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Orphans have a sombre Pongal

January 14, 2005 19:02 IST

For 10-year-old Indumani at the government-run orphanage in Cuddalore, the harvest festival of Pongal has lost all meaning after the tsunami washed away her parents leaving her and a two-year-old sister alone to face the world.

The orphanage, tucked away in a corner of the city, is a nondescript structure except the small sign which directs passersby to it. It now houses 36 orphaned children.

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"The children, have had the traditional Pongal broth for their breakfast and will be served the sweet pongal again in the evening," superintendant of the government observation home and an official of the Ministry of Social Defence, Glory Gunasili said.

"We have implored the media and locals not to question the children on their near fatal brush with tsunami over and over again, which only upsets them," he added.

The children, who are in the age group of 11 months upto 16 years, were shown a Tamil film to entertain them on the occasion.

Some children have gone home to their relatives for the 16th day puja for the dead and will return soon after Pongal," she said.

"Since they have been rescued from all parts of the district and the evaluation and registration process is still on, these children have not been enrolled in any school. We will take them to a local school on Monday," she said.

The three- to five-year-olds have not realised the enormity of the situation, she said, the bigger ones do.

"The smaller children play in the campus the whole day since there is no school to go to. They avoid the topic of tsunami and we also never raise it in their presence," she said as squeals of laughter emanated from the room the kids were watching a Tamil film.

The Tamil Nadu government has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the orphans.

"The children as young as eight years old are also aware of the fact that they have some money in fixed deposit now which their relatives might try to claim," she said.

"They express these fears among themselves and also feel insecure to go to a new school fearing readjustments."

But for most of the children, especially the smaller ones, the initial shock is slowly receding with the companionship of peers.

"We are scrutinising the adoption requests, since the money is also likely to attract many people," she said, adding that almost a hundred people have requested the district officials for adoption.

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