ROURKELA: Sixteen-year-old Easter Barua and her three younger brothers have suffered the worst cruelty that life could inflict on anyone and become the beneficiary of the best side of humanity - all in a span of one month. Fate dealt a savage blow to the children when they were left virtually orphaned after their father went missing in the midst of the raging Covid pandemic.
At the same time, guardian angels emerged in the form of the villagers, who turned their benefactors and protectors despite their own abject poverty. Ester and her three younger brothers, Rohit, Sudhir and Samuel, of the backward Jaratola hamlet of Hatioda village under Kucheta gram panchayat in Gurundia block of the district have a very heart-wrenching tale. About six years ago, they lost their mother Sabita to accidental drowning. Their life was revolving around father Isaq, a deaf and dumb man, who worked as a stone quarry worker.
Tragedy stuck the children on July 8 this year, when Isaq went to work and did not return. The youngsters with nothing in hand for sustaining themselves nor even food were left in the lurch when the fellow villagers and relatives stepped in. Jaratola has around 25 tribal households, all bound by the common thread of poverty and deprivation.
Yet, the neighbours and relatives including Isaq’s younger brother Premchand took the responsibility of the children. They pooled money from their meagre savings to hire a tractor and ploughed Isaq’s less than an acre land. Village womenfolk volunteered to sow the paddy seeds and transplant saplings, Premchand said.
Neighbours Helen and Flora said, they would harvest the paddy for the children and ensure that they do not go without food. “We are committed to take care of them and help them in their need”, the women said.
Village teacher Sugad Umbul Bage said the children have received free rice in their father’s NFSA card, adding he and some neighbourhood families are in constant touch to help them. Bage said a missing report has been lodged at the nearby Tangarpali police station, but whereabouts of Isaq remain unknown.
Easter, too, now occasionally works as a kendu leaf plucker. She lives her days hoping for father’s return and making sure that the tragedy does not impact her brothers’ education. Kucheta panchayat executive officer SK Gardia said he would apprise Gurundia block office to help explore ways of helping the parentless children.