Moving on after the quake


That was a scary day — April 25, 2015 not only took away lives of thousands of people, but among those who survived, many got emotionally and physically hurt. A year has passed but the wounds have just started to heal. And these determined quake-survivors are trying to move on while coping with the loss.

Rajesh Shrestha

Split seconds matter

Rajesh Shrestha, 52, from Chikangamugal had just entered the Kasthamandap temple for blood donation, and was shaking hands with the son-in-law of his friend when he felt the tremors. Shrestha immediately ran from there and got out of the temple from the gate opposite to Singh Satal, Maru — from where he had entered earlier. He had barely managed to get out of it when the Kasthamandap collapsed — but in those few split seconds many including his friend’s son-in-law got buried and died. A year later, Shrestha who runs an offset printing press in Chikangamugal, struggles to run his business smoothly, yet he wants to make his life beautiful.

Handling the changes

Till now I am not able to run my business smoothly. I bore so much loss in the past one year. I am struggling to improve my financial condition but I am not getting much work as I used to get in the previous years.

The house where I had my press also got damaged in the quake. I shifted the press to a new location on May 11, 2015, and the second major aftershock occurred a day later. I couldn’t open the press for around two weeks. As things were getting normal, there was economic blockade and I could not run my business. Now, I am in debt. But life is a struggle and with my family’s support, I am trying to do my best.

Lessons learnt

Natural calamity can occur without any warning. So, we should not get scared, but be brave and give all our efforts to make our life beautiful.

Healing support

Sharmila Hengwoju

Photo: THT

Artist Sharmila Hengwoju, 23, and her two younger sisters got trapped in their house in Bhaktapur when their house collapsed. While one of her younger sisters died on the spot, injured Hengwoju was rescued four hours later. She was taken to the hospital, but the doctors gave up on her. Her right side was completely paralysed for six months. But her willpower has saved her — she is gaining her mobility back, she can perform five per cent of the physical tasks that she used to do before. And the designer at Water Communication says, the dreadful experience has inspired her.

Handling the changes

Before earthquake I believed that nothing is impossible in life, but now I am not confident as my health condition is weak. I cannot perform physical works like before. I was preparing for my thesis and exhibition for BFA when the quake struck. So, even with injures I continued my studies and completed my education. I also got a chance to visit Philippines for an art workshop. Still, it’s a painful experience of losing someone close.

Nonetheless, being alive even after being trapped in the rubble has inspired me. I feel I am alive because there are certain things I need to accomplish. This very feeling has helped me overcome my difficulties. My family and friends became my gods and supported me in every way they could. It is their prayer and guidance that I am alive now. It is their support that has healed me when doctors had given up on me.

Lesson Learnt

Life is short, so enjoy your life. Don’t hold grudges against your friends and family. And do your things today, you never know what will happen tomorrow.

Palsangmo Lama

Photo: THT

Life always changes

Thirty-seven-year-old traditional artist Palsangmo Lama lives under the tent with his aged mother at Bouddha. The rented house where he was residing collapsed during the quake. His mother was outside the house. Lama managed to come out from the rubble where he had been trapped for around half-an-hour on his own. Now, he continues to paint Thankas to make life better, but has been unable to afford the expensive rooms in Bouddha area. As his elderly mother does not wish to go far from there as she has to “pray at Bouddha” daily, the duo are still living under the tent.

Handling the changes

The thought that my mother would have been alone, and in trouble if I had died, haunted me for weeks after the earthquake. But I realised the meaning of Buddha’s saying, “Life always changes” after this incident. My life drastically changed after the earthquake — I lost everything including my room, I am still living under the tent where rats have become my friends.

However, Buddha’s teachings have given me strength to continue my work. Life must go on even at the time of crisis. All my painting tools and Thankas were damaged in the quake. With the help of friends and different organisations, I have bought tools required to continue my work. It takes me Sharmila Hengwoju around five months to complete a Thanka — I hope with the Thanka which I am making now, I will be able to run my daily life smoothly. Using my skills, I hope to make my life better.

Lessons learnt

It’s in the time of need that you get to know who is with you and who is not. There are friends who kept distance with me and blamed me of living under the tent to get free stuff. There are friends who cried listening to my situation and helped me financially too.

A version of this article appears in print on April 24, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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