Stones covered in dusts were rolling down the giant hills. The hills on green sweaters were covered with bruises all over their body. We were frightened but we weren’t surprised. We hadn’t seen it before but had heard of it. Several turns from there we reached our destination for the day. It was another giant hill but with a bigger bruise which kept on bleeding dusts and stones.
The daylight was still young and we could see some red caps on some unidentified heads up in the hill. That was our road sign and we drove uphill playing the “Who must that be?” game. We finally reached our base camp which was a primary school whose walls had cracks that looked like multiplication signs. The walls of the toilet building and the administrative office were leaning against the ground. But yet admist the ruins the beauty of nature was indefinable.
I got my camera and started capturing some beauty in it. From the height, all I could see in the city was a lot of colorful tents. But I didn’t realize that while I was acting like a photographer I had grabbed attention of many kids. One kid among them had come close to me. I smiled at him and just put my hands over his head and went towards a very cozy hotel which was built under a tent and where my tea was desperately waiting for me.
The sky had started changing its color and slowly had started to come up with moon and stars. The drivers had set up their tables under the tent with some drinks and snacks. In some time the drivers started transforming into dancers and folk singers. We were then called for dinner little up from our camp. It was one of the very few houses that stood erect in that village. We gathered inside a room which was quite deprived of light. Few young girls were busy with firewood and few kids were staring at us. One of them was busy studying and copying notes.
Most of us were really impressed with that particular kid and listening to him was really interesting. But within all that I saw the kid who I met earlier standing by the door and looking at us. I called him and then started a conversation with him. In some time I had a new friend. My food was on the table and when I asked where his food was, he said “I will eat in some time after you all are done.”
We were done with the food and ready to leave. I went to the boy, smiled and said- “Now it’s your turn, go eat.”
I then said- “I will be leaving early tomorrow. Can you meet me in the morning?”
He again smiled and said – “Yes.”
The next morning when I woke up, I could see this boy waiting for me at the door. I smiled and looked at my mobile screen. I was late and he had been waiting for me to wake up. I was sorry to keep him waiting but again asked him to wait for few more minutes. When I came back he was still there waiting for me. We started to talk. He had a voice so thin, half of which was blown away by air before it met my eardrums. But as went on talking, I could listen to his voice.
I just wanted to know his earthquake experience and what had been going inside his head while the earth continued to shake and hills continued to break. We had found a good place to talk far from everyone else and the conversation went for long. As we went on talking I was looking at his hands describe the words that he spoke. He had seen a lot. His house collapsed in-front of his eyes.
They had to spend a lot of nights sharing the makeshift camp with a lot of families. He said-“I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights. People were very afraid and were panicking every time. A lot of people cried too.”
I could imagine what he must have gone through as a young boy. He didn’t mention much about his fear but as he continued the story I could sense how much deep the fear had been embedded within him. I then asked him about food and asked how he fell when the relief trucks arrive at the village. He said: “I am very happy to see these trucks loaded with food but there are people up in the hill who are more deprived than us.”
The answer surprised me. I wondered if I was really talking to a 10 year old. Not long after that he pointed to a giant hill in-front and said- “You see that landslide? I saw it in my dream yesterday.” He smiled. “That hill fell down in my dream. A lot of Chinese people came for rescue. But they couldn’t clear the landslide to open the road. Half of them died and half of them were injured while trying to clear.” he said.
My conscience was continuously telling me that that wasn’t the kind of dreams he should have had. I had nothing to say. It had started to snow inside my heart. It felt colder. As the conversation went on, he pointed me to a blue roof that stood above the stones and dust and said that used to be his school. I asked him more about his school and he explained what his friends were like and also his daily routine. While he was explaining somewhere in between his statement, he said- “and in the evening, we came back and worked in the fields.”
I stopped him there- “Do you also work? You are a kid.”
He replied- “We do work and this year we need to work harder. This year earthquake was cruel to us and took away what it could. People knew about this and brought food for us for now. But, what about next year? What will we eat? Who will give us food again and again? Therefore we should work and harder.”
I smiled and wondered about the things he said. I had been talking to some elderly people the earlier day but nobody sounded as hopeful as this kid who I had been talking to. I then got a signal from the driver that we had to leave. I wanted to talk more but we had to be back in our hometown before the sunlight said goodbye. I said goodbye. He gripped my hand strong and walked with me to the place where the truck was standing. He stood by my side when I was saying goodbye to all the beautiful people I had met there. The trip already meant a lot to me as I was honored to meet 10 year OLD Saroj.