Unearthing hope buried beneath history in Kathmandu.
This piece is dedicated to someone close to me I’m looking for today in Kathmandu.
I struggle to title this piece as I hunker over my laptop in the tight seats of this tiny Yeti airlines night flight to Kathmandu.
I struggle because I’ve tried over a hundred times, and I still haven’t heard from you.
I was the first one to feel it. My chair subtly thumped against the rock wall behind me.
It felt like a playful, rhythmic pulse from where I was sitting — over 300 km away.
I was in a familiar place — one enveloped by chronic emergencies of so many unfortunate varieties.
Yet it was isolated from the acute emergency that has buried this country in its own history.
I fear you were also in a familiar place.
And if you were, it’s hard to imagine the worst earthquake to hit this country in 80 years spared you.
Your choices were slim.
You were at home, eating beneath four floors of the wrong kind of concrete.
You were in your village, the first to receive a military helicopter for what could only be ominous reasons.
Or you were at work, only 20 meters from where Nepal’s most storied temples were razed to rubble, and the landmark that supplied your father’s business for 26 years disappeared before your eyes.
As we descended into Kathmandu, it was the darkest I’ve ever seen the city.
Only the cold blue of compact fluorescent bulbs acting as backup lit the valley.
They were bobbing in the air like lost souls.
I awoke last night to tremors.
But I’ve decided they were gentle enough to be nudging me in your direction.
This morning, I will do what NCell and Google hasn’t enabled me to do.
I will find you.
And together, we will unearth the hope buried beneath history in Kathmandu.
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Update: I’m overjoyed to report that today I was able to find Sharmila and her entire family (see below). Their story was truly remarkable. The Kathmandu Durbar Square collapsed around them, but their little plot of land where her father has sold handicrafts for 26 years was spared. I wasn’t able to reach her because she lost her phone while running once the quake hit.
Like many, they are terrified to spend time indoors and eager to return to their village to provide whatever support they can to a rural community in which every single home was razed.
How exactly they will rebuild is still a major question, but they are determined to turn this crisis into an opportunity, and the resilience that defines so many Nepalis I am privileged to know showed no sign of weakening.