The Nepali word jatra means a festive atmosphere. Ghode Jatra is the festive atmosphere that involves ghodas (horses) and men, of course. Don’t know if horses too enjoy the moment but that’s a topic for another entry.
A day after the #NepalEarthQuake, I went to Kathmandu’s Darbar Square. The scale of devastation was massive. Many of its attractive buildings, former palaces and temples, had either completely collapsed or were heavily damaged. The landmark Kastamandap building had been reduced to rubble. Two other beautiful temples nearby were not where they once stood. The “nau talle” darbar [the Basantapur tower, above] was still standing but it had lost its gajur. Several heritage buildings had their walls cracked. For a regular visitor of the Darbar Square, it was difficult to comprehend the sudden change brought about by the quake. A crowd had gathered at the Basantapur chowk. Most of them were lying on the ground, some facing the sky; others chatting with each other. They looked tired. Somewhat scared too. But they were generally calm. There was uncertainty on their faces. These people were very different from the ones that Basantapur used to see in normal times. Like many open spaces in Kathmandu, Basantapur too was crowded with people who wanted to escape the aftershocks.
A top tourist destination in town, Kathmandu Darbar Square in normal times is a bustling place. People from all over Nepal and and the rest of the world can be spotted here on a typical day. Here, vendors annoyingly follow tourists to sale souvenirs and curios. Dope dealers loiter around looking for customers. Tea sellers serve thousands of cups of tea. Singers come to perform. Artists stage street dramas. Politicians and activists gather to lecture and shout. Temples and palaces fight with each-other for a visitor’s attention. Rickshaw pullers jostle with taxi drivers to get passengers.
Once a place for kings and queens, Kathmandu Durbar Square today houses Gods and criminals, in close proximity and with no discrimination. Perhaps a slight one. Convicted and suspected ones live in police custody in the notorious Hanumandhoka lockup, of course, while the Gods and Goddesses, both living and those immortalized in statues, live free. Not only inside the temples and houses but also out in the open. This is the place where rituals and ancient traditions of many kinds are performed with great enthusiasm and participation of both public and the state. This is a place of utter paradox. An oasis of calm in most days, this place also witnesses some of the most violent cultural activities. That includes slaughtering of thousands of goats and buffaloes on certain days of the year. All in all, this is the cultural heart of Kathmandu. To be precise, this is the most prominent and visible cultural centre of one among many Kathmandus that exist in Kathmandu. But today, a day after the 25th April earthquake, this world heritage site is deeply shaken. पढाई जारी राख्नुहोस् “Kathmandu Darbar Square- A Day After the #NepalEarthquake”
Collapse of the Dharahara tower symbolized all quake-related devastations. But did the Bhimsen Stambha embody our pride and morale?
The #NepalEarthquake claimed thousands of lives. A million houses have been destroyed, most of them in rural villages. If there was a symbol of this destruction, it was the fall of the Dharahara tower. The tower’s collapse resulted in the death of more than one hundred fifty people. A few survived. This included some who were at the eighth floor circular balcony, enjoying the view of the city, when the quake hit.
Judging by the way people have reacted to the destruction of the eleven-story minaret with Shiva’s statue at the top, I feel that its collapse symbolized all quake-related devastations. It was as if Dharahara was somehow indestructible (though quakes had damaged it in the past too). “Even the Dharahara fell, can you imagine?,” was a typical reaction.
A man from Sikkim who had come to quake-hit Sindhupalchok with relief materials told journalist Kiran Bhandari, “We heard in the news that even the Dharahara had collapsed. We could only imagine what might have happened to Kathmandu. We were shocked.”
In most post-quake writings and social media comments, the Dharahara has been implicitly or explicitly portrayed as the pride and morale of the Nepali people. Images of the destroyed tower along with the words “we will rise” have been circulated widely. This show of affection to Dharahara greatly surprised me because the monument had largely been ignored.
After much reflection, I have reached the conclusion that the Dharahara did not represent the pride and morale of the Nepali people. Certainly not mine. My pride and morale didn’t fall along with the tower to the extent of saying ‘we will rise’ on the social media along with the image of the undamaged Dharahara.
It was made for and by the rulers. The commoners had no say in the way it was built and in the way it was used. The tower was not built for the general public to use it though it was opened to the commoners for climbing in 2005.
Having said that, the monument was the postcard representative of the city of Kathmandu. Indeed, in the hills where I was born and raised, Dharahara symbolized the city of Kathmandu.
“So what will you see in Kathmandu?” That was the question grown-ups asked kids who were about to leave for the capital.
“Dharahara!”, excited kids would scream back.
“So what did you see in Kathmandu?” Adults would ask kids who had just returned from the Valley.
“Dharahara!”, the kids would reply. पढाई जारी राख्नुहोस् “What Did Dharahara Mean to You? (#NepalEarthquake)”
Like everyone else, I knew it was coming. But I didn’t know when. I had no idea about its magnitude. It’s devastating impact. That’s because, like a generation before me, I had not experienced a strong earthquake. Like most Nepalis, I wasn’t prepared for it. Also, no one can predict an earthquake. So why think about it when you never know when it will strike.
My go-bag (given to me) was gathering dust somewhere in a corner of my house. I wasn’t sure that I would find time to grab the bag before running out in the event of a quake. Would I be even at home? As it turned out, I was several kilometers away from my house when the earth shook violently on 25th April (12 Baishak 2072). Instead of a go-bag, I had in my hands a bundle of investigative newspaper articles that were to be judged for a competition. I was in a teashop that was fortunately only a meter away from an empty road.
What I remember of those 40 seconds is a strange noise. The sound of structures colliding or something to that effect. I was struggling to stand upright in the middle of a blacktopped road. It was as if I had suddenly found myself in a small boat in rough seas. A woman nearby started to cry. Her husband held her. She continued to scream. A group of people gathered on the road. A few of us tried to console her. By the time the earth had stopped shaking, the people around me had been thoroughly shaken.
One of the first things that came to my mind during the first few seconds into the quake was to be aware of the buildings around me. The building that housed the teashop looked particularly threatening. At one point I thought it would collapse. But it didn’t, like many concrete buildings in Kathmandu. A pleasant surprise. There are many explanations floating around for this. The epicenter was too far. The earthquake wasn’t shallow enough. Houses were built strongly. My own observation is that we were just too lucky this time around.
Immediately after the quake I rode across the city. Except for some old houses with load bearing walls and heritage buildings I saw that most residential concrete houses had survived. The perimeter walls of several landmark buildings had crumbled over hundreds of motorcycles that had been parked by the walls. The collapse of the compound walls of the Nepal Police headquarters, the Prime Minister’s official residence and the Narayanhitti Palace Museum looked particularly astounding. But, by and large, Kathmandu had remained intact at the first glance. Later in the day, reports of substantial damage to recently built high-rise apartment buildings started to come in. As people regained composure, they also noticed cracks, small and big, in their still standing concrete houses. पढाई जारी राख्नुहोस् “The #NepalEarthquake Day”
[Remembering the day 10 years ago when king Gyanendra staged a bloodless coup. Newspapers reacted very strangely. Follow the link at the end.]
तत्कालीन राजा ज्ञानेन्द्रले कू गरेको १० वर्ष पुगेको अवसरमा आज माघ १९ मा कतिले त्यो दिन अनि त्यो बेलाको सम्झना गरेको देखें । कान्तिपुरका समाचार सम्पादक हरिबहादुर थापा अनि सोहि पत्रिकामा माघ १९ ताकाका समाचार सम्पादक गुणराज लुइटेलका दुइ संस्मरणात्मक लेखहरू क्रमसः कान्तिपुर र सेतोपाटीमा पढें । उल्लेखित दुवैजना माघ १९ को दिन र त्यसताकाका मेरा अग्रज सहकर्मी हुन्, कान्तिपुर दैनिकमा । अनि मलाई पनि त्यसैगरी माघ १९ सम्झिन मनलाग्यो । र, तत्कालै केही ट्वीटहरू लेखें । तव पो झल्यास्य सम्झिएँ, २०६१ माघ १९ (१ फेब्रुअरी २००५) को दिन अनि त्यसपछिका घटनाहरूलाई लिएर मैले उतिबेलै अर्थात् १२ फेब्रुअरी २००५ मै लेख्न भ्याईसकेको रहेछु, “न्यू काइन्ड अफ् जर्नालिज्म इन नेपाल” (भाग १ र २) शिर्षकमा। त्यो लेखमा मैले कसरी माघ २० को कान्तिपुरको सम्पादकीय लेख्ने जिम्मा आइलागेको लगायतका कुरा उल्लेख गरेको थिएँ । कूको भोलिपल्ट चारुमती नृत्यमाथि सामान्य दिनको भन्दा दोब्बर लामो सम्पादकीय सार्है अनपेक्षित थियो। उसो त त्यो दिन सामान्य कहाँ थियो !
=+=Happy to have written that Chaarumati editorial for 20 Magh edition of Kantipur. Was based on my report on same issue published on Magh 19 [Feb 1, 2005]
=+=To be honest, I hadn’t expected to write an editorial that day– let alone on Charumati, that too double the length of the usual piece
=+=Soon after I reached office on Magh 19 knowing King had taken over, the then editor @narayanwagle asked me to write editorial on Charumati.
=+=It wasn’t difficult at all to write the Chaarumati editorial on Magh 19 BUT maintaining the extended length to fill the space was challenging
=+=About those ‘strange’ editorials (this entry was written a week after Magh 19 royal takeover) http://t.co/1vLz8GJJDl
Nice to see some Bakery Cafe New Baneshwor waiters (hearing impaired) taking orders in their Galaxy tabs with customized menu software. Orders entered in the tablets at the tables instantly reach to computers in the kitchen & billing counter via wireless connection. #HitechBC
मैले अाफू घुम्न अाएको भन्दा सुन्नेले पत्याउन सजिलो थिएन । त्यो अनकन्टार गाउँमा काम नपरी वा कतैबाट सरूवामा नपरी किन पुग्ने । कुरा ठिकै हो । धेरै ठाउँमा त्यसरी नपत्याइएको स्थिति मैले सामना गरेको छु । तै पनि म “हो, घुम्नै अाएको हुँ” भन्न छाड्दिन । एकछिनपछि मान्छेहरू पत्याएजस्तो गर्न थाल्छन् । अनि मलाई वेवास्ता गर्दै उनीहरू अाफ्नै तालमा गफिन थाल्छन् ।
होअोअो… त्यो क्षण । उनीहरूको बीचमै रहेर पनि उनीहरूले मलाई ध्यान नदिएको त्यो क्षण म उनीहरूका अनुहार हेर्दै ध्यानपुर्वक उनीहरूका गफ सुन्न र मनमनै कुराकानीको लवज अठ्याउन रूचाउछु ।
तर अाजको यो साँझ साहुनी अामै (माथि तस्वीरमा नातीनीका जुम्रा हेर्दै) ले मलाई वेवास्ता गर्न छाडेकी रहिन छिन् । म त्यो हुटेलका बेन्चीमा जम्मा भएर बात मारिरहेका पुरूषहरूको गफ सुनिरहेको बेला उनले मेरो अनुहारमा हेर्दै अनि मलाई छक्क पार्दै भनिनन्- “मैले चिने तपैलाईं ! तपै पत्रकार बनेर अाउनुभएको थियो हैन ?” त्यसो भन्दा उनी अाखिभौं उचाल्दै मुस्काईरहेकी थिइन् । सौर्य बत्तीको मधुरो प्रकाशमा उनले मलाई घोरिएर हेरीरहेकी थिइन् ।
केही बर्ष अघि अघिल्लो साता यामलाई भेटेपछिको अनुभव। हालैको “कोरिया भीड”का तस्विरहरूले मलाई याम जस्तै युवाहरू नेपालमा थुप्रै भएको सम्झाए । अनि अहिले पनि इन्टरनेट जालसाजीमा फस्ने वा फस्ने प्रकृयामा रहेका केहीलाई मैले बेलाबेलामा भेटिरहेकै हुन्छु ।
पुराना हरफहरू: एकदिन यामको इन्बक्समा उसले एक करोड डलर जितेको र त्यो पाउन उसले केही हजार डलर नाइजेरिया पठाउनुपर्ने भन्दै इमेल आएको थियो। इमेल देखेर झन्डै मुर्छा परेको यामले सम्झियो– ‘रातभरी सुतिन सर । लोभ हुन्छ नि लोभ। सुख नदिदो रहेछ। त्यो पैसाले के गर्ने भनेर सोच्दासोच्दै वित्यो रात।’
‘दुबई जाने चक्करमा छु हो सर,’ केही क्षण अघिसम्म उल्लासमय लवजमा गफिएको यामले अलि निराश स्वरमा अचानक त्यसो भन्दा मलाई कताकता चसक्क गरेजस्तो भएको थियो।
यस्तो लाग्यो मैले डकुमेन्ट्रि बनाइरहेको भए र उसले त्यो कुरा क्यामेरामा भनेको भए सम्पादन गर्दा त्यो दृश्यको पृष्ठभूमीमा कन्दरा व्यान्डको यो गीत हाल्ने थिएँ–
विदेशिनु रेखियो कर्मैमा
भाला रोपी नबोल मर्मैमा
‘यो देशमा टिक्न नसकिने भइयो,’ प्रश्न सोध्नै नपाई उसले भनेको थियो।
केही बाध्यताले, बाँकी आफ्नै लापार्वाहीले २६ बर्षे याम रिनमा चुर्लुम्म डुबेको थियो जसबाट उत्रिन उसलाई विदेशिनुको विकल्प थिएन। उसलाई सुनेलगत्तै फोन कुराकानीलाई त्यही रोकेर मैले ऊसँग भेट्ने प्रस्ताव गरेको थिए।
ठ्याक्कै छ बर्षपछि म फेरी चन्दनपुर पुगें अस्तिको सप्ताहन्त । उतिबेला भेटेका कतिपय मानिसहरू , जो मेरो एउटा लेखका पात्र बनेका थिए, सँग भेट्दा रमाइलो भयो। पछिल्लो अनुभव र तस्विर एकदुई दिन मै लेख्ने छु, थप्ने छु तर अहिलेलाई त्यो मोटरसाइकल डायरी ।
हिलाम्मे र चिप्लो कच्चि बाटोमा दर्किदो पानीको चुटाई खादै ओर्लिएका हामी दिन ढल्किदै गर्दा कुहिरोले छेकिएको त्यो सानो होटलमा पुगेका थियौं। हामी चढेको बाईकमा कुनै थकानका संकेत देखिएका थिएनन् तर केही घन्टा अघि काठमान्डूको महाबौद्धमा चारसयमा किनिएको डबल बर्सादीले पानी थेग्न नसकेको प्रष्टै थियो। गर्धनतिरबाट चुहेको पानी मेरुदन्डहुदै बाइकको सीटसम्मै पुगेको थियो।
‘चिया खान पाइन्छ कि?’ सुरज कुँवरले परित्यक्त जस्तो लाग्ने एउटा थोत्रो घरको दलानमै बाइक पार्क गर्दै गर्दा मैले साहुनीलाई सोधेको थिए।
‘किन नपाईनु?’ साहुनीले भनिन्– ‘नरम कि कडा?’
वाह ! मैले पुलुक्क पर्दै मनमनै ठाने– यस्तो प्रश्न कामाठमान्डूमै पनि सबैठाउमा गरिदैन। नरम म खादै खान्न, रंग पनि कडा र बाहुन भएकाले चिनी पनि कडै। झन कफी त पुरै स्ट्रङ् चाहिन्छ। तीतो भए राम्रो। अफिस बाहिरको चिया पसलमा हामी घामले डढेका नारी देखाउदै चिया बनाउने थामी भाईलाई भन्थ्यौ– ‘यी यस्तै रंगको चिया बनाउनु है। कडा।’
The idea was to revisit the areas of Lalitpur where I had gone in 2011 in a fun trip (which, in those days, would almost always come out as “work” trip too. My favorite quote from this story: “खोलामा खुट्टा टेकेर निस्किँदा त्यो कसको हो थाहा हुँदैन ।”). Recently I went up to Bhatta Danda and may be four kilometers below the Danda. It was all fun up to the Danda– wide and graveled road with little traffic. The dirt track– officially called the Kanti Rajpath or highway– began at the Danda. Just below the Danda, I came under a downpour and the road became slippery. Those enormous hills that looked inviting only a while ago suddenly felt scary— I could count more mudslides in the stretch of a kilometer than fish in Ranipokhari pond. I didn’t want to stuck between two landslides. So I did the sensible thing. I returned. But I will go back to see how Asrang and Pyutar villages where I had gone in 2011 are doing in 2014. I am waiting for October to come.