When the soldiers began to clear the debris, my uncle led me away. I was in a complete daze, too numb to feel anything. The soldiers had set up a makeshift camp. Someone gave me tea and biscuits. I don’t know how long I was there. Suddenly it was evening and uncle was standing beside me. “They have taken the bodies to the river bank,” he said gently. “Come, you must perform the last rites before sunset. Tomorrow, we will go back to Pauri.”

     I had last seen my family while leaving for Pauri. They stood at the doorway and waved. Ma, Grandma, Nilu and Bhuli. That is the way I will always remember them – smiling and waving at me. Not as the white-shrouded lifeless figures I saw.

     Bhuli? She was not there.

     “They have not found her,” my uncle said. “The wild animals …Brij, don’t look like that! She is dead.”

     “But we must find her,” I shouted.

     “Brij…get a grip on yourself," uncle pleaded.

     But I was beyond reasoning. I ran back to the village, to the spot where my house had stood.

     There was still so much debris. I scrambled around shifting the earth and stones. How long I was on my knees searching, crying, searching…

     “Boy, it is no use” a voice said. I looked up. The speaker was the Army Officer who had supervised the relief operation. “There is no one alive in there,” he said, “whom are you looking for?”
Finally, when the Army made its way to clear the debris, Brij's uncle took him away from the spot because Brij was a small boy and he could not bear to see his family members condition. Brij said he was in a complete shock and he was unable to think or feel anything properly. The soldiers had constructed a temporary camp and Brij had some tea with biscuits in the camp. He lost track of time and suddenly he saw his uncle standing beside him. He said that they had taken the bodies to the river banks and that he (Brij) must come along to perform the final ceremonies for the departed souls, before sunset. He added that they could leave for Pauri tomorrow. Yes, it meant that his family members had died in the earthquake destruction.
The debris had to be cleared to make way for the army rescue team!
Brij's last memories of his family were when they had waved him goodbye when he left to Pauri, with smiling faces, from the doorway. He remembered them in that image and not in the white cloth that covered the dead bodies.
G Earthquake.jpg
Brij remembered only the smiling and waving images of his family!
He did not find Bhuli amongst the others. His uncle said her body was not found because wild animals might have, but he did not complete his statement. Brij found it hard to believe that she was gone, without her body. He shouted that they must find her. Uncle tried to calm down Brij and but Brij could not. He ran back to the village where his house had been. He crawled through the stones and dust. He spent hours crying and searching for his sister.
Just then he heard someone's voice telling him that his search is of no use. He saw that it was the Army Officer who was in charge of the relief work. He said no alive person was there and asked him whom he was searching for.
Meanings of difficult words:
dazein an emotional or physical shock; make (someone) unable to think or react properly
makeshiftacting as an interim and temporary measure
white-shrouded wrap or dress (a body) in a white covering sheet for burial
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-2 English Standard-9. Earthquake - Mr. M.S. Mahadevan (pp. 154-160). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.