| Sarjit Kaur | Roti for the Soul | Asia Samachar | 6 May 2015 |
It was just one month after our journey. This cannot be happening.
A massive 7.8 magnitude earth quake rocked Nepal on Saturday, 25 April 2015. I was attending our School alumni reunion when the news hit my mobile phone.
Towns and villages near the epicenter suffered almost total destruction. Hundreds of villages were devastated and thousands of people made homeless. The death toll has reached 7,000 people. According to UN, the quake affected 8.1 million people or almost 30% of Nepal’s 28 million population. Many monuments and temples inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, were ruined in the quake.
Minutes after the quake struck Kathmandu valley, an avalanche and aftershocks at Kumbu Glacier caused a blast of rock, ice and wind to slide down, destroying the trekker’s route and burying Base Camp.
People slept under the sky in tents and camps in cold temperatures and rain. They fear aftershocks will cause cracked and tilted buildings to crumble. Many villages await aid due to accessibility issues arising from collapsed bridges and damaged roads. More helicopters were needed to reach isolated mountain villages. Clean water and sanitation remains critical at this stage of the disaster.
Mass cremations took place at Bagmati River, the water way which divides the Nepalese capital. Mourning families gave their loved ones the honourable send-off, so revered in Hindu tradition.
Looking at news photographs of places we visited was shattering. We had built a connection… Memories have been inked to this mystical place. Those sacred and regal structures no longer stand tall. Just a month ago, we walked along centuries’ old temples and courtyards in Durbar Square, now reduced to piles of brick and wood. Boudhanath Stupa had adjacent parts destroyed. We saw people chanting and expressing devotion here, where Buddha watches from all four angles. Bhaktapur, a heritage city was the hardest hit with Hindu temples consumed by the quake. Nepal’s iconic landmark, the 60m Dharhara Tower, originally built for the queen of Nepal also collapsed.
The loss of ancient monuments and cultural buildings leaves a void in the lives of the people. Heritage must be rebuilt and restored to its former glory. The community of Nepal live around these shrines. Taking them away is akin to taking away their soul.
Like Nepal’s history, it is important to understand its geological makeup. Tectonic plates make up Earth’s outer shell which includes the crust and mantle. The plates which sit beneath continents move. Where plates serving land masses collide, the crust crumples and pushes upwards into mountain ranges.
India was part of Australia and Africa millions of years ago. It then broke up as these continents drifted apart, leading to the opening of the Indian Ocean. The Indian plate then moved up north and collided with Asia’s Eurasian plate about 55 million years ago. This collision gave rise to the crusty Himalayan range which spreads from Tibet to Nepal and ends in India. The Indian plate is currently moving, north east at 5 cm a year. The plate movement could possibly be, one of the factors causing the earthquake in Nepal and northern part of India.
The ruptured part of the fault plane extends under a densely populated area in Kathmandu Valley. While communities have lived on these mountains for ages, perhaps the time has come for the Nepalese government to consider moving them gradually should there be another massive movement of plates. Mitigation efforts must commence, as part of the economic recovery plan.
A field assessment and salvage on the destruction will be done at a national level. Nepal’s monuments are not old relics but vital centres for religious, cultural and social activities. The emphasis will be on community-based involvement and working with locals who intimately know their neighbourhood’s treasures. Such localised engagement is healthy and will establish a sense of ownership and sustainability.
This exercise will be technology-driven. Documentation and photographs of salvaged artefacts, bricks, and timber will be quickly shared on phone apps. There are immediate plans to train the country’s young architects, archaeologists, artists and art historians to assess the damage.
From a technology perspective, the young will meaningfully lead the rebuilding efforts, which is wonderful. I recall the ancient DOS computer system with black background and green characters, at the Nepal airport terminal. They must go! Technology will be their enabler and they will play catch-up.
A true blue Nepalese
When I called our hotel owner cum tour guide, Sudarshan was out and feeding 300 people, young and old in a camp. Food and clean water was his priority. He too slept on blue plastic sheets in the camp. A true blue Nepalese born and bred who chooses to be with his country folks. We were humbled by his selfless act.
Our tour group to Nepal passed the hat and collected certain funds for his relief expenditure. He, being a local and on the ground was assuring. He is familiar and connected with the workings of the eco system. Along the way, we were supported by kind family members and friends. Through conversations and whatsapp messages, they came forward to contribute, in a heart-beat! His next task is to help rebuild homes of people in the remote Baseeri village, 150 km north-west of Kathmandu, where 95% have been destroyed.
My baggage was delayed for 21 hours in Nepal during our recent trip. The insurance company sent me an email that my travel insurance claims have been processed. They will award RM600 for the baggage delay. This email came through at 3.45 pm. Without the hindsight of this information, I transferred funds to our Nepal friend at 4.10 pm, the same day. Only to find out later that God had given me in one hand, before I even handed out in another. It was amazing. God sure works in miraculous ways!
Closer to home, my colleague, Kirandeep initiated a collection fund for 3 of our Nepalese security guards, whose homes were destroyed in the quake. They were shattered. They kept thanking us for the cash contribution. We know every dollar will go a long way. Charity begins at home.
I asked my spiritual teacher why this incident happened to Nepal. This is one place where people would not even harm an ant. She shared her wisdom … “Who are we to ask? We are reminded to give grace and gratefulness at all times. We must not latch onto every memory and must keep moving. We must bow to our Creator’s greatness. He is our Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer. He is seeking balance in all that He does. The destruction reflects the impermanence of creation,” she said.
“What about the devastation of sacred structures and temples?” I asked. “Places are revered because a man of God was there. The most sacred place of all, is truly within us. In our breath and in our soul,” she explained.
The picture of a 4 year old brother with soiled skin protecting his 2 year old sister was divine. People continued to pray amidst the calamity. Even more. Their faith is unshakeable. Their faith rocks.
The joyful faces of children at the Tibetan school came flashing back … Their parents had to scale mountainous and frosty terrains in the Himalayan Range to achieve liberation and leave their children a legacy of freedom. Their sacrifices will pave the way for these kids to chart a new path for Nepal. The kids have found their temple.
On Sunday, at the Parliament Gurdwara during ardas, Bhai Lakhbir Singh led us and prayed that God grant the people of Nepal the strength, courage, willpower and financial assistance to carry on. At the end of the program, we thanked Bhai Ji for making the universal cause, our cause.
We are at the beginning of the Aquarian age which is a 2,000 year cycle, similar to the preceding Piscean Age. We are in for changes. The Piscean Age has been dominated by hierarchy, power, attachment and materialism. The Aquarian Age will be the age of information and networks. There is no longer the need for attachment. You become yourself and a source of light. The answers you seek, are within. Stay on the tracks and keep moving forward. Spread your light : teach, heal, create community networks, serve, sacrifice and love.
The more people embrace the Aquarian shift, the transformation for humanity will be swifter. The truth is – a small percentage of people who have shifted their consciousness, can influence the rest of humanity. Their combined energy will vibrate and snowball. The population-equation no longer holds majority. It is the strength and substance of the ‘minority’ that will win the battle, be it within communities, nations or regions. We are seeing a new dawn with emphasis on humanity, kindness, truth, spirituality and enlightenment.
The Nepalese Finance Minister expects the cost to rebuild Nepal to exceed US$10 billion and restoration work to take years. The government will appeal to the world for help when immediate rescue effort ends, from a technical advice, global know-how, technology and importantly, financial resources perspective, to propel them forward. Pledges for financial assistance for reconstruction of monuments are already pouring in from several countries including UNESCO.
There is a blessing hidden in every trial in life. But you have to be willing to open your heart, to see them. The time has come to rebuild Nepal. She was never colonialized and lost out on solid infrastructure. Nepal must not only be remembered for its Everest expeditions or ancient monuments. Let us keep her heritage alive, rebuild her tourism industry and devotional institutions. Let us volunteer efforts, expertise, contribute funds and send our prayers. Let us make a difference and radiate that light within. By helping them, we help ourselves more!
Osho describes the whole world as a cyclone. But once you have found the centre, the cylone disappears. This nothingness is the ultimate peak of consciousness.
The height of human awareness occurs when we find stillness and peace within a calamity. To a New Nepal. Together, we can.
[The writer’s account on happenings in Nepal was gathered from various news reports, video footages and National Geographic materials]
Roti for the Soul is a column on life and its quirks. Sarjit Kaur is a wife, mother and an official at the Malaysian stock exchange.
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE! Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
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