of the house, but we didn’t have money to buy food, how can we pay so much huge amount."
Before floods neighbours were helping this family to make their ends meet.
Now that almost everyone in her village lost their assets Zareefa says: “how can anyone help us now as most of them too lost their houses too.”
In Pulwama district -- Gulzarpora and nearby Beighpora -- are the most ravaged villages where around 250 houses turned into rubble.
Other than Zakaat money offered to the family by the village Auqaf committee, Zareefa earns through preparing tea during marriage ceremonies at the Gulzapora and neighboring villages.
Her Husband is old and handicapped for many years. She is the only earning hand of her family.
“My wedding dresses were doused in muddy water."
Nowadays her family survives on donations and relief material offered by many NGO’s and religious organizations.
“Most of the times we miss the relief material, we don’t have any male member to keep a watch on the relief making way into the village.”
She is looking for means to build her house again but finds no support.
“A contractor asked us to pay around 20,000 rupees to clear the debris of the house, but we didn’t have money to buy food, how can we pay so much huge amount. Only God can save us from this mess.”
Chasfeeda’s house – placed just at a meter’s distance from Zareefa’s place – was filled with hustle and bustle of guest when waters begin to enter her home.
Her daughter, Sameena, was supposed to get married on 13th of September – just few days after floods hit Kashmir.
Family – which now lives in the second storey of their house – were all prepared for the wedding before their dreams were harried by streams of water.
“We had got all the essential commodities like rice, spices, wood meant for the marriage but everything floated before our eyes,” Chasfeeda says.
Out of all her wedding things what is left now is Sameena’s jewellery and soiled clothes -- rest everything is gone.
“My wedding dresses were doused in muddy water. It wrenches my heart to even look at them. I don’t feel like seeing them nor even throwing them so, I have kept them in one corner of my room,” Sameena says.
These women have been through a turbulent time but promise to make it again.
“We know we have lost everything but our hopes will never waver and we, with the help of lord, will build back our lives again.”
(Some names have been changed for the sake of privacy)
(Picture courtesy Hafsa Kanjwal)