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Seeking shelter in burial ground

By Sandhya Soman

CHENNAI, JAN. 3. Stella Mary flits between tombstones, her red nose ring sparkling in the afternoon sun as she braids her disembodied doll's blond mane. Scraps of this 12-year-old's life from the Kasimedu Pallam lie heaped at the burial ground opposite the fishing harbour since water washed away her house last Sunday.

Stella breaks into a smile every now and then. She laughs at the sight of her 10-year-old brother, Yesu Raj, and friend Sathish taking a quick shower under the burial ground tap.

Her smile widens at the sight of Chennai Corporation's lorry loaded with `sambar sadam' for the nearly 40 occupants who fled the tsunami's fury to live in makeshift shanties on the burial ground for the past six days.

She peeps into 22-year-old Murthy's pan to look at pieces of fish frying. Her smile recedes a little as she listens to why Murthy, a lorry cleaner, had to ``borrow'' fish lying unsold in boats on the beach.

"We need fish to keep the body healthy. And you should not throw food, especially in a place like this," says Murthy.

Stella in a tattered blue frock happily balances her plate of rice.

The rice soon disappears. So does her smile as she contemplates a cold night at the burial ground.

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