Five days ago, eight families of the Kaavumpura tribal colony in Mananthavady, Wayanad, returned home from a relief camp at a school. The houses wore a look of neglect, although people started reoccupying the place almost a week ago.
Kaavumpura is a lesser-known Paniya colony, which is located on one end of a paddy field, close to the Valliyoorkavu temple.
When TNM visited the colony, men and women were ready with a list of grievances - lack of money, jobs and proper houses - that were yet to be addressed by the state. But for many residents, who have lost a life’s worth of belongings, their demands are very often not over the top. Living simple lives, their needs are basic. Take for example, 85-year-old Maakamma, who has a rather straightforward demand.
“I need a bed to lie on,” she said, pointing to the old bed in her house that was damaged due to waterlogging.
Clad in a bright blue check saree, with the pallu knotted around her neck in the tribal style, Maakamma is all smiles despite the odds stacked against her. She posed for photographs with a wide grin that revealed all her missing teeth. Speaking to this writer, she said that all the items in her house were either washed away or soiled, except for the old cot.
“A few residents here had built the cot for my son, who could not speak and was bedridden. When he passed away a few years ago, I was using the cot. But now, it has become unusable,” she said.
To inspect the condition of the house built 15 years ago, Maakkama’s other son Sreedhar (45) visited his mother on Sunday.
“Ever since she moved back from the camp, my mother has been staying with the relatives in a house nearby. Earlier, her relatives used to live here, with her, in this house,” Sreedhar said.
Last week, when the floods hit the colony, Maakamma swiftly climbed up the stairs at the back of her house to search for a safer location and finally reached a school, which operated as the relief camp.
Recounting the experience, Maakamma said that having lived a good part of her life in the colony, she has never seen the river flowing in spate.
“When we were young, the girls in other neighbourhoods and I would go to bathe in the river. In all my years of knowing the water, I have not witnessed the river overflowing to this extent. Now, it scares me as it can happen again,” she said.
Maakamma’s ancestral home, made of a small concrete and tarpaulin shed, where she stayed earlier and raised her family, is a single wall and rubble now. She and her family built a new house when the old structure became unusable and they had to move out. From then to now, the new house has witnessed an array of milestones and moments in the family, including the death of Maakkamma’s 90-year-old mother and father.
Today, the house, with its pale blue paint and damp walls, look empty, even robbed. There is not a trace of furniture, vessels or other items, save the damaged cot in one of the two rooms.
But despite losing her home as she knew it, Maakamma’s current state of affairs doesn’t depress her. She smiles and nods her head when asked if she felt sad.
Pictures taken by Sreedevi Jayarajan
This article has been produced in partnership with Oxfam India. In the last 10 years, Oxfam India has delivered over 36 impactful humanitarian responses in India.Oxfam India is providing critical relief to the affected families and communities in Kerala: clean drinking water, sanitation, and shelter kits. Click here to help #RebuildKerala.