Since so much land was lost along the riverside, the only place to build here is on the hillsides above. This valley is quite densely populated, with almost all suitable land taken for existing homes or farming. There is no possible place to efficiently build a tract of 50 homes.
Our first house sits by itself among terraces growing rice and mustard seed. All building materials are dropped on the highway. Mules or Nepali porters show up to move sand, gravel, cement, brick, and steel bar up the steep hill on their backs. You can make 20 rupees carrying 35 bricks up the hill. A strong porter will make up to 30 trips per day earning 600 rupee, about $10 US.
Each plot of land is first blessed with a puja, then Premamrita Swami personally measures of the foundation. Digging is difficult as even on the hillsides, the soil is a mixture of dirt and large round river rocks. At first, we have only three workers, Babalu, Chitra, and Umesh who doubles as our cook. All work is being done with hand tools, whether building plywood cement forms, cutting rebar, or mixing the cement.
I was very surprised to see that Shanti Devi, the future owner of our first house, is working at the site every day. She quietly helps carrying sand, gravel or water where needed. She lost her house, her husband, one son, and two mules in the floods. She will live in the house with her remaining son.
Water and electricity are needed before Swami can start cement work at the site. Village officials had agreed to provide it 10 days prior, but nothing was yet hooked up. Swamiji gave them 48 hours or “He would happily go back to Kerala and sit at Amma’s feet”. The next day, both water and electricity were turned on.
Work will pick up speed very soon with more lots and more workers.