|Ajit and Anubha Haridkar, two of the survivors of the Uttarakhand floods who returned to Mumbai on Saturday night|
For most of the night, Anubha Haridkar held her husband Ajit’s hand, as their bus crawled slowly downhill, sometimes only inches away from disaster, to the safety of Haridwar. There were times, when she though they would all perish. But fortune favoured the brave and after a 12- hour journey in stormy weather, the 58- year- old and her husband, 62, found themselves in the temple town, safe in the knowledge that the worst was over. As they finally returned to Mumbai last night from Delhi, the Dahisar- based couple, who had gone on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath along with 38 others as part of a package tour, recounted the events of the past week, when they feared for their lives and saw people dying.
Speaking to SUNDAY MiD DAY, Anubha said their group had spent two nights in Gaurikund before going to Kedarnath, during which the weather turned bad. “ The rains wouldn’t stop,” she recalled.
Still, 18 men and women from their group of 40 decided to take the risk and walk to Kedarnath; the others, which included the Haridkars, refused due to bad weather. The following day, scared that the weather would take a turn for the worse, the group left for Uttarkashi. A few hours later, flash floods and landslides washed away buildings, metres away from where their hotel stood.
“ The landslides occurred after we left. We were so lucky that we missed it,” said Anubha. The group, however, were stranded at the Monal Resort in Uttarkashi after all roads leading to the plains were blocked or washed away. “ One woman died at the resort due to a heart attack. There was no way to take her to a doctor. By then we had all become like family and mourned her death.” But their biggest battle was yet to come. On the fourth day, they were told that the only open road back to Haridwar would be a 275 km crawl through a narrow road, very vulnerable to landslides. “ We had a meeting with our tour manager and we agreed to take the risk. The journey was nerve- wracking and we held hands and kept praying. Both our buses luckily made it to Haridwar safely,” she recalled. Their nightmare finally ended when they reached the main road leading to Haridwar. Soon they were on the way to Delhi from where they booked a flight back to Mumbai. “ We are grateful to the Kesari tours staff for the way they helped us. If it wasn’t for them, we would have never been able to make it back as smoothly as we did,” she said.