The sight of bloodied children on stretchers, news of so many dead, photos of utter devastation, images of thick dust and rubble now the only remains of centuries old architecture – have been haunting my days and nights.
The scenes of desperation as small teams of people tear through bricks and old mortar with their bare hands in the hope of recovering anyone buried, tore straight through my heart.
In one moment, so many people’s lives devastated, and not just those in the city, but mountain folk in remote places who live simply, as they have done for centuries.
The thought too of all those hopeful travelers trekking to distant spots on Mount Everest or the Annapurna Sanctuary (it’s peak trekking season) brought tears to my eyes. Those places, with names which drip off my tongue with which we were once so familiar because we lived in Nepal for nearly two years when our son was just 5 weeks old.
In fact for one year in the early nineties we lived near the epicenter of that first fatal quake which hit 7.8 magnitude, in a small camp where my husband was engaged in a road project building a highway from Kathmandu to Pokhara. I know those mountain roads so well, we used to travel along thin ribbons of potholed bitumen which clung to the steep mountainside on one edge and dipped down vertically to a ravine or river on the other. Off to do my grocery shopping in a landrover. No room for mistake, and no room for an earthquake to disrupt. No room either for the many Ta-Ta trucks either which came careering around steep corners in the middle of the road.
Kathmandu, Durbar Square … almost destroyed. I remember a beautiful, culturally important Medieval place of temples, and teetering houses which once peppered the lanes and alleyways around it. Many now turned to dust.
What of the people? Thousands dead so far, so many more injured. Hospitals which will not be able to cope. I think back to the crush of people and bicycles back in 1990, the honking, tooting and mad dash – nothing I’m sure to what it is today 25 years later.
All those people. Such a beautiful country.
I remember trekking around the Annapurna trails, and many other mountain paths, often with Sam in a rucksack on my back. But I was lucky to enjoy serenity and pristine mountain air, with gorgeous snow capped mountain views.
We walked behind mule trains with jangling bells, we stopped for chai in small villages where mountain folk welcomed us and encouraged us to sit, stay a while and enjoy the peace. Many of those villagers may not be there to welcome us again, because this quake and its aftermath ripped through the earth from city to mountain village without discrimination. Villages so remote, so inaccessible how will their injured be helped?
So many times I remember gazing at Fish Tail Mountain reflected in the still waters of Phewa Lake, being bombarded by laughing children demanding, ‘one rupee, one pen’ but feeling a sense of peace with the world around me.
In Kathmandu I remember being in the thick of bike horns and revving cars where sacred cows wandered the streets and the omnipresent smell of spices mingled with a whiff of cannabis. How much more must the honking cacophony have been when the earthquake struck?
I remember well the eateries of Thamel and the hidden temples and palaces.
One of which had a fascinating history which I’ll maybe write about one day. Back then the sad story inspired me to write a poem which I’d like to dedicate to the people of Nepal who are suffering so much loss right now.
There will be sunsets yet
On other verandahs
With sitar music lost in the winds of my soul
And uncontrolled memories fleet-footing
Down echo-filled avenues
Where I shall sit, side by side
With the memory of you,
Myself, your spirit and the pain.
I’m donating to World Vision’s Nepal Earthquake fund today. I believe time is of the essence. If you’d like to help in whatever way you can too, here’s a link to the donate page : World Vision Donate