Saturday Features

Gatlang in transition

- Utsav Shakya, Kathmandu

Apr 21, 2018-

Mornings in Gatlang, Rasuwa are deceivingly quiet. One minute it seems eerily still, the next it is full of activity.

Heavy rocks are carried to construction sites on wooden crates. Sand is hauled on to dokos; cement bags are heaved on to a friendly neighbour’s back. 

Before the first cup of tea has been had, a carefully cut stone brick has already been added onto a half-finished wall of a stone house. The scraping and slapping of cement and sand being mixed and lathered on stone will continue through the day. 

Gatlang is a village in transition. Dubbed the ‘Black Village’, tourists on the Tamang Heritage Trail would stop by to admire its wooden roofs, weathered stone walls and carved doors and windows, which gave it the name. After the earthquake though, the lonely foreigner at the Langtang View Homestay breakfast table is its first tourist for the week. 

The quiet resolve in Gatlang residents is more evident in its women. With many working-age men working outside the village, women stepped in to take advantage of a 50-day masonry trainings supported by the UK to help rebuild in an earthquake-resilient manner. 

Challenging the stereotype of construction being men’s work, not only did the women here build their own homes but also found employment as skilled masons. For many, this is the first time they have earned an income, something that has empowered them to voice their opinions. Most women said the money went into supporting children’s education. One of the women, who dropped out of school years ago, was considering going back. 

When Gatlang is built back fully, it might not be the black village anymore. What seems more certain is that it will be a more resilient village with a bright future.

The writer tweets @utsavshakya

Published: 21-04-2018 08:35

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