How the young risked lives to serve Uttarakhand

Posted on: Monday, July 29, 2013


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As nature unleashed death and misery in Uttarakhand, scores of youths from across India rushed to the hill state. Some were linked to Art of Living. Their stories are inspiring, heartening. Risking their lives, they crossed mountains, dodged landslides and faced near-death situations to offer respite to the needy. What drove them? Who motivated them? Here are some insightful stories:

Shashank Paliwal, an electrical engineer from Dehradun, was frantically hunting for a job when the June disaster happened. He rushed to the hills after seeing the distraught crying on TVs. He reached Guptkashi with a team of volunteers and visited badly hit areas like Toshi and Badasu. There were over 90 casualties in Badasu village while entire families were wiped away in other areas. People were in shock. After hours of counselling, "we managed to break the ice and provide them ration, tents and other essentials". Paliwal now wants to postpone his career plans. "Jobs will come and go but not always can you get an opportunity to do noble service."

"For me, it was a spontaneous decision," says Gujan Wadhwa, manager with TCS Faridabad. "I learnt that volunteers were required for odd jobs. I knew I had to be there and stepped out of my home, without the slightest hesitation." Wadhwa travelled all alone to Shrinagar (not to be confused with Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley) and dug debris from roads. "Initially I did worry a little when I travelled through bad roads, in an unknown place that was surrounded by strangers. But slowly everything fell in place... I did not inform my home or office about the problems I faced. When you care for others, nature takes care of you."

Most of the young volunteers are reluctant to return home. They want to stay for longer periods and help rehabilitate the ruined state. "We intend to stay for three years in these areas," say Sanjay Walia, Vijay Soni and Parmananda Bahuguna in unison. "We cannot leave our job half-done."

How do these youths go without food, water or bathing for days together? "Well, pizzas and pastas are passé now," remarks Maninder Singh. "Forget eating or bathing, we want to work in the right spirit. It makes me cry when I see people plucking leaves from the jungle and munching them to satiate their hunger."

Maninder Singh, a young engineering student from Punjab, trekked across the most dangerous jungles of Devalgaon village on mountain terrain. "We have been through places where tigers were lurking in the bushes. There were poisonous plants... We managed to bring relief to more than eight families and we are feeling content from within," add Vasu and Harshit.

Sushant Singh from Chhattisgarh has been living in the most difficult conditions in Badasu. "But it doesn't matter when I see people smiling after attending our camps and doing our stress-elimination programmes."

Volunteers Ali, Rahul and Vasu walked 40 km from Rudraprayag to Guptkashi through rain and debris and almost lost their lives! Jitender, Amit, Naresh and others took the arduous climb to Kalimath mountains with backpacks of 35 kg relief material. Says Namita Nainani, a young Art of Living teacher from Delhi: "Come what may, we shall walk the extra mile and work towards reviving Uttarakhand."

Shikha Grover is an Art of Living volunteer. She can be reached on groshikha@gmail.com

Source: DNA

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