Tag: relief

Life changing moment in Nepal

My regular life held me back from writing this. Last 2 weeks had me all over the place. I was a slave to my work and I think the clients. Finally got the moment to write when I am back in Kathmandu to do my further bit.

Giving you a brief account of what was an experience unlike any. You read about the relief camp at Bhaktapur. It gave an account of the urban relief camp. It was now time to go to the remote. Places where access was relatively difficult. We met Naveen, a friend of Pujan, engineer by profession and humanitarian in life. He was associated with an organization called “Work for Nepal”. Run by a bunch of young guys, working in varied fields, who had it in them to take off from work for their country. They had been working in the Kathmandu valley and the villages around. Naveen had visited a village called Tare Bhir and assessing the damage there and the need of the villagers, he thought it was best for us to help them.

Tare Bhir, is a village located about 2 hours from Kathmandu. The route is particularly treacherous as there is practically no route. The village is divided in various blocks, apparently that’s how it is in Nepal. Naveen had been to two blocks inhabited by about 27 families. There were half a dozen house completely damaged and the supply of essentials were almost disconnected.

Lorene had been able to raise some funds through her endeavor on Facebook. She had received donations from all over the world. The idea was to put the money in the right use. Lorene decided to donate 50000 Nepali Rupees (500 USD) to Work for Nepal. The money was to buy basic essentials to the 27 families in Tare Bhir.

We met Naveen at 10 and drove down to the work site of Work for Nepal. Jamal (an artist, interesting soul and a world citizen) had also joined us. Stories of his life will amaze anyone. The guys at Work for Nepal were busy packing relief materials they were sending off to another village.

The materials for Tare Bhir was bought by them and we were to pack them in 27 gunny bags. Each bag contained:

10 kg Rice

1 kg Dal

2 kg Chapped Rice (Churra)

1 lt Cooking oil

1 kg Salt

1 kg Washing powder

1 lt liquid soap

1 pack Mosquito coil

1 Tarpaulin

Sanitary Napkins

3 Tooth brush

1 Tooth Paste

Other than this we had taken toys and candies for the kids and some basic medicines.

Cost of each bag was over 2000 Nepali Rupees (1200 Indian or 20 USD). The amount donated was actually less than the cost of materials.

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The bags with relief materials loaded in the pickup van
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The bags with relief materials all packed to go
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(Standing 2nd onwards, Left to right) Naveen, Jamal, Lorene and me.

After packing we loaded the bags in a pickup car and was ready for the journey which was going to be a life changing experience. We were in 3 bikes and Jamal was in the pickup. On crossing Kathmandu we had to ascend a mountain as Tare Bhir was on it. I am told normally people would trek but as we were on bikes we were taking the road which didn’t really exist.

The pickup van stopped at the beginning of the trail and refused to go further as he didn’t want to take the risk of driving in the rough terrain. Lorene and I had moved further, driving a city bike on a non-existent mountain road. It was dusty and rocky. We slipped once and were flat down. Naveen had managed to arrange a jeep who knew a different way and was willing to drive to Tare Bhir.

It took us almost 3 hours to reach Ward 1 of Tare Bhir. We met an old lady and she took us into the village. There was a beautiful wooden canopy overlooking the valley. Naveen and Jamal had reached with the van and the villagers were plying the bags from the van to the village. We sat down and took some breath. The view was gorgeous and the people at their beautiful best. Before we could start any discussion we were offered some freshly brewed Raksi (A Nepali homemade wine that taste stronger than the strongest alcohol). We had some Raksi and asked all the villagers to join us near the canopy. We discovered there were no men in the village. Found out they had all gone out for work or to get building materials from the city. They had a strange excitement on their face. Some thought we were from the government, well that’s what they as any other citizen expect. But we weren’t and for a moment we were the messiah.

View from Tare Bhir
View from Tare Bhir
View from Tare Bhir
View from Tare Bhir

A member from each family was called and the bags were distributed. Lorene did the distribution. She distributed the bags to about 12 families. She had to explain the women about the sanitary napkins as they didn’t know about it. We had to caution them from not drinking the pink liquid in the bottle as it was liquid soap.

I had called all the kids to a corner and gave them candies and distributed the toys with them. They were in the age of 6 to 14. The children had a strange gloom on their faces. I tried talking to them and they were all shy, a striking contrast to those at Bhaktapur. After a little talking and playing they opened up and started talking. They all went to schools which they showed me was in a mountain I could see in the valley. They would trek miles every day, something I could not have imagined to do as a kid to study. They were way ahead of us. They wanted to study but the school was closed due to the quake. We decided to help building schools as the next project as these kids deserved it.

Kids at Tare Bhir Ward 1
Kids at Tare Bhir Ward 1

The people were unexpectedly hospitable. We were given a tour of the Raksi brewery. Well a little hut with a pot in which they brewed. We talked about the earthquake and the people were still living in the horror, but they said they had to still live and move on accepting it happened. This was something missing in Kathmandu. The men were back to work. The women were doing the work at homes and in the fields. A thing I liked about Tare Bhir and it’s the same for most villages in Nepal is that the villages are mostly self-dependent. They grow mostly vegetable which they consume. Most of them have solar electricity, water was from the stream nearby. The other essentials was what we were giving.

Naveen talking to the villages at Tare Bhir
Naveen talking to the villages at Tare Bhir
With an old lady from Tare Bhir. She was laughing on seeing herself on the phone screen.
With an old lady from Tare Bhir. She was laughing on seeing herself on the phone screen.

After distribution we packed up to go to the next Ward of Tare Bhir, our last destination of an already long day. The next Ward was about 20 mins drive downwards the mountain. We reached there to find that the village was still a little walk down. We met Shyam Lama, a resident of the village who was helping us to connect with them. Carrying the bags down would had been a difficult task so we called the villages to where the van was. The distribution was done in the same manner as the earlier ward. After the distribution of the bags we met the kids and distributed them the candies and toys. Spent some time with them. Family of Shyam Lama invited us for lunch to his uncle’s home. We accepted the invitation and walked down for about 15 mins to reach his house. We crossed fields of marijuana on our way. Opposite his house was Shyam’s house which was down to rubble by the quake. Nothing was left. Same was with 2 more houses in the village. Yet they were unfazed and their hospitable best. The women cooked us some fresh meal. Potatoes, chicken and beaten rice (Churra). We had some Raksi. We asked them out of curiosity about the marijuana, and was informed they fed it to the goats and cows as it increased the milk production.

Shyam Lama's house completely destroyed by the quake.
Shyam Lama’s house completely destroyed by the quake.
Lorene with the kids at Tare Bhir Ward 2
Lorene with the kids at Tare Bhir Ward 2
Me with the kids at Tare Bhir ward 2
Me with the kids at Tare Bhir ward 2
Kids at Tare Bhir Ward 2
Kids at Tare Bhir Ward 2
Lorene distributing the supplies to the families at Tare Bhir ward 2
Lorene distributing the supplies to the families at Tare Bhir ward 2

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Marijuana plantation at Tare Bhir
Marijuana plantation at Tare Bhir

After a good meal it was time to leave. We started trekking up to our bikes. The eldest lady in the village came to calling us to thank us for coming to her village. It was a beautiful gesture. We left the village around 6, it had got darker and driving back was going to be a task. Took us more than two hours to get back to Courtyard.

Sunset from Tare Bhir
Sunset from Tare Bhir

Introspecting the whole experience I got more from the village than we gave them. It felt strange that being in such a comfortable I had more complains from life. The desire and lust was stronger than life itself. These people had nothing. Living in a little village with limited means and having lost so much in the disaster they did not complain. They were happy with the little they had and didn’t lust for a glossy life. I felt so small in front of them. Realized again that money was not life but life was money. I had a different perception of life and living. Thanks to the beautiful people in Tare Bhir my life was changed for the better and the journey of giving unconditionally was ignited.

As said we wanted to rebuild schools for the little ones who wanted to study not just for studying but also to escape from the fear of quake. We have started work on it with a lovely group of young people based in Nepal and all over the world. Details will be in my next post.

If you read this post and you feel for these beautiful people then please do anything you can to support them. They need your support in this moment of standing back in their lives. You may contribute through your own organizations or to the links below. Work For Nepal and Lorene are doing great work go check their Facebook pages. If you think what we have been doing is noteworthy then you can contact me.

LINKS:

Work For Nepal: https://www.facebook.com/groups/664523693677050/?fref=ts

Lorene’s: Help me help Nepal: https://www.facebook.com/events/457672224395633/

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Nepal Quake – Hell in Heaven

Nepal, a neighbour that’s ngoas Indian as India can get, yet a character unlike India. It’s a place that has a special place for me and the reason I have been here for times unknown. Struck by a natural calamity that was one of the most devastating in the recent age.relie

Oindin 25 April when the earthquake hit I was at my home in Delhi with my parents. I sitting on the bed and felt the tremor. Told my mom. It was a strong one and lasted for ages. At that very moment I had the thought, considering the magnitude the epicenter must have been anywhere in Nepal, Afghanistan or southern India. I hoped it was not Nepal as it would be devastating knowing the topography and preparedness. Checked twitter and found the quake was of 7.8 magnitude (some people say it was 8.1) and the epicenter was in Barpak in Gorkha district about 70 km off Kathmandu. I knew that the fury was unfurled. The first day news said around 600 casualties and some damage to property. I knew it couldn’t be true and the reality will be known in times to come considering the remoteness of villages in Nepal.

My fear came true. Nepal was shattered and taken further years back in comparison to us. Read about it and saw pictures of the devastation. Couldn’t fathom what it would be like in Kathmandu and Nepal. The distinction as I believe Kathmandu is not even half close to the gorgeous other part of Nepal. I decided I had to do my bit.

On 16 May we took a flight to Kathmandu. The route from the airport to Courtyard made me think did they really exaggerate the quake? No damage was seen. Reached Courtyard and saw cracks in the hotel walls and stairs. People were sleeping in the outside and they had a fear unknown to me. I still didn’t understand the devastation. Went for a walk in Thamel (the main tourist locality in Kathmandu). Everything was shut. It was like a dead city. Got back to hotel and had a quake measuring 5.5. The scare continued.

We walked to Durbar Square. A big school was razed and temples severely damaged.

High School at Durbar Square
High School at Durbar Square
Temple at Durbar Square
Temple at Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu Durbar Square

Was late at night sitting with a bunch of people discussing their experiences. Some were in Kathmandu and one was at the Everest Base Camp during the quake. There was a strange calmness, the one that gives you a chill down the spine. That’s when I realized what the quake did. It had shattered the people more than the structures. Made them believe how tiny we are when it comes to gods fury. People were waiting for something bigger and more devastating.

We drove down to Bhaktapur the next day. It’s one of the ancient city of Nepal. Famous for its durbar square which houses some beautiful temples and monuments. We passed through relief camps built in public parks and even at the Kathmandu Golf course. Hundreds staying in tents living on supplies by the government and the NGOs. Read an article in the local newspaper, someone at a relief camp termed life at the camp as a picnic yet the thought of future scared her. Bhaktapur was not the same this time. The beautiful Durbar square was broken. Ancient temples got razed. Monuments were down and those still standing have been marked as unsafe to enter.

Street at Bhaktapur
Street at Bhaktapur
Warning outside a museum in Bhaktapur
Warning outside a museum in Bhaktapur

We went walking around Bhaktapur. There were lanes were 7 out of 10 houses were down. People had lost their houses and families. They knew nothing about how they would stand back even closer to where they were before. There was a strange sadness and gloom. Was driving back and saw people smiling and waving at me. Realized the sadness was my inner introspection.

I was ready to walk out and meet people. Walk out of my comfort and know the reality. Help them with whatever I could. Walk out to a learning I never thought I would get at a calamity struck zone. Walk to a new life for them and for me.

Met a bunch of guys doing some humanitarian work through an NGO called ‘Khusi Hona’. They sounded true and invited us to join them in aid distribution at a relief camp at Bhaktapur the next day. It was the start.