‘They have not told me the name of his disease. They just said my son will never be normal’

‘They have not told me the name of his disease. They just said my son will never be normal’

“They wanted to kill my son because he is not normal. That is why I left my husband and his family in Ramechhap. That was 15 years ago. Since then I have been living here. I work as a maid so that I can rent a room and take care of my son.

“But then the earthquake came and now I live in this camp. It is very difficult. My son cannot control his voice and he is very loud. The others here get angry about him and complain. We are not part of the community here. I want to move, but nobody will rent me a room because of him. So I have to continue here.

“Every day I take my son to the school for disabled children. It is tough, because he cannot walk by himself. I put my arms around him so he does not fall. It’s even worse here in the camp because the paths are not straight. So every morning we stumble on the way together, and in the afternoon we stumble back.

“Whenever I can afford it, I prepare noodles for him. It’s what he loves most. It makes me happy to see him full of joy and relaxed. The doctors have given me some medicine, not to cure him, just to calm him. They have not told me the name of his disease. They just said my son will never be normal.

“But all the hardship does not matter. Because of all what happened during the earthquake I love my son even more than before. We all have lost so much, but I still have him.”

Photo: Sven Wolters

‘If we fail to perform our rituals properly, it will bring a bad fate’

“We have been unable to reconstruct our guthi house [small temple]. It is the traditional place where we Newaris perform our rituals. Some of these rituals have to be performed in secret. We cannot do that in tents. There is no privacy. And it is not safe to store our religious and cultural items in tents. So we carry them around all the time. It is very sad and it pains me to perform our rituals nowadays. But whatever the condition, we have to keep our culture alive. This is what makes us unique in this world. Despite the hardships, we must perform our rituals. If we fail to do it properly, it will bring a bad fate.”

Photo: Sameen Poudel

‘I need to rise for the sake of the kids’

“That terrible earthquake buried everything. I lost my wife, my children lost their mother, I lost the business, I lost my leg. I lost everything. I don’t even want to remember that day. My wife, Mithu, used to fast, worship God and visit pilgrims, but that selfish God was not just to her and her family. Life has changed a lot for me since the earthquake. With steel fitted inside my injured body and two small children in my lap, I need to fight back against a life full of darkness. I need to go for medical checks every month. I have no plans for the future. Sooner or later, I need to rise for the sake of the kids. I am thinking of setting up the business again. Let’s see where time will lead me and my children.”

Photo: Mandira Dulal

‘He had seen Anju two minutes before. Two minutes after, she was gone’

“Anju was my daughter-in-law. She had just come back from the river, after washing clothes. She ran in to save her daughter, Anisha, who was eating in the kitchen. Anisha was saved, but Anju got stuck under the rubble.

“It took us more than an hour-and-a-half to locate where she was buried. She was under the rubble of two houses. There were continuous aftershocks at that time, which terrified us. Even our goats betrayed us that day. When we were looking for her, we heard a sound. We thought it was Anju, we dug out the rubble. But it was the goats. We saved them, but we lost Anju.

“I do not know if Anisha understands her mother is gone. She keeps asking for her. When she gets angry, she lies on the ground, asking for her mother. She cries covering her face. She wants her mother. We have not let her see the picture of Anju.

“My son Suresh has not been the same. He cried a lot. He was like a madman. It took a long time for the villagers to make him understand death is an inseparable part of life. Everyone will die once they are on earth. The only question is whether it is sooner or later. He had seen Anju two minutes before. Two minutes after, she was gone. He has not been able to forget that.

“My husband Damodar performed the funeral rituals. We received NPR 140,000 [about £880] from the government. Suresh has kept the money in a cooperative bank account in Anisha’s name. Six months have passed, but none of us are able to forget.”

Photo: Mandira Dulal

‘This year I did the Dashain puja in one corner of my relative’s home’

“This year I did the [Dashain] puja in one corner of my relative’s home. My home collapsed in the earthquake and my neighbour had to get me out of the rubble. In the last six months, I have had to move several times. The first night I slept under the open sky. The next day we collected plastic sheets lying around and made a small tent. Rescue teams then came in with different services and that’s when everyone started fighting for food and tents. Now, I live in this tent provided by one of the NGOs and this is what I have to call home.”

Photo: Namita Rao

‘This is the first time I am sharing these details with anyone besides my mother and sister’

“We have been living in a temporary shelter after the earthquake and it happened there. The man came in when I was finishing my homework. My mother and sister were working in the fields. I would have gone with them, but I had a gash on my hand from the last time I went to cut grass. He asked where my mother was. When I told him, he started inching towards me, enquiring about my arm. He put his hands on my chest and then tried to shove his hands up my skirt. He asked me which class I studied in as he did that. When I pushed him away and ran out, he wanted to know where someone as little as me got so much strength. We lost our house in the earthquake. Now this is my home, where I am supposed to be secure. It’s difficult for me to go to school. This is the first time I am sharing the details of what happened with anyone besides my mother and sister, but I know some people know about this in school. Facing them is almost as bad as the incident itself. Sometimes I wonder if things would be different if my father was alive, or we hadn’t lost our home.”

Photo: Ritu Panchal