Updated: Dec 5, 2022
Monday - the second day of the working week in Nepal - was penned to a be an interesting and informative journey around the nearby earthquake affected area. Accompanying Niklas and I were a variety of MPs, senior development staff, and the press. The day started early, and good thing it did, as this was about to become the single busiest and most overwhelming day I've spent in Nepal so far, both in terms of emotional impact, the events we took part in and the media we tried to collect and compile. After the morning briefing and coordination, where my technological expertise was an….umm… essential addition (I moved some photographs around) we took a a trip to the first field site at what used to be the town of Sankhu.
I'm not sure if Google Earth has updated Nepal since the earthquake but I can promise you that the before and after imagery of this place would be heart-wrenching. Walking down streets still only partially cleared, families living in tents next to their old homes and people living their shockingly altered new lives amongst the shattered remains of what would have been described by European guidebooks’ as a “Quaint Historic Town”. More than a month after the initial disaster, people clearing rubble looked akin to those enduring a punishment from the Greek gods. The town had four historic gates that used to serve for birth, marriage and burial ceremonies and, in a cruel twist of fate worthy of Greek mythology, the gate for the passing of the deceased was still completely blocked by detritus, long after those who could be found had to be buried.
The Gate of the Dead
I noticed a group of people collecting water from a tap in the only cleared space in-front of several ruined buildings, but it felt intrusive and embarrassing to photograph them going about their daily lives. The majority of Nepali survivors I have spoken to are keen to keep the message and media content alive, they know there is no short term fix and all too well how quickly the global news shifts its fickle presence despite ongoing travesties. Still, I thought this is was a picture the world should see.
Sadly, my own internal monologue had wasted valuable time, and they had moved onto the main road. In broken Nepali I asked the two young women I caught up with (the others vastly outpacing me) if I could take a photograph to send back to England. They consented, although I could tell they weren't keen. Still, with the crucially timed appearance of Roshu (from BASE) we managed to double check and take the shots. While we were walking away Roshu explained, “You know if you'd taken the picture in-front of their house it would have been fine but now, out on the main road, they feel shame”.
Girls carrying water back from a tap outside their collapsed home
The saying may go “pride before a fall” but I think after a big enough fall, pride may be one of the few things people have left. From the poorest villages I have visited in the Terai to the most devastated villages in the mountains, the quiet pride and unquestioning generosity of those who (in my European mind) have every right to expect me to give more than I am given, has thrown a spanner in the ever present pessimism machine our news and “big city” lives sometimes impart on us.
There are corrupt directors of misery in the world and maybe they pull a lot of the strings, but the audience in the stalls, in the cheap seats, can see the strings. Maybe it'd be a good idea to ask them how we should act and maybe they could even steal the show.