Rebuilding Nepal, One Smile At A Time: A Photo Essay
October 28th, 2015
A blogpost by Sumeet Keswani
I had the fortune of seeing Nepal in November last year, in its full glory, while covering a climate change conference as an Indian journalist. When a deadly earthquake struck the affectionate country on April 25 this year and shattered its homes and heritage, their smiles haunted me. I knew i had to go back to see for myself what had become of the places that had welcomed me so warmly. A month after the quake, I got an opportunity to cover rehabilitation efforts in Kathmandu.
Although i wasn’t scheduled to, i hopped on a relief truck convoy (of Live to Love Foundation), with some kung-fu nuns of the Druk Amitabha Mountain Nunnery, headed to reportedly the worst-hit areas in the mountains, Sindhupal Chowk district. It was worse than i had expected or remembered from my time in Kutch during 2001. Whole villages had been wiped out, many houses lining the narrow, steep route barely hung on, some dangled precariously over the cliff’s edge; but the people continued to wear their smiles when confronted by a stranger offering to help, even if only by means of his camera. A week before that, social media was raging against Indian media for overdoing their coverage of the disaster. While their concerns were partly true, if you set aside those who had access to Twitter even in times when people were looking for potable water, the ground reality was very different: i was welcomed, once again, with open arms. Not once did a local object to a picture being taken or a question being asked. A man taking shelter under tarpaulin sheets on the playground of what was once a school offered me tea. Such is the soul of Nepal: they lose their homes, families, and history, but not their kindness.
Here are some of my frames from a Nepal that was knocked down but got back up. Immediately after coming back to India, i filed my stories and apart from the frames that my newspaper carried (not included here), I did not post any more on the blog since it felt like indulging in tragedy porn. But now that the dust has settled and Nepal is rebuilding itself, i feel compelled to share its story with you. It’s a story not of disaster, but of resilience and compassion in the face of daunting odds.
For the complete photo essay, please visit Sumeet Keswani’s original blogpost here: sumeetkeswani. Here are a few of his pictures:
The Nepalese ran out of everything but compassion
The monastery at Tatopani suffered damage but continued to host its daily prayer rituals. In fact, the young monks intensified their prayers for healing of the nation.
Sindhupal chowk district is spread over a region of mountains and narrow steep roads. We were headed to the town of Tatopani to distribute relief packages to the villagers of that area. Many of the houses on the route had been crushed by boulders that came rolling down after the tremors
The steep drive to Tatopani riddled with a very real danger of landslides, triggered by aftershocks, is not for the fainthearted. While i felt relieved to be back on ground zero at the end, the nuns and monks were already planning their next day’s relief route. Their calm demeanour often masks a much stronger core
As it started pouring, many concerns appeared. The villagers were worried about keeping their ration dry. We were worried about making the climb down with an added risk of rain-triggered landslides.
For the complete photo essay, please visit Sumeet Keswani’s original blogpost here: sumeetkeswani