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It was a scorching hot morning in Akkarapettai but Devi walked with no slippers. Past broken boats with fluttering Indian flags, she came down the fragile bridge and stopped near the big boat.

Under the boat was rubble. And that rubble was Devi's home.

Every day she comes here from the railway station where she has lived since the tsunami razed her house to the ground. From morning to evening she wanders aimlessly about the village as if looking for something.

Devi does not mourn the loss of her home or the lack of a temporary shelter. She does not blame the gods for inflicting the worst damage to her small village. These things don't matter to the lady with sad eyes. What she has lost is far more precious and irreplaceable.

She has lost Sakhi, her 10-month-old baby. A month after the tragedy, she hasn't found her little girl's body yet.

Akkarapettai village is a poignant symbol of loss. It faced the fury of the tsunami like no other place in Tamil Nadu and accounted for the maximum death and destruction. Land-moving machines have cleared up the debris and damaged boats have been brought to shore for repair but encompassed within its vast destruction lie many heartbreaking stories like Devi's.

That is why many call Akkarapettai Ground Zero.

Text: Archana Masih. Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/India Abroad


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