The morning is dark and brooding. Thick clouds hang overhead, obscuring the sun. Nazima Khatun, 14, nevertheless lays out her Class VII textbooks on a sheet of tin, hoping the gentle breeze will dry them before the next spell of rain arrives. Nearby, her mother, Shahsida Khatun, is washing a muddy wooden table by the side of the road that has been their home for the past few days ever since they were forced to evacuate their flooded homes in Phakuli village of Assam’s Nagaon district.
The road, on a higher elevation in the low-lying agricultural landscape, is now home to hundreds of people from several villages in the area, hit by one of the most devastating floods in recent times. Under plastic sheets strung on bamboo poles, sleepless mothers try to lull hungry babies to sleep. Cows strain on their leashes as they seek to break free. At night, Nazima and her mother take shelter at the nearest school that has been turned into a relief camp, about a kilometre from where her house used to be. They share a room with more than 40 people; more than 411 people are in the camp.