Print Edition - 2015-05-09  |  On Saturday

In the aftermath of the disaster

- Anup Ojha
In the aftermath of the disaster

May 8, 2015-

A one-man army

Nabin Tamang, 31, a resident of ward number 8, Baskharka VDC, Sindhupalchok, has spent the last two weeks working tireleslly, rescuing trapped villagers, trying to organise for relief material and burying the dead.

 Tamang, despite losing his mother and cousin in the quake, participated in carrying out the burial of 22 dead bodies in the corn fields adjoining his village.

“Three of us, Purna Tamang, Odar Man Tamang and I, worked to bury the dead bodies after the quake. It took us one full week to complete the task. We had no clothes to cover the bodies with and there were flies everywhere. On top of that, the rain added to our trouble,” says Tamang.

After taking care of the dead, Tamang is now working to make the lives of the living more comfortable. The village has been without electricity since right after the quake, which means that the villagers can’t charge their phones and contact their friends and relatives living in Kathmandu and abroad (especially in the Gulf countries and Malaysia, where many young men from the village have gone to work). To help them communicate with their family members, Tamang came to Kathmandu a few days ago, with around 70 mobile phones loaded in a sack. He charged them all and took them back to his village, to help his folks connect with the world outside.

 Tamang now travels to Melamchi and Kathmandu every day, to meet the concerned authorities, with hopes of arranging relief material and aid for his village. “I don’t have time to think about the past. Now, I have to work to reconstruct my village. I have to save those who survived the quake from famine and disease, and encourage them to lead a happier life. I have to give them  hope,” says Tamang.

 

Bitter truth

When six-year-old Nishani Ghale’s mother’s 13th day death ritual was taking place on Thursday afternoon at her house in Melamchi, ward number 6, she was busy playing in another part of the courtyard. She doesn’t know that her mother died in the earthquake, since her father, Dinesh, has been telling her that her mother has gone to Kathmandu, and that she will be returning home on Baisakh 25 with lots of gifts from the city.

“I had to convince her that her mother would come home on Baishak 25. Thankfully, she doesn’t know when it falls,” says her father. Nishani, who studies in the first grade in a local school, is the brightest kid in her class, and her father fears that she might lose interest in studies if she comes to know about her mother’s death. But he is also worried about how long he can keep her in the dark. He plans to tell her the truth only when he thinks she is old enough to handle it.  

Before the quake struck, Dinesh was an enterprising man, who had been happily married for 10 years. He was in the process of opening a shop for his wife in Melamchi Bazaar and was also planning to start a poultry farm. To come up with money for the two ventures, Dinesh had even applied for a loan amounting to 600,000 from the Krishi Bikash Bank. But now, after the death of his wife, he doesn’t know what to do next. The devastating quake did not just snatch his life partner away from him; it also shattered all his dreams.

The only possession

The only possession that 77-year-old Kami Lama, a resident of Judan Gumba, ward no 8, Sindhupalchok, and his wife, Dawa Lama, 88, were left with after the quake was a newly born buffalo calf. Most of the houses in his village have collapsed. The disaster took  four lives in his village. And the monastery, which stood right above Lama’s house until recently, lies in ruins now.

Lama still cannot reconcile with the fact that the monastery, which was a sanctuary of worship for the locals as well as people from neighbouring villages, is now a pile of debris. But he knows that he has to deal with the loss somehow. He is happy though that the calf survived. He plans to raise the calf like he would his own child. And he talks about it with a paternal excitement: “I think the little one understands that it is living in hard times,” says Lama. Lama’s youngest son is in Kathmandu, while his eldest son, who works in India, has not returned home.

A Gandharva’s tale

On my way back from Tanahun, where I had gone to meet my parents after the disaster, last week, I met Deepak Gandharva, 33, from Bhansar, Lamjung. Hunched near the entrance of an eatery, where our bus had stopped for lunch, he was singing songs of the pain and destruction wrought by the earthquake, to the tune of his sarangi. Very few people sat around him to listen to his songs, though. Nobody, it seemed, could stand the news of death and destruction anymore.

In this age of the Internet, television and mobile phones, when news travels at the speed of light, the young minstrel seemed like a quaint vestige of the past, when people like him roamed the country with news and information, which they turned into songs  that they sang before eager crowds.

 

Published: 09-05-2015 13:43

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