Urmila Matondkar seeks to spread cheer in flood-ravaged Maha hamlets

By Quaid Najmi

Mumbai, Jul 28 (IANS): Amid the gloom that has engulfed the flood-ravaged districts of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena's glam leader Urmila Matondkar on Wednesday sought to cheer up the people in a couple of villages in Raigad and Ratnagiri, and returned with a lesson on human sufferings.

Urmila drove down this morning to tiny Dadli village and surrounding hamlets in Raigad and later in Ratnagiri - that were completely washed away in last week's rain fury which fuelled the floods in the district and wreaked havoc all over.

Accompanied by a vehicle loaded with relief supplies and abundance of radiance, she descended on the tiny village where scores of smiling and cheering villagers welcomed her with love and affection.

Clad in an earthy-brown salwar-suit with a white dupatta, Urmila reciprocated with equal warmth, mingling freely with the flood-affected folks, lifting a couple of giggling kids, touching some of the shy women and attempting to break the ice with small talk.

At one spot on the outskirts of Dadli, she learnt of a couple and a brother, mentally challenged, who lost everything including their two bullocks.

Their humble and devastated dwelling was a few meters away from the road, but the undaunted Urmila nonchalantly stepped into nearly 2-3 feet deep muck and sludge, trudged to the family who could scarcely believe their eyes.

"I tried to console them... Offered them some aid kits, and tried to boost their spirits. I promised them that things will improve for them in future and then later they could invite me for a cup of tea," Urmila told IANS from the spot.

A member of her team later informed that she chatted with the villagers, enquired after their welfare, the status of their near and dear ones, and whether the flood survivors were able to get proper food, water, clothing and other items for survival.

In Chiplun - one of the worst-hit areas which was under 15-20 feet water and now has a mournful countenance, she interacted with a few hundred people and distributed aid material.

"While in Kolkata for a shoot last week, I had watched shocking images of the Chiplun bus depot which was submerged in 10-12 feet water with only the bus roof visible - and, right now I am standing here and seeing the wreck and ruin caused by the floods," Urmila added.

Shaken to her soul by what she witnessed in her few hours long whirlwind tour, Urmila said the calamity is too huge for words and it will take long for the affected people to return to normalcy.

"Nothing can prepare you for this... Whatever help you can give is less. The most difficult challenge is to look in their eyes and talk... they have lost everything and pin their hopes on you and the government," she said, recalling her similar 3-day visit to the flood-hit Satara, Kolhapur and Sangli in 2019.

On Wednesday, Urmila distributed around 500 kits with essentials for children and women including food, medicines, sanitary napkins, etc through NGO Rashtra Seva Dal and also pitched in with her own cash donations but did not reveal the amount.

"Tomorrow, I shall make videos of my trip, post it on social media and issue an all-out appeal to the film folks, corporates, charitable organisations and common citizens to open up their hearts and purses for the distressed people here," Urmila said.

She pointed out that while the government will definitely help, it will take a long to completely rehabilitate the people and heal their mental scars at the loss of their loved ones, "but every tiny effort will count", and promised to return for a longer visit with more aid material soon.



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Title: Urmila Matondkar seeks to spread cheer in flood-ravaged Maha hamlets

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