Today I want to introduce you to a boy who has been at our school for three years: Sanju. Sanju is twelve years old and has been living in Vrindavan for the past ten years of his life. He doesn’t remember any other home and he like the area where they are living in because he has friends around. There is just one thing that he does not like about it: seeing his parents worry every year when the monsoon arrives with one question – ‘Will our home be able to withstand the water in this year?’
Sanju’s father is a rickshaw driver. He has always done this kind of day-by-day work, moving from one city to another. In his hometown he has a house – but there is no work, nothing to eat or live from! His wife is from Kolkata, West Bengal, but has a sister in Vrindavan and that’s how they chose Vrindavan as the next town to move to with the two-year-old Sanju and his one-month-old sister. Another boy followed and they decided to stay in Vrindavan, if financially possible. They bought a small house and were happy that they had their own place. Until the next monsoon came and the water was not only dripping in from the roof but also flowing in from the door!
This is the family’s situation every year. They have to place buckets and pots at different spots of the house to catch the rainwater and not let it flood their two small rooms. Once the water starts flowing down the street however, there is no possibility to avoid wading through the water within the house. The whole area is prone to flooding, having been built too close to the banks of the river Yamuna.
During the latest big flood in 2010, the family were facing a catastrophe: their home was flooded until just below the roof. When the water was on the rise, the flow was so strong that the walls of the house could not bear it. They cracked and the house looked like it was on the verge of falling apart. In that year, we did a lot of charity work in that area of Vrindavan. We set up medical camps, made a food camp where we cooked for the people of the area and even went out on boats to distribute food to those people who were cut off from the rest of the town by the water. Sanju and his mother showed us their home back then – it looked as though it would soon be washed away. You can see that scene of 2010 in the video below.
Sanju’s mother had to move to her relatives with her two younger children and Sanju came to stay with us, at the Ashram, along with some other children of the area so that he could go to school. His father however, just like many other men of the area, slept on the roof in order to save their few belongings from being stolen.
Somehow the walls didn’t give in to the water. The water levels sank and the family was happy that their home was still where it had been – cracked and wet, but it was there. There was no money to do repairing work. No money to fix the walls. What will happen the next time when the river floods? What will happen if some day a storm is too strong for the weakened walls? They know that they are living in danger, that the walls could crash down on them any day but they have no choice. The money that they earn is just enough to feed and clothe the children and themselves.
At least they don’t have to worry about their children’s schooling. Sanju already is at our school and they promised that they would send the younger children next year as well. In this way, the children will have a warm meal every day and learn something to make the future of their family brighter!