The Turbulent Flow Of Indrawati

(Prem Khatry)

Remember the one time hit small screen movie – And Quiet Flows the Indrawati? This film made both artiste late Bishnu Bhaka Fuyal and the poverty in the Majhi villages along the river Indrawati very popular. The prototype title, however, was the Russian Classic – And Quiet Flows the Don.  But except the similarity in the title selection the two rivers were nowhere close to their nature - the Don is a big, long river in Russia; Indrawati is a small, short tributary to Saptakoshi. Yet the rendering of the fiction into a film was a successful effort of the writer and the artists. Today, life along the quiet flow of the Indrawati is full of agony after the devastating earthquake that hit this area hard two years ago.

Nearly all the Majhi settlements along the Indrawati  have been  hit hard. Perhaps, the natural alignment between the red clay and the local stone seems unable to maintain the grip. Thus, a large number of traditional houses gave way to the cracks. Other Majhi villages along the Sunkoshi were not exceptional, either. Name Seleghat or several other settlements, there is devastation in front of your eyes. The Majhi people have not been able to gather enough resources to put their  life back to the track. Everywhere the story is the same – the red clay mud not holding its associate, the rock and collapse of the structure is the end result.  

The Sweta Shree Foundation (SSF), a Kathmandu-Sindhupalchok based NGO dedicated to help the needy (at this time, the marginalised Majhi community of Jhyadi, Indrawati),  is giving a new meaning to the above mentioned film and the life of the  people there. The Foundation, established in memory of popular actor Shree Krishna Shrestha, has vowed to complete and hand over 62 houses (proposed) to the suffering families of Jhyadi village, a component of Thulosirubari Municipality of Sindhupalchok. This village has a population of 375 and 184 of them are females. Main occupation of these people is agriculture. Only 15 per cent people of this village are literate, and 22 youths have been overseas as migrant workers.

Since Sweta Khadka herself is leading the Foundation committed to complete the humanitarian project in the name of her husband (late Shree Krisnha) and has constituted a working team under her leadership, the quake affected Majhi people and the observers strongly feel that except a potential hitch due to the monsoon at hand, the project will complete in time.

For the observers, the Indrawati is not flowing quietly; it has the sound of shock and sob reflected from the state of the art of the pain the Majhi people are going through. Visitors and the local people alike feel the shocking and sobbing of the Indrawati.   There is always a question: When will the moment come when the kids will go to the nearby school from their own homes like before? And, when will there be a separate kitchen, adults' as well as children's rooms in one house unit? Sooner or later, that is now likely to happen.

SSF did the preliminary study, prepared physical layout of the site for reconstruction of the small Majhi village with the help of experts and started its campaign to approach potential donor agencies and individuals.  There is a website for this and other purposes, according to SSF manager Yagya Karki 'Deepak'. With the passage of time Karki's responsibilities and tension also grow but he is determined to complete the project in time.

Last Friday, SSF gave a tour of the proposed construction site to senior media executive from NTV, engineers and a writer to assess the situation and seek their suggestion.  The moment when SSF Chief Sweta Khadka arrived the site, school children from age 4 to 15 were at hand to garland  her as a gesture of warm welcome to the dilapidated village. It was not Sweta's first visit, but the gesture made her a bit emotional, she said later. The kids, like their parents  and seniors, firmly believe that didi's visit is meaningful and that they will see their lost  houses raised again in the nearest possible future.  It was a moment to be remembered by the rest of the visitors as well.

When the engineers explained the details of their blue print, the faces of few hundred Majhi men and women suddenly lit up. They all were so overwhelmed by the joint meeting that they did not consider discussing the issue any more. On their behalf, Milan Majhi, a local youth activist expressed satisfaction on the development and their commitment to procure the necessary land for the construction.        

For SSF managing the fund is a challenge, but with the kind of support seen now the project will not have insurmountable hurdles. Dr. Yubaraj Poudel, the Chief of reconstruction in Sindhupalchok District said he is going to depute at least two engineers for the site. This is a good gesture from the government. Interested donors from abroad are also sending green signal. In all, the project is moving towards successful completion.

SSF is planning the foundation laying ceremony on the 22nd of this month.  Some high profile dignitary will lay the foundation stone and  national media will cover the news. For the Foundation the whole ideas is not to ensure credit and name, the idea is to ensure that, first, there is a roof over the head of the suffering Majhi population of  Jhyadi village, second, the children will be happy to have their school and playground, the elderly will enjoy the open space and lastly, a new life will begin. And, thus, the turbulent Indrawati will flow quietly providing the Majhi with their sustenance once again.  

Finally, SSF is undertaking a big task full of challenges. Given the circumstances, the resource will arrive gradually and meet the demand. For the Majhi of Jhyadi, there is no looking back. And, for SSF, Sweta Khadka and her team, this is a golden opportunity to prove their worth and words.