Ghosts of their smiles

A year after the tragic landslide in Malin, a visit to the same village reveals some heart-breaking stories about the people’s struggle to move on

It was morning on that fateful day when the hill which was their abode decided to turn on them. The people of Malin were awakened by a rude shock when the earth betrayed them and a major landslide wiped out most of the village, taking away around 150 lives.
More than a year after the incident, a visit to the very same place results in some harsh realizations; one, the haunting memories of that unfortunate day are still entangled with the breathable air and two, the people are struggling to move on, they have found small reasons to smile again, but these smiles seem more like ghosts of their real smiles instead.
Here are four stories from the people of Malin.

Deepak

1. Deepak Shivram Kharat
Water splashed about nosily as he washed the backs of his sturdy-looking bulls in the stream next to the rehabilitation area there. When asked about the incident he said, “We lost our entire home, everything was destroyed. I lost my mother and father to the landslide. I now live in one of the rehabilitation sheds here with my brother and sister. Our field is around 1.5 kms away.”
When asked about the bulls he was bathing with such care, a smile appeared on his face. “Their names are Raju and Viju. I have two goats too, they are called Guddi and Gudda. I bring them here daily for a bath. They like it.” He then went on with his day’s work.
Shobha
2. Shobha Jhandre
Walking with her daughter and her goats, Shobha too became melancholic when remembering the tragedy. “My sister in law died that day. My daughter too escaped very narrowly. She went to a shop near her school to buy some chips; moments after she left the shop, it came crumbling down,” she said, running a palm on her daughter’s head.
“We’re living in sheds now, the government is not really giving us much. We not only lost our house, but all our goats too,” she added.
But then she looked around at the young goats walking with her and smiled. “We bought all these goats recently, they’re new. We haven’t even named them yet.” Pointing to one she said, “Except that one, we call him Handu.”

Chandrabhaag
3. Chandrabhaag Ramchandra Jhanjre
“Our house is still standing, but we don’t live there anymore,” said the old woman as she cleaned the front yard of the now abandoned structure. “The whole village is gone, so many of the people I knew, so many of my friends are gone. There’s nothing left here anymore. But I still come here daily, just to keep a check on the place,” she added.
When asked about her family, she said, “My family is safe. I have two sons, both of them are married.” Just then a younger woman entered the house, Chandrabhaag looked at her, smiled and said, “She’s my daughter in law.”

Bhimrao
4. Bhimrao Ankush
An octogenarian, Bhimrao Ankush too remembers the incident with sad eyes. “Almost all of my friends, who were close to my age are no more now. My family is safe, but living in these sheds is very difficult,” he said, adding that when the supplies truck arrives, it enters from the other end, and not many supplies reach his shed which is at the opposite end of the area.
When asked about his grandchildren however, he smiled. “I am a great grandfather now. I am probably one of the oldest people alive here,” said Bhimrao, still smiling.

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