Sakhu is one of the more affected areas around Kathmandu. We drive around, seeing the temporary tin structures that have sprouted up alongside piles of rubble, and farmers working in their potato and rice fields. Life keeps going.
Driving through Sakhu, we come across a feisty, come-what-may lady – “bajai” is what Nepalis call grandmas (we’d say “dadima” or “baa”). She’s working alongside young men and women that are family and friends, picking through the piles of rubble that have been gathered in an open space in front of the temporary shelters that locals who have lost their homes have built. She works with just as much (if not more) gusto.
We’re told they built their temporary shelters in 4 days. On the other side of the road, reconstruction is happening in earnest, a large machine whirring as laborers stand on the second story of a damaged building.
She breezily recounts the day of the earthquake – she was working in the potato fields when it happened. She was not scared at all when she felt the earthquake, she says, because she knew she was in the open field. Whatever happens, happens is her motto. Everyone laughs as she tells her stories, and we, as her audience, know 75% of her attitude is meant to entertain. We all enjoy it anyway, plodding her with more questions so she’ll keep entertaining.
He worked in a gold jewelry shop before the earthquake. Now he spends his days with his family and friends (bajai included), using scraps from broken homes to build a new foundation for a new home. They get 15,000 Rupees from the government for all of their rebuilding. They also get food – water, rations of rice, salt, sugar, oil from the government, and it is handed out pretty regularly. But what they really need is help rebuilding.
As we walk back to the car, another bajai is pleasantly snoozing, head rolling to one side, mouth open like a fish. A cool monsoon breeze blows through the valley, and beside her, farmers sort through more rubble.
Down the street, we happen upon a small IDP camp – now I’m able to identify them more easily as I see the characteristic tigloo structures that have come up next to broken homes, and tents with the Chinese flag on them. Women are gathered, gossiping in front of the tents, and we hear harmonium and tablas playing behind them.
Turns out that the group bhajan (Hindu prayer) building in the community has also collapsed, so men and women gather here to sing instead. Tea (with salt in it??) is passed around, and the Nepali version of Maggie is eaten dry with masala and biscuits.
The bhajans are stopped as people start telling us where they were in the earthquake, what they’ve lost, what they are getting from the government – one woman was rescued after being buried up to her neck in her house; the men talk about all of the assets they lost. Again, the figure of 15,000 rupees is brought up – that is about enough to build two walls, we are told, minus labor (maybe 15,000 more rupees is coming). Labor would cost 7,000 Rs. by itself. But what they want is not money and food, they say.
They don’t want cash. They want someone to rebuild their homes.