15 May 2015
NOTES FROM THE FIELD: The large aftershock of 12 May has brought many in Patan back to its streets.
At 12:47 am on 12 May, seventeen days after the massive earthquake in April, an aftershock of 7.3 magnitude sent the people of Lalitpur running to the nearest temple courtyards, bus parks and school grounds. At Kumbeshwar, the five-tiered pagoda temple, one of the tallest such structures in Nepal, the brass finial is hanging precariously, waiting for the next tremor to completely dislodge it.
At Purnachandi Pokhari near Siddhi Lakshmi temple, Abesh Choudhry from Bihar, India, is selling fruits. He says he was midway through cutting a watermelon when it happened. The 25 April quake saw over a thousand people take refuge around this pond area. It’s only after this aftershock that they reopened the gates to the Pokhari, which had been shut five days after the first quake.
“Since I’m not from this country, I’m not entitled for any of the relief material, Choudhry says. “I had to buy the tarpaulin the first time, we have four children, and we are all going to be sleeping here.” The house where Abesh stays in Agnisala previously housed 40 other people from his native Bihar. But they’ve all left by now. “My home is here,” he says, “fifteen years back when I came to Nepal I had nothing. Today, in spite of all the chaos, loss and trauma, I can say this is where my home is.”
Near Patan Dhoka, the entrance to the city of Patan, is the Madan Smarak high school on whose grounds there are already 20 big tents pitched, with many more to come. At the gates of the school ground a bamboo frame stands without a roof or walls – a makeshift classroom after the school building was seriously damaged on 25 April. Inside I meet Nanda Ratna Shakya, a metal engraver who says he was working on the legs of the Green Tara when it started to shake. “We have traditionally been metal engravers and the house we stay in is my grandfather’s and over a hundred years old,” he says. “When the earthquake in 1934 occurred, nothing happened to our house. But this time the structure has weakened. There was a team who had come to assess the buildings and they have declared our house unsafe to live in. So I’m here with my family.”
His neighbour, Raju Maharjan, also a metal artist is here with his family. He and his wife had a baby boy a week before the earthquake. They are squatting down inside the makeshift bamboo classroom and hoping to arrange for tarpaulins before the night fall. Back at Mangalbazaar, near the Patan palace complex, a shop is selling tarpaulins for those who can afford to pay NPR 2200 for a fifteen-by-fifteen square feet sheet.
~Rudra Rakshit is a freelance photographer and writer based in Bangalore.
~‘Notes from the field’ is a reporting initiative, where we bring stories of the people and places that have been affected by the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal.