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7.10.09

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When her 14-year-old son returned from school last week, Shanthi told him to tuck into the hot meal she had cooked for him. Then the roof collapsed.

Water flooded their small house in Bellary's Bapujinagar slum. Shanthi was hurt on the head but managed to crawl out. Nagaraj died inside, another casualty of the fury of the floods in Northern Karnataka.

The family has received one lakh from the state government as compensation for their home and their son. All that Shanthi can think of is the child she will never see again.  Barely audible, she says "He would speak like an adult. He loved his little sisters so much."  Shanthi's husband, Muragappa, adds, "My son would work and bring me Rs 300 a week.  He would tell me don't worry - I am here." Then Nagaraj's father breaks down.

Shanthi has two daughters, both younger than the son she lost.  The girls haven't been eating much since Nagaraj's death.  The youngest, Durga, called Papadi by her brother collapsed in front of us. Malnutrition, exhaustion, nerves:  there is no respite. Her mother cradles her head in her lap.

During the day, the shattered family eats with Shanthi's parents, who lost their own house in the rain and have rented a tiny space. At night they sleep in a government community hall.

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