My sister, Sir,” I said, fighting to control my tears, “All I want is to give her a proper cremation.”

     I stopped, conscious that I was babbling. I could see that he was bone-tired. He looked as if he had not slept for days. His uniform was covered with dust, his face was grimy. But through all the dust and grime, I saw that his eyes were kind.

     “My men have been on their feet for days," he said softly, as if talking to himself. “They have done all they could here. Tomorrow, at daybreak, we go to another village just like this, then another. He looked away at the sun setting behind the peaks. Down, in the valley, the pyres burnt, row upon row. The officer muttered something, shook his head and turned away. A terrible despair engulfed me. I lay there among the ruins of my house and cried.

     Ten minutes later, the officer was back. With him were three soldiers armed with spades and crowbars. Without a word, the men began, removing the debris. They laboured doggedly. When it was completely dark, someone brought a few lit petromax lamps. Two hours later, a soldier called out, “Sir!”

     He stood in the middle of a small hollow. The wall had caved in at that spot. I recognized a part of a door. Beneath it, a small foot.

     Feverishly the soldiers began to clear the hollow. Then, they lifted the door.

     “She is alive!” someone said.

     It was a miracle. She had been buried under the debris for a hundred and sixteen hours. She had survived the earthquake, the cold nights and the wild animals. A ragged cheer went up and the soldier wrapped her in a warm blanket and carried her to the tent where a makeshift hospital had been set up. Bhuli lived. The next day I went to thank the Army Officer. But he was gone. I did not even know his name.
Brij replied in between tears that he was searching for his sister, at least to give her a proper burial. He stopped himself aware that he was talking fast and continuously in his tensed mood. He noticed that the officer was exhausted as if he hadn't taken rest for days. His body was covered in dust and his face was filled with a layer of dirt. But beyond everything, he seemed kind.
H earthquake.jpg
The army officer seemed exhausted, but was very kind!
He said gently that his soldiers have been searching bodies for days and that they had done the best they could do for that village. Next morning, they were about to leave to another village, for the same work. It was almost time for sunset as the sun was drowning behind the mountain peaks. He saw that in the lower part of the valley, rows and rows of bodies were being burnt. The officer said something in a whisper, almost to himself and turned away. Brij lost hope completely. He just laid there in the remains of his house and cried.
Within ten minutes, the officer had returned with three soldiers, equipped with tools to clear the debris. Without speaking anything, they started clearing the ruins.
army men.jpg
The army officer returned with ten minutes with more soldiers to look for Bhuli!
They put in sincere efforts with determination and persistence to find his sister. As it grew darker, some petromax lights were brought in. After about two hours, one of the soldiers called to their officer.
He stood in the middle of a hole where the house's wall had caved in. Brij recognized it was a part of the door. Below the door, they found a small foot! Someone screamed that she was alive.
It was a miracle that she was alive. She had been out in the cold, buried under the debris for about \(116\) hours. Not only had she survived the earthquake but also the cold weather and the dangers from wild animals! A happy cheering sound was heard as the soldier covered her in a blanket to keep her warm and they took her to the temporary hospital for first-aid. Bhuli had survived! The next day Brij went to thank the army officer, but he had left; Brij did not even ask his name.
Meanings of difficult words:
babblingthe action of talking rapidly and continuously in an incomprehensible way
bone-tiredextremely tired
pyresa heap of combustible material, especially one for burning a corpse as part of a funeral ceremony
despairthe complete loss or absence of hope
doggedlyin a manner that showed determination and persistence
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.