It is eight days since 12-year-old Samata and her family began negotiating with the floodwaters, living on the highway and thinking about returning to their damaged home in Bihar, north-east India.
“My home is gone. The flood has taken everything,” said Samata’s mother, Shila Devi. Shila is a housewife who takes care of her five children, her blind mother-in-law and ill husband. And the floods that hit their village, Nayatol Mathaphukhri, have shown no mercy this time.
When the floods hit the village, Samata and her family were fortunate to have stayed near the pedestal land where the highway runs. Most of the families in the village survived the floods because they were evacuated in time, but most of their belongings perished.
Near their home lies a crumbled thatched house whose owner could not be found because his family are living on the highway. And hundreds more villagers will tell similar stories of how they have lost their homes, crops, animals, food and clothing.
The highway 77, connecting Patna city and Darbanga, has become home to thousands of flood-affected families whose houses have been destroyed.
A few old clothes are left hanging on a string beside Samata's crumbled home.
“Most of the clothes have been washed away by the floodwaters,” said her mother. “My dresses have been taken away by the flood,” echoed Samata. But clothes do not matter much in a humid state like Bihar.
“Food and housing are the needs of the hour,” added Samata's mother.
Though education is the last thing the flood-affected villagers can think of, children like Samata have started missing school. Had it not been for the floods, Samata would be in her classroom.
“We would read the lessons together,” said Samata, who thought it was fun missing school for the first three days, but misses it now.
Samata’s school has totally submerged under water and it will take some weeks, if not months, to reopen.
Like thousands of other children in these villages, Samata plays in the water, making her vulnerable to skin diseases. Villagers continue to use the floodwater to wash their clothes and tube well water for drinking.
“The tube well is believed to have been contaminated,” said Bikash Patra, World Vision Programme Manager in charge of the relief operation in Darbhanga district.
In the coming days, World Vision relief, including food, will be made available to Samata, her family and the entire village. The food, utensils and clothing will help parents to rebuild their lives or think about their children’s education.
World Vision India Director, Jayakumar Christian, spent some time in the community and with Samata's family, listening to their experiences and working out ways to support the village better.