Nepal earthquake

You know at times you cannot help but stereotype, attribute certain qualities to people from certain countries. Take myself for example, I associate liberal way of living and thinking with the Americans, feel British are a little on a conservative side, Chinese are hard working and tenacious and Japanese are disciplined and polite to the core. Likewise, Nepalese are proud. Foreigners usually find them honest too but honesty is a quickly diminishing trait in today’s world and is getting rarer by the day.

A Nepali, rich or poor is proud. Of what?? You may ask. Of my country which is blessed with natural beauty, of the mountains, of Mt Everest the highest peak  of the world, of the lakes and rivers, the deep gorges, of Lumbini which is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, of the rich culture and heritage we have, our customs and traditions, our religious tolerance, how beautifully Buddhism and Hinduism exists in harmony in my nation, of our brave Gurkhas, our friendly and hospitable nature, etc. I’ve yet to meet a Nepali who is not proud of being a Nepali. He may not have many things but he has pride. I think Pride is a great commodity to have when you have nothing much.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries of the world. The first and only international airport was built in 1953 and then the country was officially open to outsiders. Tourism became a main source of income of the country soon after that. The mountaineering enthusiasts, the east Asian Buddhists, the middle class Indians looking for cheap holiday destination, the backpackers seeking life experiences and adventures have been the country’s main tourists. Nepal is not an expensive country by any means. A foreigner friend once told me that her being in Nepal was infact saving her a lot of money. The tourism experience is not anywhere exotic like that of the Bahamas, Switzerland, Thailand or even Maldives, etc. Just a handful of five star hotels exist to cater to the very rich who do visit. It is a far flung nation in the Himalayas where celebrities have visited time and again to experience obscurity. It isn’t a pleasure haven. Rustic life, rustic experiences; these are the things travelling to Nepal provides you. But tourism in any form whatsoever has helped the nation a lot, by creating jobs for all sort of people, the skilled and the unskilled! And most important it has brought the people of my country in direct contact with all sorts of people from all over the world and has changed their lives and perspective on things. I truly believe it has made the people of my county more progressive and open to change more so than those of neighbouring India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.

When on 25th April, an earthquake of 7.9 rector hit Nepal with its epicentre west of Kathmandu, there was a huge damage to the country. Thousands of lives were lost, cultural heritages from centuries ago were turned to rubbles. I am sure much of the dead were among the poor who didn’t have strong enough houses. Natural calamities like these hit the poor the hardest. It is hard enough for them to survive day in and day out. They must have toiled hard to built a small home without qualification and proper employment and no support from the government. And now nothing remains. My friend was right that day when he said “God has failed today!”
The cultural heritages destroyed were many centuries old, built without modern architecture by the local arts men of the city at a time when Nepal was a nation entirely cut off from all and living in times far behind than the rest of the world, when probably things like cement and rods were unheard of. It is understandable that they didn’t withstand the big earthquake but their loss is felt in a huge way, these were part of our history and had wonderful stories behind them. But more than the cultural heritages my thoughts go out to the people who were affected by this earthquake.

This earthquake was the first of its kind that hit Nepal in a long time. I cannot tell you how this has shaken us out of our reverie and impacted our thoughts. Nepal, because of its harsh topography, location and lack of resources is economically crippled and is in a hard position to even support itself. It has survived mainly on foreign aid. The major highways were built by various countries like Russia, India, Japan, China, etc as foreign aid. And today, the major source of income of the country is foreign remittance. What does it say about my country? People are aware that the government is a farce and does nothing worthwhile for its people. But whatever the situation, whatever the status, even when they knew they didn’t have much hope, the majority of Nepalese who were poor were not an unhappy lot. They were generous with whatever they had (foreigners recall being invited to their homes to share their meals whatever it may be) and kind and full of laughter, and  content with what they had. But this earthquake have hit the people hard and ensured that they will have to struggle for years to come.

Foreign aid, rescue team and relief materials were quick and promptly send to Nepal when the magnitude of the disaster was realised. India, China, Israel were first responders with USA, Pakistan, UK, Bangladesh, Netherlands, etc soon following. There has been pledges of millions of  dollars of donations by many countries. We Nepalese cannot be thankful enough for their selfless support. Now it’s upon the government to support its people and do things extraordinarily with the fund utilization. And upon the people of the country itself to rise irrespective of support of any kind.

We were people who were easily pleased and satisfied. We didn’t require much to be happy. We were the kinds that will be at the pits and still be happy. It’s like the Universe is telling us something, like “don’t you dare and be happy when you have nothing, work even harder, find valid reasons to be happy and make your lives worthwhile, aspire for more. I will not let you rest”.

Let’s see what the future holds for my country. But like everyone else I have been woken up, my bubble has burst and I realise we have very little things to be proud of.

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Let me tell you about my hometown

So, we reached our hometown Phidim after travelling for close to 24 hours, by bus and then by taxi from Kathmandu, covering 900 km or more in distance. Phidim is in the hills between the plains and the himalayas, in the eastern part of Nepal. It is a small town surrounded by hills on all sides. But it is not a valley. I remember asking my favourite teacher, Sir Kulman why Phidim was not a valley like Pokhara or Kathmandu although it fitted the description of a valley. He told me it was not a flat area but an uneven rolling land surrounded by hills.

We were in town for some official work. So, after we finished that we went to the local river called Hewa. There are not many places one can go in a small town. But the river is a popular picnic spot. It is one of the places student bunk school to come to on hot summer days. We had fresh river fishes in a small riverside shop. Then we tried searching for crabs (we found three), skipped stones, did the regular stuff and had fun!!

IMG_0788.JPGOn our way to the river

IMG_0780-0.JPGFish dish was tasty

IMG_0785-1.JPGFound these crabs

IMG_0747-0.JPGAlso saw a truck that had overturned in someone’s rice field.

IMG_0774.JPG
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve grown up in this place that I feel at peace there. Other places are more beautiful and more fun but there’s something heart-warming about my hometown. On the way to my hometown, when the terrain changes from plains to hills and the road become spiral, going up and down the hill and up and down again, like a roller coaster ride, I hate it. But when you are on the last leg of the journey and descending down the hill, you get a view of the town and your heart leaps with so much joy!!!! “Home”…your heart says and this is exactly where you feel the crappy journey was actually worth it.

IMG_0826.JPGExhibit A

IMG_0825.JPGPhidim

IMG_0768.JPGI can see my home

It’s a small place where everyone knows everyone. It’s so small that sometimes I hesitate to call it a town. There is one or two of everything like 2 colleges, 1 hospital, 1 cinema hall, 1 prison and so on. You can go anywhere within the place on foot. So, of course there’s no internal transport service, only in and out of the place. We used to walk everyday to and from school. Nowadays, motorbikes are quite popular. It’s a must have for a young male. Boys with bikes earn big points with girls. And Saturday is bazaar day, a day when there’s a Farmer’s market and people from nearby villages come to sell their produce. There’s nothing for a tourist to see here; the river, thakle temple which is at the top of a hill among huge rocks, a nearby tea estate, tupi salla which is a pine trees filled hill with a tower (another popular picnic spot) are not exactly tourist attractions. Still, there’s something about my hometown that I told my brother it’s a perfect place to live in, if only the health and education facilities were little better.