The River Before The Rains Came
After months of drought and weeks of severe heat, with temperatures regularly over 50 degrees Centigrade, we finally got some good rainfall. The earth, the plants and animals were all thirsting for a drop of water. Unfortunately, when the cool, moist air finally arrived it reacted with the hot earth and so the first rains came in the form of violent storms driven by strong winds. In just a few minutes we lost the roofs of two buildings at the school. Since then everything in nature has cooled down because the rain has been falling steadily, just enough each day so that the earth can absorb it without flooding. Now the land everywhere looks green and the farmers are starting their agricultural work again.
The hostel boys are all safe. In fact they cheerfully joined in afterwards to help clear up the debris. The school compound is very much becoming their own place and they take pride in it.
On hearing the bad news, many of our overseas friends came forward and offered to help financially with the repairs. We are touched by your concern and generosity. We discussed with local experts how we can make these roofs stronger and as a result decided make the new ones out of concrete.
In parallel with these repairs we are still moving forward with our current building project, which is to set up a kitchen cum dining room on the school campus for the boys who live in the new hostel. It will be much easier for the boys to have their breakfast, lunch and dinner cooked and served where they are now living. At the moment they have to walk back and forth to the old place several times a day, which is particularly difficult at night or, indeed, at any time of day during the rainy season.
We have not posted to the Blog for a number of reasons, mostly having to do with the heat wave. On most days we could not work in the office because of the oppressive afternoon heat. We also had to endure several general power failures almost every day. In fact at one point the whole town of Purulia had no electricity supply at all for three consecutive days. Water has been in very short supply everywhere and most people in town have been forced either to pay for water to be delivered to their homes in containers or else to wait in a long queue to pump water from a tube well nearby and carry it home themselves.
Another reason was that Robert, who usually works with Shanta and me to update the Blog, had to take time off to have an urgent eye operation for cataracts. He was very pleased he could stay here in Purulia to have it done. And, as things worked out, 38 of the other villagers here also went in at the same time for the first of the two operations they require. We at Prabhatalloi had applied on their behalf for the treatment some weeks before. The operations for the villagers were completely free of charge, thanks to the Purulia branch of the Rotary Club, and carried out at their specialist eye hospital here.
At the hostel the boys are all still in good health and are adjusting at full speed to their new life. They go to school every day but Sunday. And an experienced tutor comes regularly to check how they are progressing in their studies and give them extra help. One of our guards at the school, Nepal Paramanik, is also a barber so he cuts the boys’ hair twice a month.
The Chhou Dance teachers have started a new team which includes the hostel kids. Although they hold a formal practise every Sunday, we often see some of the boys rehearsing their moves during the week, whenever it might strike their fancy. The sand piled up for the building work makes for a ideal place to practise their somersaults.
We got some lentil seeds from our friend Rensina. Now that it is raining again we’ve planted the them. The new crop should produce a fine harvest.
Best wishes to you all. We are especially glad to hear from you at this difficult time.
Sanjay Kumar Mahato