When I returned to Toraniya in Gujarat a year after the devastating earthquake of January 26, 2001, I ran into my friend Lirabhai Bhaga Gothi. We had gotten to know each other right after the earthquake, when I came here with a team that worked on relief and rehabilitation for the victims. Along with much of Toraniya, the earthquake had destroyed Gothi’s house. So he was camped on its rubble. In turn, he let us camp on his land for several days.
With Gothi and other villagers, we worked on many different urgent needs while we were there. Several wells were damaged. So we brought in one of the large water tanks the government was handing out and laid temporary pipes to it from an undamaged well.
The school building was destroyed, so we put up a tarpaulin and cloth pandal so the children could resume at least some classes. Working with a team from Delhi, we set up a kitchen to serve simple hot meals – puri-bhaji and dal – to everyone in the village.
There was much more as well. Those were long, exhausting, but so satisfying days. The earthquake was a vast tragedy, but in some ways it was a…