How the young served Uttarakhand

As nature unleashed death and misery in Uttarakhand, scores of youth from across India rushed to the hill state. Some were linked to the Art of Living, and their stories are inspiring and 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 TV.

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,” he said.

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.”

Gujan Wadhwa, manager with TCS Faridabad, said, “For me, it was a spontaneous decision. I learned 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 alone to Shrinagar, 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 into place. I did not inform my home or office about the problems I faced. When you care for others, nature takes care of you.”

Three more volunteers — Sanjay Walia, Vijay Soni and Parmananda Bahuguna — narrated that they intend to stay for three years in these areas.

“We cannot leave our job half-done. How do these youth go without food, water or bathing for days together?” said Walia.

“Well, pizzas and pastas are passé now,” said 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 in 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,” said another volunteer, Vasu.

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