A 29-year-old resident of Kanaknagar in Hingalganj, who spent the Amphan night in a shelter with his parents, went back home early next morning only to see their tin roof blown away.
Paltan Mondal, who still had a smartphone that had life, then took it upon himself to document every villager’s plight so he could send the footage for compensation.
Since the village has no electricity, Mondal has to walk a kilometre twice a day to Kanaknagar SD Institution, his alma mater that has been turned into a storm shelter, to recharge his phone battery.
Over the past three days, Mondal has visited over 500 homes in his village and many in a neighbouring village.
“These people need help. The storm has robbed them of their houses and livelihoods. I cannot help them with either but the videos might reach the administration and some others who might come forward to help them,” said Mondal, a postgraduate in Bengali who earns a living by giving tuition to children.
He is sending the videos to the headmaster of the school, who is trying to raise funds for the homeless families in Hingalganj.
A kilometre, which Mondal has to trudge every day to reach the school and back home, is not a huge distance but the route is now bumpy in the aftermath of the cyclone. The road is blocked at multiple points by uprooted trees and stretches have been washed away.
At Mondal’s home, the wooden planks on either side have been ripped off and the approach to the house has disappeared.
He said he was helping others not because he had enough but because he was aware of how badly the community has been hit — first by the coronavirus and then by the monstrous storm.
Mondal teaches a dozen children from Classes I to XII but over the past two months his income has taken a hit because of the lockdown. “When people do not have anything to eat, how can we expect them to attend online classes. This is the reality in villages here,” said Mondal.
On Wednesday, the day the cyclone stuck, Mondal had coordinated with the headmaster of Kanaknagar SD Institution and arranged for the shifting of villagers to the building. More than 200 people had taken shelter in the school.
“If there are more selfless people like Paltan and they come forward to help others, it will be possible to reach out to more needy people,” said Pulak Roy Chowdhury, the headmaster of the school.