Survivors, but with deep scars, not just physical
KATHMANDU: It is a regular sunny Saturday for Som Maya Tamang as she rushes to the village community tap to do the dishes. She has started early because it is that one day in the week when she and her friends have the entire day to themselves. They walk through the fields, skipping stones, jumping puddles, giggling through conversations about the serenity of warm sunny days. Anticipating a long lazy day ahead, Tamang hastens through her chore.
She scrubs the utensils with vigour as instructed by her mother. The next second the ground trembles with equal vigour and ear splitting sonic bang. The stone spout of the tap, the reservoir and the utensils are sucked into the ground with great force taking Som Maya along.
A father looks for his daughter frantically and remembers that she must be at the community tap. He reaches there to find a pile of debris. He is certain his daughter is trapped inside. It takes him over 20 minutes to pull his daughter out of the rubble. He thanks the heavens above to find her breathing.
It takes her family 24 hours to bring her to the Capital. The rescue team brings her to the Nepal Orthopaedic Hospital. Som Maya has survived with a broken arm and has deep cuts down her shoulder. Forty-eight hours later, she cannot help welling up at the thought of her friends and family who she believes to be dead. “My friends are no more. I am thankful that I am alive, but how I wish they were too. My life will never be the same again.”
Som Maya Tamang, 14, Sindhupalchowk
Lakpa understands little of what is going on around her. She cannot fathom the loss her family of three has suffered. Her bandaged head and missing toes on her feet remind her of the fateful day when her house came down on her and her mother. She cries incessantly and refuses to leave her father’s embrace.
Kali, her mother, is moaning in pain lying on the bed next to her. Her body is marked with dark blue bruises and is incapable of movement.
The father recalls that fateful day when his wife and daughter were inside the house while he was out. As the disaster struck, he tells, he runs towards his house to see Kali, holding Lakpa, trying to escape the house raining down on them. She gets out to safety unscathed or so she thinks because in a blink of an eye a huge boulder comes tumbling town the hill and runs over her and Lakpa. All this happens in a matter of seconds, the father is horror struck. It takes him two days to get his family to Kathmandu for treatment. He still has not been able to surmise the physical damage his wife and daughter are suffering but he knows that the wounds will heal with time. Now, he is scared of the irreparable emotional damage.
He says, “Wounds will heal, bones will grow back into place but our strength to live on will dwindle. We have no village to go back to, no home to call our own.
I see my family suffer and how I wish I could do something to ease their pain.”
He tries to console Lakpa, who is still crying for the pain to stop, offers her biscuits, and rocks her to silent sobs.
Kali Tamang, 43 and Lakpa Sangmo Tamang, 3, Nuwakot
In his 60 years of existence never once had he thought that he would live to see his village suffer the wrath of Mother Nature. He had heard stories about the 1990 BS earthquake that shook the country but that for him was an old man’s tale. Today, lying immobile in one of the make shift hospital beds under the open sky with a broken leg and a broken arm, he shudders to think about those few seconds that altered the course of his life.
Budhi recollects clinging to the door frame as he thinks this to be the safest place. He closes his eyes and sends a silent prayer to the heavens. He feels a shooting pain up his right leg and he knows it will be a long time before he can stand on it again. The sturdy door frame he is holding on to gives away breaking his right arm in two. It feels like hours have passed before his son rescues him from the debris. The uncomfortable ride on his son’s back lasted 12 hours. He is in the hospital but the fear of concrete structure keeps him out in the open sky. Much coaxing is required on the hospital staff’s part to move him indoors. For now, Budhi is claustrophobic and refuses to leave the sanctuary of the open skies.
Budhi Tamang, 60, Nangle Bhari