Village shows the way, accommodates pilgrims despite constraints

Village shows the way, accommodates pilgrims despite constraints

One faraway village in Uttarakhand, located close to the epicentre of devastation in Kedarnath, stands out for going out of the way to provide shelter to thousands of beleaguered pilgrims who were running for their lives as the catastrophe struck.

The 40-odd families at Gaurigaon village provided shelter, food, water and medicine to at least 1,500 distraught people—women, children and the aged—who accidently reached this tiny settlement. Gaurigaon is a small settlement within a vicinity of a kilometre from Gaurikund, the base from where the 14-km trek to Kedarnath temple begins. The villagers embraced the survivors and went out of the way to accommodate them, even if it meant spending sleepless nights crammed in a room to make space for the flood-ravaged pilgrims.

The villagers had food and other provisions just enough for their own families, but that didn’t deter them from helping the people in need. The only way was to cut down on their own appetite and the villagers did just that. Kitchens ran all the time preparing food for the people, said Rajender Prasad Goswami of the village.

But, the initial zeal started to give way to concern and fatigue, mainly because ration in the village was almost exhausted in a couple of days. Going out to distant markets for ration was a risky proposition, given the unpredictability of nature.

Another villager, Maya Prasad, said: “Many families had packets of Maggi noodles and biscuits that they had stuffed somewhere inside all-purpose containers, out of the reach of children.”
They survived on noodles for another day. Pratima Karamkar (50) from Kolkata, who was among the scores of pilgrims who took refuge in Gaurigaon, just a mile from Gaurikund, said she was fortunate to have such generous hosts. She said people are usually wary of outsiders, especially when resources are limited in crises.

But the people of Gaurigaun accommodated the pilgrims wherever they found space, rooms, courtyards, lobbies, shelter enclosures and stores. The pilgrims have been evacuated by rescue teams. But the villagers now need to replenish their stock. Many of the connecting roads have been washed away and Kedarnath is completely ravaged.

The villagers are hoping, if not for divine intervention, for the roads to be cleared.
Talking to Deccan Herald this evening, Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay, who has visited flood effected areas several times in the last week or so, said the people of Gaurigaon have displayed great spirit in this hour of crisis.

Devang Parihar, who was a part of a group from Jodhpur in Rajasthan, said they were privy to the hospitality of the people of Gaurigaon.

“Gaurikund was washed away and we hurriedly shifted base to Gaurigaon where hundreds others took refuge,” he said. 

They took shelter at a woman’s house where the landlady provided them food and shelter. A number of children, elderly people and women happily slept in a single room, Bhavika said.

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