The Balhum part of Zafar’s name refers to his caste and the village they live in. He is also known as Chanesar, a folk name.
Before the floods
“Before the floods I used to cut and sell wood. I would load the cart with wood and take it to the market to sell, with the donkey. It was very difficult work – I used to get very hungry and it used to take me all day. We ate just once a day, at two o’clock in the afternoon. It would be potatoes and roti or sometimes a lassi (a yogurt drink) and roti (a roti is a kind of wheat pancake).
“Before the floods I used to play happily, but now I get worried and a little depressed. I am worried for my family.”
“I was very scared when the floods came. I didn’t know if I would survive or if our house would still be standing.
“A lot of my things were washed away with the water, including my school books. Of everything we lost, I miss my school books the most because we studied and learnt from these books.
“On the boat journey we weren’t having fun. We were getting scared because of the rising water level. It was rising so fast, and the force of the water was so strong. The sound of the water was loud; it sounded like an airplane.”
Living in the camp
“It was really hot in the camp, and it wasn’t fun. We were stressed and worried, and the heat from the sun was so much. Our clothes got drenched from the sweat; there was no way of cooling down. There was water from a hand pump but this wasn’t for cooling down.
“We used to sleep under a tree – we had borrowed some bedcovers from relatives who lived close to the town.”
“When we came back, I saw that the walls of the house were about to fall and I was scared about this. There was so much mud and rubble in the house.
“I helped wholeheartedly; I helped all the time to clean up the house because my father couldn’t. I collected straw for the roof, and my other brothers also helped.”
Helping his mother
“I like helping my mother in the shop, and I am happy I don’t have to work in the fields. I like everything about managing the shop. When the stock runs low I go to the market to get fresh stock. I am given a bill for the goods (he shows me a small plastic bag of the receipts he has been given).
“I go on the donkey cart to the market. My mother tells me what to buy, but I also see what is running low. Oil and sugar sell the fastest.
“I want to expand this business, to include selling things like shoes, clothes, handicrafts, and noodles.”·
Zafar’s favorite food is fish and meat and chocolate. They play cricket and also a kind of game similar to kabbadi. One child from team A touches a child from team B, and then that child is supposed to catch him. If he succeeds, team B gets a point. They also play hide and seek.