Through the eyes of an Optimist

I remain traumatized from the effects of the April 25th Nepal earthquake, but I am also optimistic at what Nepal can now become.

On April 25th, 2015, I was visiting the Boudhanath stupa, one of the UNESCO’s world’s heritage sites, to meet my friends for conversation and coffee. We were busy talking when without warning, everything started to shake. The cups and chairs, tables and plates began to fall. We rushed outside the café, not fully aware of what was taking place. We hugged each other and stood next to the wall of Boudhanath stupa. Looking up, we saw cracks in the Boudhanath stupa. It wasn’t safe. People were yelling, crying and very were frightened. We tried to console each other but earth tremors continued at random intervals, keeping us on edge the entire time. We were looked towards the buildings and stupa, waiting for them to collapse. I tried connect to the internet in order to get updates via facebook. I soon learned that even my Indian and Bangladeshi friends felt the quake. I learned that the quake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and that the epicenter was in a small village in the Gorkha area, 80km north-west of Kathmandu.2015-05-08 15.40.44

I received a message from my father after the quake, relieved to know that he and the rest of my family were fine. Not being able to contact them made me worried. I wanted to get back to my home, which was around 20 minutes walk from the stupa. I decided to leave my friends and walk home. I had no real idea of the devastation until left the stupa. Many people were injured , running everywhere. Some were covered with blood; Many were crying outside of their crumbled houses, or over the bodies of their family members buried beneath crumbled structures. Doctors were scampering, looking for cardboard boxes in nearby shop to be able to treat victims in a semi-clean environment. II found all of this to be very heartbreaking. I have been worried about my family, relatives and friends but I was not able to contact anyone. It all seemed sereal; like a disaster movie. I was not being able to realize what was happening.

I was passing Om hospital when I felt another tremor. I saw a large building smashing loud on the ground. The rumbling and vibrations caused by moving buildings was quite disturbing.

After a while, I began to cautiously walk towards my home. I could see that all the residence were out in the open, away from the crumbled buildings, horrified from the quake and after shocks. I saw my Mom; she hugged me I was safe. People stayed outside, frightened. We were told that we were not safe, at least for another 72 hours and thus, were required to stay away from buildings.C360_2015-05-02-15-05-41-250

That night, we slept under the stars on a small carpet on the ground. We ate noodles and biscuits. It was really cold and the tremors continued throughout the night. The next morning, we sneaked into homes for some food, warm clothes, and blankets. We felt another aftershock. This time measuring 6.7. I begun to loose all hope and thought we all would soon die. The tremors made me feel so helpless. There was nothing I could do and I had never been scared in my life.

Staying outdoors with out warm clothing or nutrient food, I had become sick. A mild fever began to set in, causing me to slow down. I briefly took a look at a newspaper someone had been able to obtain. Until this point, I had no idea how destructive the earthquake had been. It surely turned out to be a black day for Nepal and all Nepalese. We have lost most of our historical monuments, lives and properties. Our tradition, our temples, our past what we were so proud of, all are gone in a glimpse. Those heritages which stood with pride are now shattered on ground as some careless splinters.

It’s been 11 days since the first earthquake, but tremors are still felt every now and then. There has been about 145 small earthquakes above 4 Richter scale and countless below that frequency. We have moved in but still we are afraid to live in our 3rd story home. For few days, I had terrible dreams of running along the rubble, falling houses like ghosts approaching towards me. It is a lifelong ordeal that will haunt us for ages.C360_2015-05-02-14-56-39-163

Despite all these adversities, I could see the ray of hope; the sense of togetherness, brotherhood and unity that had been fading away from our society is rekindling. Rich, poor, high, low, Brahmin, newar, tamang, gurung, kshetri, madhesi are all together in a tarp, holding each other, sharing their food, consoling one another. Amidst the unbearable suffering we are going through, the picture of unity was heart-warming for me. Every time there was a quake, we’d hold unto each other gazing up in the sky, praying to our own Gods to have mercy upon us and rest of the time, we talked, laughed like long lost friends. We are clearing the mess, removing the broken bricks and wooden planks, supporting each other in the time of grief. This is what our society had been lacking in recent years.

May be this is what our shattered, crumbled temples, monuments are trying to say. We have had enough clashes in the name of religion, castes, and ethnicity. We were too eager to divide the nation and taken our cultural heritage for granted. Since they are no longer among us, we now realize their importance. We had forgotten the sense of unity in diversity that Prithvi Narayan Shah had instilled among us long back. We have been provided this opportunity to correct our mistakes and build our nation collectively from every nook and corner towards prosperity. We can now drag our country from of the quagmire of inequality and poverty if directed towards right direction and with proper vision.

As the consequence of World War II, many jobs which previously excluded women were now open to them, allowing women to realize their potential.  This helped change the oppression of women in western society. As per this earthquake, where most of the men of rural Nepal are either a labor in gulf countries or studying abroad, women have been the worst hit. They have the responsibility of their parents, in laws, children as a whole. Besides, young women are seen actively involved in the relief operation too. Can we take this as a hope to shake our gender based discrimination?

Another important aspect we have to ponder about is our housing system and consciousness regarding cleanliness of our surroundings and water supply. It’s a mud mortar or lavish apartments, the houses have crumbled down mercilessly, it shows how tiny we are in comparison to the forces of nature. No matter how hard humans try to boast for their inventions, nature has always proved us wrong. Taking this disaster as a lesson, we have to plan a better housing system and consciousness regarding cleanliness. This earthquake has given us the chance to either leap ahead or lag behind; and the choice is ours.

We Nepalese have a wonderful habit of smiling even in the face of adversity. I understand that we have fallen, been shaken, and traumatized but we have not given up. We will rise from the ashes like a phoenix.

I am grateful to everyone who wished for our safety and trying all day and night to secure our lives all over the world. But, I also want to request everyone to make sure our independence and sentiments be respected, we might have lost our houses but we have not lost our dignity or pride.

– Anisha Pokharel

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