Shanta broke down as she described how the massive landslip here on Monday that killed three people also razed to the ground all her hopes of eking out a decent living by selling snacks and knickknacks to tourists visiting Munnar and the nearby areas.

The boom of moving earth, preceded by massive floodwaters, is still fresh in her mind, making her quiver at the thought that she escaped by narrowest of margins while her neighbour, a young boy, went under the massive heap of rubble.

Shanta is among the those who own a row of shops at Cheeyappara waterfall, a major landmark for people visiting Munnar, making a living by selling snacks and drinks to tourists.

She has been running the shop near the popular waterfall for nine years until the disastrous Monday when the landslip turned her world upside down. She said she lost fresh stocks worth all her savings.

Indira, her friend and a shop owner at Cheeyappara, said they were expecting sales to boom as tourist flow to Munnar was expected to increase after August 8 as several holidays were announced for schools and government offices.

She said those who made a living at the Cheeyappara waterfalls by selling snacks and drinks were the poorest of the poor. Shanta said: “I have a degree but had no other option to support my family and make a living,” pointing to the place where her little shop stood once under the gaze of thousands of tourists who made to Munnar on holidays.

Shanta, hailing from the Fifth Mile, Valara, said that she had foreboding about the shape of things to come since the last weekend as incessant rain ate into the massive hill that stands over 20 feet high over the row of shops at Cheeyappara on the Kochi-Dhanushkodi national highway.

Indira was reduced to tears when asked how she proposed to make a living now on. She said she had lost all the fresh stocks at the shop under the rubble. She wept at the thought that Joshi, alias Kunjumani, a young boy who spread a lot of cheer among the shopkeepers on a normal business day, lost his life in the landslip.

Biju, another shopkeeper at Cheeyappara, said he was lucky to escape. He did not expect many of his friends to be alive because the landslip was so massive and frightening. “We were lucky that not all the shops were opened because of slackened business in the rains.”

On Tuesday, as rescue operations continued, he stood under an umbrella under pouring rain and held Indira’s and Shanta’s hands in a firm grip. A simple human gesture as three people came together on the shore of life, plucked out by fate from what was certain death.

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