Paralyzing Nepal, 2015
It was my 2nd international trip to Nepal. I was not so nervous at the airport like usually, I used to be. I expected Nepal to be similar to Bhutan in many ways, especially the Buddhist people. Moreover, there was nothing to worry about communication problem as I already knew their language.
The flight was scheduled at 10 am in the morning and it was already 9:30 am, every checking was done. The passengers were waiting for the same flight. I could see few foreigners, group of families, a couple of monks. I thought the monks were Bhutanese, they had the same looks but I was wrong, they were actually Nepalese, I was overwhelmed to see them.
Shortly, they announced the arrival of the flight. Without having much to stand in a queue, I got on the flight and got seated, yes of course by the window side, that is one thing you need to be serious about while traveling.
It took off exactly at 10 am. Take off thing always scared me a bit, as if like my legs been pulled up in the air but then it happens just for the moment. I believe I am meant for traveling.
Enduringly I got settled after the takeoff. It was then like just sitting comfortably. At the mid way, the captain crew briefed us on Mount Everest that was visible through the clouds.
Three of us peeped through the window with so much curiosity, Mount Everest being one fascinating wonders to the world. I had to slant back on the seat for quite some time as my other two friends didn’t give up looking at it till it was out of sight.
After an hour we landed at Kathmandu airport. Straight away, I checked into a hotel in the outskirt of Kathmandu. The hotel was pretty expensive but it was worth. Anyway, I planned to stay for just five nights, so it was manageable and within the budget.
That whole afternoon, I stayed in the hotel, getting freshen up, setting and sorting plans. I had to hire a taxi in advance, the hotel managers helped me do that within no time.
There was a luxurious balcony with a set of furniture, flowers and also the telephone. Nepal appeared like India rather than Bhutan. Their cultures were exactly like Indians, maybe because there was more population of Hindus in the area.
The words they spoke was pleasant to my ears as I grew hearing and speaking the language, I was good at it. I was comfortable dealing with people in Nepal.
My first tour was to Boudhanath temple. It was 4 hours journey from the hotel I was lodging. It was pretty far, it was like traveling to Wangdue Phodrang from Thimphu in Bhutan.
With no twist and turns, the straight way felt less hectic. The taxi was comfortable and the driver was graciously interactive. He was just a taxi driver but he came along with me like a guide and showed me around.
For first two days, I wandered in the adjacent places and mostly in Boudhanath temple. The mandala appearance like stupa is believed to have built by a Tibetan lady named Jadzima. She had four sons and they were poor. No matter what, for sentient beings and as an offering to Buddha, she wished her whole life to build a stupa.
She approached the King of Nepal, plead for a land and a permission to construct one. Soon she began to construct but before the completion, she attended enlightenment.
The remaining structure was completed by the four sons in the 14th century. Jadzima’s stupa was then offered as a great offering to the Buddha as wished.
The driver even spoke perfect Tibetan language, there were Tibetan citizens settled around the Boudhanath stupa with stalls. It was fortunate and spirited to have visited the place.
The next two days, I visited Swayamnath temple which was right at the top. The stairs were steep with more than 100 steps.
It took almost 20 minutes to climb up. I almost burst out into tears when I was finally at the top, not because it was back straining but because it was like reaching the top of Mount Everest.
The stupa in the middle was believed to have self-manifested from the island, as Nepal was once an island and it resembles Boudhanath Stupa. It was surrounded by many other smaller stupas.
The way of offering prayers had a slightest of Hindu touch. I prostrated thrice and offered my prayers, I was stunned, I just did not know how to react. It was magical watching the huge goddess of knowledge before me.
At one corner, you will find a pothole which will be covered by a steel lid and secured over by a giant metallic Dorje, Buddhist ritual object.
As I freaked out on giant Dorje, the driver said, “through this hole, people saw hell during the ancient time”.
I was like, “What? seriously”. I was amazed.
“Yeah, and it is said that people died out of shock seeing the hell, that is why it has been covered so that no one sees it”.
I imagined how terrible the hell could be, but I am sure it would be millions of times horrifying than what I imagined, maybe I have no idea, in fact, nobody.
It was majestic feeling being at the top, overlooking the densely populated Nepal. I took thousands of pictures but never was enough of it.
It was my last day in Nepal. My flight back to Bhutan was next morning at 9 am. I came back to Sayambhunath for another round that morning.
I spent some time circumambulating and chanting prayers. There were many tourists on tour, It felt home to me. I even landed up explaining to few tourists whatever I knew about the temple.
Soon I left the place, I was returning to the hotel for the lunch. The moment I reached the basement, end of the stairs, I heard a strange loud voice suddenly. I thought it was a sound of road roller machine and ignored it.
Following that, on spur of moment, someone from somewhere screamed, “Earthquake…..earthquake”, then the earth shook horrifyingly. It shook soul out of us. It was the first time experience.
I held myself tight onto a hand prayer wheel at the sideways. I was scared to death, fought with bad feelings within myself, I thought I would die, that my doomsday has finally come but the man at the back said, “don’t worry, you will be fine”.
While the earth shook, I saw buildings falling, stupas cracking down, huge walls and gates collapsing, people screaming, getting trapped and some wounded.
Soon the earthquake stopped. Immediately I ran after the man who was looking for the safest place. Everyone gathered in one of the football ground. I prayed hard, the amazing place was then a complete disaster.
shortly, several ambulances came to the spot with loud siren and choppers in the air. I was in a shocking state, I had no idea where and how to go back. I could see people injured, bloodsheds, frightened faces everywhere.
I was perfectly fine, but no way I could help anybody. I secretly cried when I saw them in pain, I was shattered in and out. What a punishment it was for living.
It broke me down, I looked up to the temple, it did not look the same. The pillars had collapsed and the stupa cracked. I stared mutely at the temple with tears rolling down my cheeks.
I walked through the thousands of injured people with no clue where I was heading to. People crying and yelling for help, the feeling was like someone stabbed in my heart. I wished it to be a bad dream. I actually saw hell.
The hotel agent came looking for me and the phone network was working at that time. I saw even worst condition as I driven back to the hotel. The whole Kathmandu was ruined.
I shivered in fear, my eyes could not see, my eyes were filled with tears. I remained silent that all whole day, the pain voices echoed in my ears, started seeing wounded people like I have been hallucinating. I even feared to look out of the window or be on the balcony.
I flew back to Bhutan next day, the feeling was not the same, I could not convince my heart. Everyone was worried and was happy to see me safe home. But I was silent…….I think my silence spoke.
It was not about being safe and back home but what mattered was what went through me….I was changed, I have changed.