By Shakir Mir
On September 6 last year, Nusrat Qadir, a resident of Maisuma Srinagar was waiting with a bated breath for floods to show up as were hundreds of locals in her area. Water level had scaled up alarmingly in Jhelum and it was barely a matter of time before embankments would crack open, letting furious flood waters inundate the city.
Nusrat’s two sisters and her parents sat huddled together with fear in their room while her brother, a recent selectee in J&K police, was away in Kangan for training.
She and her sister were gearing up for their marriage when persistent rains triggering flood warnings sounded death knell. Next day, when floods finally besieged the city, Nusrat’s family was forced to abandon their house, leaving behind the paraphernalia of her wedding preparations. They waded through chest-deep water and reached the nearby hotel buildings to save their lives. “That fateful day changed our life totally,” she says, wrinkles creasing her face. “I and other cousins stayed at hotel Taj while my father and other male cousins went to Standard hotel which wasn’t far away.”
Shortly, a series of thudding sounds chilled them. Flood waters hit some structures with force, rendering them weak and causing them cave in. Many houses developed cracks. Nusrat’s father Ghulam Qadir Bhat, 46, grew restless. “He must be worried about the belongings, trousseau and jewelry that we had got for our marriages,” she says.
Qadir shuttled back to the house, hoping to watch over, should the burglars turn up. But tragically, he couldn’t live enough. Angry waters heaved a wooden slab into his direction, smashing it against his head. “He died on spot.”
The word of his demise first reached Nusrat who fought back the tears to keep it from her family, fearing that the news would devastate her ailing mother. “I had no other option,” she says, welling up. “What else could I have done? Water was all around us.”
Seven days later, when water receded, Nusrat was delighted to see her brother return from Kangan. Together they left the hotel to retrieve their father whose lifeless body was swollen with water amid debris of their collapsed home.
Now shelter-less, the family was left to their own devices. The demise of father had also burdened the shoulders of their would-be policeman brother, Saleem Bhat who was the only earner in the family now.
“After the incident,” narrates Nusrat, “we started to live in the Marriage Hall at Lal Chowk for the next two months before our maternal uncle relinquished his old house in Chanapora.”
At Chanapora residence, new difficulties awaited them. Electricity supply was inadequate. They were short of beddings, utensils and other essential items. Due to scarcity of money, they had to even starve at occasions. Dinner was always eaten in room illuminated by a flickering candle light.
When winters drew closer and bathing with cold water become insufferable, the sisters couldn’t help anymore. “We requested our relatives living in vicinity to let us use warm water available with them,” Nusrat says, adding that she had to carry drinking water all the way from city center just because the tube-well water back at Chanapora was drinkable.
For the next seven months they stayed put at the place until their neighbors at Maisuma revealed themselves generous enough to rent out a room for free. The Bhat family had been living there happily until recently when the owners decided to raze it down. “Now we are going back to Chanapora,” Nusrat says, her face saddened at the thought of it.
She saw a glimmer of hope when government announced measures to compensate the owners of fully-damaged houses with Rs 9 lakh. Her expectations dashed when it doled out Rs 1, 75,000, a pittance given the scale of devastation. “We desperately need money to build a house of our own and besides, I have to marry myself and my sister as well,” says Nusrat, whose family braved scornful taunts of relatives for “milking too much money from government” over the death of her father.
Nusrat also expresses gratitude for chairman of moderate Hurriyat group, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who has promised to build a storey for this family under initiative of Akh Akis, where he will be rebuilding 100 houses for flood affected families. “I would always be indebted to every single person who came for our help,” she says. “But the void that was left by our father’s departure will always be there.”