Resilience: For Kathmandu.



“Sir, Sir, give me money to buy cookies” she cried,

            As we ambled by in the chill – approaching twilight;

I couldn’t comprehend what it was she had in mind —

            Her Nepali tweaked English was distinct from mine:


Construing the puzzlement in my eyes she blurted –

            “Give me biscuits ma’am, I’m hungry since last night.”

The teenaged girls had come from asbestos shelters

            Or blue tents by Bhaktapur Durbar Square, I realised.


I shoved all the Nepali currency I had into their hands

            As humbled I was – after shopping Rs.100 is all I had:

Discerning what could it do to alleviate their raw plight –

            An LPG cylinder at Rs. 8000–10000 was bizarre a price!


Yet in the late December chill the girls’ smiles did light  

            With their sincere gratitude – as if a brazier in my mind:

That for twelve hours a day Kathmandu has no power —

            In asbestos cubicles it freezes without blankets all night. 


We walked by, miles and miles on the way to our hotel

            As taxis were scarce, fuel rarer – costs an all-time high:

Only cabs got 5 litres fuel queuing daylong twice a week —

            The economic blockade with India is four months now.


Basic medicines are scarce, major surgeries are on hold,

            As houseful hospitals cook meagre meals on firewood.

While children, take 3 biscuits – one per meal to school –

            Homes have no electricity, gas, even if groceries to cook.


Is it not just few months since the city is raising its head –

            After destruction of homes, property, mass loss of lives!

Barely was civilization billeted in tent-camps, tin-shelters:

            Tested anew with hunger, cold, manmade strife is unfair.


It was an ordinary day, on the date of Christmas, last April —

            When nearing noon, flocks of a variety of birds screeched;

The dogs – both strays and pets began to howl incessantly

            As tremors of an earthquake Kathmandu felt below its feet.


Before humanity yet realised what creatures fussed about –

            Snakes slithered out of their hovels, ran amok into homes.

Young people, at best screamed, slipped on shaky floors —

            As buildings, homes, lives crashed to the precarious ground.


In few hours, a day, old heritage sites were a cluster of rubble –

            Remnants of Bhaktapur, Patan, Kathmandu Durbar Squares’

Shortly bolstered by wooden planks, still display natures’ fury:

            On a frame of stoic resilience stands poised vestiges of humanity!






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