By Bestin Samuel, World Vision India
The most remarkable feature of young Purushotham, all of nine years old, is his smile. For a boy whose parents pick rags for a living, Purushotham seems to find a lot to smile about. He is the youngest in his family, and two of his three brothers are deaf and dumb.
In a two-room house, the family of six survives with a bare minimum income. Poverty is nothing new to them, but things changed overnight on October 12th 2014 when Cyclone Hudhud hit the area of Visakhapatnam.
The storm snatched away the tiny roof above their heads in a clean sweep, leaving the family staring at the sky – literally.
The storm snatched away the tiny roof above their heads in a clean sweep, leaving the family staring at the sky – literally. Rainwater poured inside, soaking everything Purushotham and his family had. Their bed was drenched, and the family had to sleep on the floor. When they woke to the aftermath there was no clean water to drink or food to eat.
I met Purushotham at the World Vision India relief distribution near his home. Many of the families there had not had proper food or clean drinking water since the cyclone struck, and were waiting for help. Food packets were distributed to 67 families, providing essentials like flattened rice, lentils, jaggery, candles, matchboxes, mineral water and biscuit packets.
"Was Hudhud really bad?" I ask. “It was bad. But now we have some food and water.”
Seeing Purushotham's bright smile, I went up to him and started talking. I ask him about his school, and his eyes brighten up even more as he tells me the name of his school. "When does the school reopen?", I ask. “Next Monday,” he says, face long with disappointment. "Was Hudhud really bad?" I ask. “It was bad. But now we have some food and water,” he says cheerfully, holding on the provisions he received. I enquire about his school books and bag. Surely they must have been ruined in the rains? “Yes, they did get wet. Every page was soft and soggy. But yesterday I put out all my books in the sun to dry. All that is OK now. I’m just waiting for school to reopen,” he says with that trademark smile of his.
As I leave, I ask one of the volunteers to show me his house, and she leads me to a tiny two room house. The green paint on the dilapidated walls had begun fading away, and the structure housed some worn out utensils, a frying pan, a broken chair and some steel plates. The sky, now clear blue, was what I saw directly overhead. “Shall I call Purushotham?” the volunteer asked. I asked her not to and walked back to my waiting colleagues, reminding myself not to forget what he'd taught me.