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Quake victims fear early winter
Mukhtar Ahmad In Julla
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October 13, 2005 12:40 IST
Last Updated: October 13, 2005 14:08 IST

Nazir Ahmad and his children are huddled together inside a makeshift tent in Jammu and Kashmir's [Images] quake-hit upper Himalayan village of Julla.

From their tent, they can see the snow forming on higher mountains. The fear of approaching winter is palpable.

Fast icy winds from neighbouring hills lash the tent, this family's home for now.

Heavily rains lashed this village till late Tuesday-- an indication of the season's first snowfall.

Nazir knows these are signs that winter is setting early, but it is a secret he wouldn't share with his four children as he points to the lifting fleeting clouds on the mountains in the front.

He tries to sound upbeat to his children. "Never mind the rains, the splitting cloud indicates it would be sunny tomorrow," Nazir, 45, re-assured his children.

The eyes of his children are fixed towards the debris of their house in whose front yard their small tent stands.

It is not only their school bags and books that lie under the tons of debris but all their toys and wooden carriages children in this part of Kashmir.

The flapping of the tent and the resulting chill that enters it are additional miseries this once prosperous family must bear.

As Nazir steals glances at the rubble, his eyes also look at the road down the slope. This is the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road battered by landslides and cracked surfaces. The highway is in total disarray as bulldozers and earthmovers slog to clear the highway. To Nazir, the road in a way reflects the state in which his life his.

Without shedding any tears, for his stock of tears is already exhausted, Nazir in almost in-audible tones recalls to his wife the days in recent past when such rain and wind would have been welcomed as the family would sit in the verandah of their small house enjoying the rains.

"The house is gone. All our belongings are destroyed. I must have done something to deserve this. Allah has been great. All of us are still alive. I will start from a scratch again. I am not old and life can begin once more," Nazir says.

Nazir's wife shares his courage, but the reality of an approaching winter and the slim chances that the family will actually get a roof over its head still haunts them.

"If I am unable to make a small hut by the end of this month, we will have to move out of our village," Nazir said.

Mood swings in tragedy-stricken people must be a natural phenomenon-- shock at the loss of property and joy at the thought of being spared to live another day. What is true of Nazir is also true of thousands in this picturesque Himalayan area now ravaged.

Though the government sanctioned Rs 642 crore for relief and rehabilitation, locals feel there is no co-ordination in the distribution.

"They are distributing blankets, kerosene and food stuff to the same people who live closer to the main roads. Nobody has so far fanned out with aid to places away from the main roads," said Sara Begum a local resident.

There is little hope that Nazir and his family will return to the good old days in the near future for nature's furry has snatched in a few moments what this hard working peasant had gathered in lifetime.

As a faithful Muslim, Nazir believes his loss is divine judgment. So does his younger son.

"With my father, we will make a new house before the onset of winter," Mohammad Shafi said.

Youth and childhood suddenly appear to have been lost for this 15-year-old.

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