It was a warm balmy Sunday. I was in a tempo headed from my office at Jwagal to my transit at New Baneswor. A typical work day sees me changing four tempos- from Battisputali [where I live] to New Baneshwor [the transit], New Baneshwor to Jwagal [where I work] and the exact reverse that ends up costing me around sixty rupees in total. That means I come in contact with around forty different people from different walks of life on an average, with their own different life stories and crossroads and destinations; and spend ten rupees more than I would on a bowl of ‘Om Veg momos’ almost daily on my commute. Well, I am deviating, that is not the point of this anecdote.
The tempo was uncharacteristically sailing along the road that led me home. It was when we reached the bridge of Thapathali that the tempo came to a complete standstill. A few weeks earlier, before the first earthquake, I would have been amazed if we’d passed straight through the bridge without being stopped at least twice due to traffic congestion. This, however, was my first standstill in a week. After days of simply sailing through the bridge- I actually welcomed the ‘stink-ridden-five-minutes’-waste-of-my-life’ because I saw it as an indication. An indication that the quake struck capital city was resuming its slow but steady path toward normalcy- toward reconstruction.
That was last week and two days before the second quake struck- on an otherwise normal Tuesday- rendering people puzzled and panicky. Relief workers were stranded at quake-hit regions, the reopening of schools and colleges was postponed, entrepreneurs went back to being uncertain and the country riled under additional death toll and destruction. The silver lining? The government and non-governmental organizations were already on the ground and mobilized this time around and therefore they were effective and prompt in their action. Consequently, lesser people were affected as seriously.
However, it is true that while the first quake took away lives, property, buildings and cultural heritages, the second took away our hope, faith and sanity. There were more cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as people wrestled with the notion that another quake was just around the corner. Many people left their houses and went back to taking shelter in tents- even if their houses were not really affected. People stopped working for a future they saw as uncertain and irrational predictions took over logic and maturity. On the other hand, Facebook posts continued to be filled with people working for immediate relief as well as reconstruction, my phone continued to buzz with people willing to give supplies as well as their time and resources to work for the cause as despite everything- people kept looking forward to and preparing for the day when they will be back to take the world in their stride.
I read a Facebook post where a distant relative talks about her mother. Specifically about how her mother is scared because most of the temples in the capital city have been reduced to rubble. Yet, she is optimistic as she retains her faith in God and puts Tika on her forehead every morning. There was yet another story of a friend who refused to go back to his well paying job and took a sabbatical in order to be directly involved in rescue and relief activities. I know of another friend who has not been home in the past twenty days as he works tirelessly- packing bags of food and sanitary materials, calling people to check for availability of volunteers and resources, working to formulate long term goals and policies for rehabilitation. Yet another friend in the US gave her upcoming exams as little importance as possible, instead choosing to spend days and nights connecting people across the globe to raise money for Nepal. I have seen friends cancel their weddings and much awaited vacations and instead send money to their home country or leave everything and come to the country with much needed muscle power. Nepalese are nothing if not resilient.
Today, a week later since the second earthquake, I took a tempo to work and while returning I got stuck at traffic congestion at Thapathali bridge. As the stink wafted to my nose for the second time in as many weeks, I felt the full impact of these words again – Nepalese are nothing if not resilient.