Day #2: Hasantar Village

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Once you pass by Swayambhunath (or what is left of it) and then cross the ring road of Kathmandu, you take a sharp turn right and start moving uphill. Hasantar, the village of brother Lama, was a pleasant place to visit before the big shake, but today what welcomes you is sheer desolation.

Cleared enough to allow a small car loaded with supplies to go through, the narrow countryside road to Lama’s house is marked with terrifying proofs of the biggest earthquake in Nepal since 1934. A house out of three collapsed on the 25th of April 2015.

Look, brother Sega, Lama stopped all of a sudden. Six families died here, he murmured, pointing to a huge mound of debris. Hard to imagine a house standing there one week ago.

May be six people, I said, knowing that sometimes Lama brother mistakes a word with another. No, brother Sega! he answered abruptly. Six families, understand? I sighed and remained silent all the way up to his home.

From a distance, you wouldn’t tell his house suffered so much damage, but just stepping a little closer the cracks in each and every wall become visible and scary, like some deep ugly wounds. Come inside and take a look, Lama invited me, cautiously opening the door. I hesitated. Ending crushed like a cockroach by those shattered walls or by that bent ceiling, hardly borne by two weakened wooden pillars, is not something to really die for. I preferred to stay outside and take some pictures of Lama brother in the middle of an abandoned empty place I remembered so well. There, right on that spot, we used to have many pleasant dinners together with his lovely family. Everything is gone now, Lama sighed as if he would have read my thoughts.

All the stuff from the cracked house was moved outside under a tarpaulin sheet, in front of the small annex Lama brother built last summer with his own hands, hoping to find some tourists who would give Thamel for a clean, simple and quiet room in the countryside. Why don’t you and your family stay here? I asked. Because it’s very dangerous now, he said. It could fall any second, he explained, the walls don’t hold anymore together, I guess I have to rebuilt it from scratch.

So where do you stay? I wondered, looking around. He showed me a sort of a structure in the rice field, not far from the damaged house, a construction you could call tent if you are a lenient person. But to me, that “tent” looked more like a stable. A stable for humans. Here we sleep, brother Sega. Two families, all together. And many mosquitos. And two goats, stupid goats, all night long meeh, meeh, meeh…

The let’s-call-it-tent employed some bamboo stalks cut from the jungle, some corrugated sheet as walls and some tarpaulin sheets from the stock we bought yesterday. Before these strong tarpaulin sheets we used some cheap plastic, brother Sega, but raining was pouring inside, he laughed, showing me how they used to spend their evenings, using bowls, cups and buckets to collect the pouring water. It rained heavily several days after the earthquick, Lama reminded me. I was too exhausted to teach him once again that one should say earthquake”, not earthquick.

Earthquick, or earthquake, or whatever you want to call that, it literally ruined the simple life of Lama brother’s family. But I came to realise that what actually mattered was that we’re all still alive, safe and sound, enjoying the delicious dal bhat cooked by Geeta, Lama’s sister in law, the wife of kancho (little brother) Robin. Gulav, Lama’s elder brother, lost all his provisions when his house fell down so he kept on thanking me and all my friends for the great support, as he put it. Derai derai dhanyabad, he kept on saying.

Not far away from the improvised tent of brother Lama, many other tents covered with bright orange and blue tarpaulin sheets populate the hill of the Hasantar village, dominated by a buddhist nunnery called the Yellow Gomba, left unbroken. And not far away from the Hasantar village, practically all over Nepal, many more other bright orange and blue tents were erected to shelter those apparently millions rendered homeless…

Life in Nepal is far from getting back to normal. Aftershocks are still shaking us (another one hit just a few hours before I started to write this message), preventing the population to cool down and start the reconstruction. It will take months, years, decades, to heal these wounds.

Lama brother and his family are going to stay in the tent over the summer, until October, when the monsoon will end. But the monsoon about to come will bring along for sure land slides due to the shaken earth and, considering the paranoia that builds up on constant fear, one could think that Nepal is really facing the end of the world.

Well, I dare to believe that an end always brings a new beginning and that is what we are trying to do here: helping some Nepali people to start a new life, giving them support to build new and stronger houses for their families in this beautiful land at the feet of the Himalayas. Rup Lama is our brother in need. And we are one strong, big family.

We can help Lama. We can help Nepal. We can give now.