Nepal Diaries #7

Flew back yesterday from Kathmandu. The trip was too short and I did too little. On the flight back, my co passengers discussed where they were, when the big afternoon tremor shook the daylights out of us. One of my co passengers, a lady from Chhattisgarh, was trying to get to Barpak to hand out relief. She returned to Kathmandu, the same day and preponed her flight to Delhi. “I am a mother after all,” she tried to explain to me. No justifications were required. If I had made any babies, maybe the choices I make would have been diffrent. Whose to say?

Another passenger, was returning from Pokhra, when his ‘vehicle shook’, he said gesturing his hands from one side to another. Everyone, was quite shook up. But the strange thing is, that yesterday morning when I hailed a cab and went around Kathmandu taking pictures of the various houses that had come down, the bystanders seemed calmer than the tourists. For us it was an unusual occurence. For them, it’s something that they are slowing resigning themselves to. Read an article on Indiatimes.com, which stated that the worse is yet to come and an earthquake 32 times worse, is likely to hit the region..

http://www.indiatimes.com/news/world/terrible-news-an-earthquake-32-times-more-powerful-might-be-coming-232183.html

I returned home, to a very upset family. My choices have always bothered them but this was legitimate… I would have hated to be in their shoes, too. But they’ve come to a point where they know asking me to not to do something is futile. So my Mom very sweetly just looked past me, turned to my Dad and asked, ”Why did we produce her?” and my Dad shook his head and replied,”Now, I can’t do anything about it.”

Nepal Diaries-#4

It’s my last night in Kathmandu. Have a two pm flight tomorrow. Wish I could stay longer. Wonder how much I’ll get done before that. Thank God there aren’t as many casualties as the last Quake. Though, people are terribly frightened.

Will never be able to forget the few hours of sitting on the ground feeling the tremors…people running-helter, skelter; the cries of frightened women and children.

I feel like God’s special child, tonight. People just go out of their way to ensure my safety. Today, people took me under their wing when they realized I was alone. They were as worried about my safety as they were of their own. Blessed to be here…blessed to have this life.

Day 5- Earthquake Diary

I  couldn’t drag myself out of bed this morning. The excess luggage has screwed my back. Somehow, managed to leave for Tudi Hill by late morning and what a trip it was. At around 12.50, as I packed up my cameras and was making my way towards the exit, I suddenly felt the tremors and then there was just utter chaos.

Nepal Diaries-#3

Men everywhere seem to be the same. My cabbie, is very upset that I ‘m alone in Kathmandu. “Koi  koi boyfriend nahin, koi husband nahin! Next time akele nahin aana.” But he says, “jab tak shaadi nahin karega, tub tak khosh he. Uske Ke baad nahin.”

Half the drive  is spent listening to him go on about me being a ‘danger lady’ and the other about how this relief never really reaches the people who most need it. 

He’s right! It doesn’t because all the distribution channels shut down. We return to a rainy night in Kathmandu. Tired and confused about what the purpose of anything is. Grateful for all the things we have.

Day 4-Ethics

Woke up not knowing what I wanted to do. By 7, I has decided to leave with Narendra, to Gorkha. It took us around four  and half hours to reach a tiny. village, where the army had made a base camp for distribution. After an hour of taking pictures and distributing relief, we decided to head towards the Gorkha Durbar.

We were told that Barpak wouldn’t be possible in an old rickty Maruti. A number of organisations were already there and sending aid towards the villages. Saw the vehicles of  Save the children,  World Vision and Norwegian Church Aid Alliance.

I don’t know how one is supposed to remain detached and worry about the image at such times? I don’t think I can ever be a serious photographer.

Nepal Diaries#2

Wonder if the Gorkha day trip, will work out after all. Narendra, my cabbie warns me against it, not realising it’s the easiest way to get me to do something. Return to the hotel, to grab a quick bite and just as I finish my fruity nutty salad, I feel the earth shaking under my feet. A few staff members, run out of the hotel into the outdoor restaurant. Another earthquake rocks Nepal at around  half three and this time I feel the tremors, too. 

It’s the perfect setting for dinner- a deserted restaurant, rain, World Music playing on the laptop of a Westerner sitting across from me. The thunder interjects into the music…a staff member approaches me to ask if I’m afraid.  “We are”, he says. “The ground shakes from below and sky from above.”If I was in his place, I would be afraid, too. Experiencing loss is painful but witnessing it can be as traumatising.

Gorkha, hmm. I’ll have to see how tomorrow plays out. Whatever shall be, shall be.

Day 3- Awe

Witnessed the magnitude of the destruction today as my cabbie Narendra, drove me to Pattan and Bhaktapur. Volunteers from all over the world can be found in all the tiny nooks and corners in and around Kathmandu, working relentlessly with the locals to mitigate the effects of the Gorkha Earthquake.

The displaced can be found in tents, everywhere. Though, the situation is grim, I’ve yet to meet an angry person. There’s a certain calmness about the people I meet. Even as a sixteen  year old, goes through a pile of rubble- which was once her home, she smiles through the pain.

Life returns to a normal pace , for some- the shops have reopened and the streets are crowded. Now, that the gravity of the situation has slightly subsided,  volunteers can be seen leading a helping hand as well as taking selfies, in front of some of the tourist spots. It’s an odd mix of volunteerism mixed with tourism.

Nepal Diaries- #1

Spent the day, working and getting a feel of the place I visited last when I was 12 or 13. By afternoon, I had figured out that this was going to harder than I imagined. Being alone, the pace at which I was doing things was much slower.

But everything happens as it’s supposed to. I was trying to figure out how to get to Gorkha when the manager of my hotel introduced me to Phil. This English man was taking a medical team to Ashrang, a small village in Gorkha. They were leaving the next morning and would return in a few days. He invited me to join them. I told him I would let him know by evening. By the time I joined the American Doctor and Nurse for dinner, I had decided that I wasn’t going to go with them, after all. For me Gorkha, would have to be a quick day trip by bus.

Handed Phil, a few cartons of supply, just in case I wouldn’t manage as much on my own. Spent a pleasant evening talking about Nepal, Kashmir and Austria. Tomorrow I will head out to a few villages close to Kathmandu and Phil will take some stuff to Gorkha. People just unnecessarily try to scare us. Things turn out the way they are supposed to.

Day 2-Seva

I have never felt like a Sardarni because I was never asked to be one. My parents are partially  liberal. As long as I don’t convert, they don’t bother about my flirtations with other religions. But other Sikhs get perturbed by me and I feel a bit akward around them. The fact that Punjabi doesn’t roll of my tounge doesn’t help my cause.
But there’s something I like about Sikhism – Seva. That’s why I head towards the gurdwaras, in tumultuous times. 
There are two main Gurudwaras in Kathmandu one is Nanak Math and the other is Gurdwara Guru Nanak Satsang. Though, the former is a historical landmark for Sikhs, as Guru Nanak Deviji is believed to have travelled here. It’s the latter where the relief was being distributed. The only Sikhs to be seen around were the Sevakars and the recepients were the locals from the surrounding areas, who had been affected by what is called the Gorkha Earthquake.

Day 1- Gratitude

  

I waltzed into the airport, with my stuff at half eight, not realising that there would be a formal procedure for carrying relief internationally-  meaning a letter from the government. At the Indigo checkin, I was asked the same question for the umpteenth time. “Are you from an Ngo?” “Nope, I just have very generous friends”, I replied. It wasn’t a lie. During the Kashmir Floods as well as this time around , I just needed to inform my classmates and they arranged for as much material as I could possibly carry. 

The girl at the check in-Ankita, just didn’t know what to do. She called her superior. The man who turned up, turned out to be a really kind soul. He asked me a couple of routine questions, I showed him some of my work from the Kashmir Floods and he gave me the green signal. Jaspreet, allowed me to carry a hundred and thirty seven kgs of excess baggage without charging me a penny.

It was such a tedious task for both Anikta and him, they spent more than half an hour trying to sort out my affairs. They further gave me a reference in Nepal, just in case I got into trouble with the authorities.

Today, as I arrived  another earthquake rocked Nepal. There was utter chaos at the airport. But despite that: whether it was arranging extra trolleys, loading the stuff or locating porters for me, my co passengers  helped me with everything. The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

Though, they did open up a few cartons, the Nepalese authorities, on their part, let me breeze through with a warning.”You will not be able to do this alone without a local contact. Try to go through an organisation.” “I’ll manage”, I replied.

I’ll see what to do. Tomorrow is another day.

P.S- Thank you Bineeta Grover, Mrs Grover, Shruti Chabbra, Mrs Chabbra, Ankita, Jaspreet and Indigo Airline.

Many a little, make a mickle

Mom’s 60th went of as predictably dramatic as befits her life, I guess. Friday morning we found her with a head injury…thankfully, nothing severe… she heals steadfastly. She was discharged today, on her 60th birthday. Her face now shows the signs of the life she has lead…the body grows frailer…she looks much older.

I hear about the Earthquake from the part time help-”Bibi, tum ja nahin rahee ho?”, she asks”. A few fleeting lines on FB, is all I manage to pay attention to. Mom takes precedence and the devastation of the quake quickly makes its way to a darker corner of my mind.  I return home with a less selfish mindset, to be shocked by the devastation.

A few days after the worst earthquake to have hit Nepal in 80 years, the death toll has increased to 4,000. We all want to help. But after the Kashmir floods, I’ve realized there are more suitable and practical ways to help, during such times.

If you know the region  and have resources at hand-reach there As Soon As Possible- If not, wait a while! it usually takes all concerned organizations, a few days to build proper channels to collect and distribute the aid. After Day Five Or Six, all essential items are already on their way. Taking them personally- is an exercise in futility, unless and until you reach there on time and you have the means and the method to rescue and distribute aid.

For all those who want to help there are number of organizations, working on ground level. Cnn has compiled a list. Check it out. Boond boond se sagar banta hai.

How to Help the Victims Of The Nepal Earthquake. http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/25/world/nepal-earthquake-how-to-help/

After seeing the work that the Red Cross and the Golden temple did in Kashmir, I personally recommend contributing to either that organization or places of worship. In times of need, we all turn to God and that’s where the maximum number of survivors will head to- for food, shelter, comfort and hope.