Monday, 25 April 2016

A year later: Kathmandu

        Kathmandu is a bizzare valley. Out of the many places I've been to, it is definetely one of the most diverse ones. In a way, it seems almost similar to London, as a capital hosting many from different backgrounds. The place is forever busy. If it weren't for the pillars supporting the houses and buildings on the edge of collapsing, one would think Kathmandu still feels the same. It baffles me on how and why people would be walking around so casually under crumbling buildings. Life after the 7.8 Mw earthquake here seems to have moved on when you look at people buzzing away in the city but many do constantly think about the incident and fear of another such big one coming, especially with the recent devastating news of earthquakes hitting Japan and Ecuador. 

       My first stop at Kathmandu was Asan. It was as busy as ever. Trade is always swimming here; whether you're a vegetable vendor or a potey (bead) crafstman, it is the place to be if you are looking to boost your business. While crowds were occupied at the front, the backyards of the buildings told a different story. With so many houses built so closely in a cluster, you wonder whether the adjacent buildings helped support one another and if there were another one to strike, would it result in a domino disaster. In my opinion, very little had been done to restore these structures and it was alarming how the public were not concerned as much as I thought they ought to be in this matter. Many dangerous buildings were empty and bore no dweller yet they were not brought down at the same time. As with many Nepalis, I believe that the government should be responsible for ensuring the safety of its people. After all, it's comprised of a supposedly literate set of people who have access to the nation's funds and are there to support its people, not feed off them.   

Hanuman Dhoka Durbar (royal palace) Square was unrecognisable from how I remember it two years ago. The UNESCO world heritage site was part rubble and efforts were being made to restore it.


However, most buildings in Naxal were sturdy enough to survive both major earthquakes from last year.

          One of the rarest sights I had seen was the silent streets of Thamel. What was once a tourist hot-spot was very empty. Although shops were all open, customers hardly came by. I asked a few shop owners on how the days had been since and they all replied insisting that they might have to either close down or rely completely on exporting if this were to continue.

      Balaju was one of the many hard-hit areas. I lived in the place for 5 to 6 years so when I came back to my once hometown, it was pretty difficult to take it all in. Just a couple of homes stood still and almost every household lost a family member. Not many live here anymore, with most having gone to settle in safer places.

An unexpected delivery! We were blow-drying Daisy with the help of an inverter generator after her bath when we felt a kick on her stomach. I still can't believe we didn't realise she was pregnant. The next morning she gave birth to a litter of four of the cutest litttle pups. Nepal is still subjected to blackouts on a day to day basis, so much so that Nepal Electricity Authority even has a schedule for it.

      I also had a look around the city for prefabricated homes. They are much light-weight in construction and safer in comparison to bricked homes; almost like a portakabin. Below is an example of such a prefab house that many were considering to replace their broken homes with. Although price-wise it may not be cheap, some can be reconstructable and it would be a much safer option, especially to those who have sadly lived through the trauma of the quake.

     Parts of Swayamabhunath were destroyed and restoration was in process.

      Famously known as the Monkey Temple, I witnessed a mischievous fella on the site, stealing a bottle of drinking water. The shopkeeper only watched and shook his head suggesting that maybe this happened a bit too often.

      Nepal is still as religious as it was 10 years ago when I left the country. People still follow their religious routines on a day to day basis. I can't really tell if the earthquake strengthened or weakened the Nepalis' belief in a supreme being but what I did see was that many people jumped in to help clear the debris of temples and to rebuild them; whether it be for historical preservation or to diminish God's wrath, but those who have been homeless as a result of the earthquake have yet to recieve rebuilding grants from the government to this date.

One of the main acts that will always be remembered is the humanitarian response from many countries to help Nepal. Many government as well as relief organisations gave their support to help mend a broken nation. Nepalis express their thankfulness towards the generosity showered by international efforts and now ask for nothing more because the problem now lies within the nation and its leaders. Patience is running out among the survivors of the earthquake as their calls for help from the Nepali government, even though its been a whole year, are still going unnoticed...

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