This is a collection of photo stories from my blog, Stories of Nepal, that revisits the survivors in Barpak, the epicentre of the April 25 earthquake. Barpak made it to the news last year, but not for good reasons. Recently, I travelled to this Gorkha settlement where I walked around with my camera and talked to the locals and listened to their personal stories—of hope and hopelessness, loss, sorrow, courage and the earthquake. Some made me cry, some made me laugh. These stories also gave me a broader understanding of how life must move on. Here are some moments from my journey.
By Jay Poudyal
“The world is changing. I see the children of the tourists and they speak English fluently and I know they will grow up to do many things in this world. But I am worried for my daughter. Whether or not she will be able to get a job when she grows up.” (Permaya Gurung)
“I lost my hand to an accident while fishing, a long time ago. The last thing that I remember was that my fingers were still moving. When I woke up my hand was gone. There was no adult in that crowd who could say, ‘Take him to Kathmandu, take him to a hospital’. Losing my hand changed my life. From a hard working and a loving family man, I became a recluse. I was depressed for many years. I had to rely on my family for everything. I couldn’t even tie a shoelace. Some people were really insensitive and would call me names. I would boil in anger. I knew I couldn’t spend my life in misery. And with little hope, I started looking for work. People would make up an elaborate story as to why they couldn’t offer me work. So I’d walk away heartbroken. Finally, I found work looking after people’s houses and property. I went wherever work took me. And now life is spent. But my family was with me all the time. I look at them and thank god for the love I received from them. My children have also grown up to understand the predicament of their father and I am happy as I can be.” (Raj Bahadur Ghale)
“Talking about the earthquake gives me a heartache. Wait, let me wipe my tears first.” (Maya Ghale)
"Everyone around the village has been sad this whole time. At first I would also be sad but I was tired of sitting in the corner and only thinking about what was lost. So, I thought I can’t sit in sadness. I have a family to look after. I have little brothers and sisters who depend upon me. So I just keep a very strong heart and go to work every day, singing happy songs.” (Buddha Gurung)
“Mother had saved money for me by sacrificing her own dreams. There must have been things that she would have wanted for herself. After all, her life has been very difficult. She deserved some comfort. But she would keep on toiling and saving each penny. I think she saw her dreams through me. So she had managed to save some money for me to be able to do something after I complete school. She would tell me to focus on my studies and to not worry about money. But life was to take a different turn. The fire that engulfed our house during the earthquake took away from us everything we had. That is when I witnessed true hurt in my mother’s eyes. I will never forget the look of hopelessness as I watched mother frantically search through the ashes. But there was nothing, except a few burnt coins.” (Duth Kumari Gurung with her mother Santa Maya Gurung)
“My brother loves listening to stories. He finds my book, brings it to me and asks me to read. So after school, I read him my favourite stories. He becomes really happy. And I become really happy.”
“When they dug me out from the rubble and carried me home, I saw my son next to my shoulders and I started crying. Just to see my family again gave me hope. I am happy I am alive. I don’t have my hand but I have a life and my family to live for. Some people come and tell me, ‘Oh poor you, you must be going through a lot’. I tell them I am happy to be alive. I tell them to have some tea and drink some water before they leave. I tell them not to worry about me.” (Suk Ram Gurung)
“I was at the animal shed when the ground started shaking. The rumbling of the earth and crying of animals was too much to bear. When they started running, I didn’t know if I should run with them or after them. Then I thought about my mother. I forgot about the animals and ran towards home praying. When I saw her alive, I went to her and held her in my arms. I did not let go, the earth was still shaking. She turned 100 this year.” (Deo Man Gurung)
"We sit around, invite neighbours and talk about our sorrows, of what is lost and what is left for us to be happy."