Monday, May 25, 2015

Love after the Earthquake

Google Talk

He: Guess what! Planning a trip to Syafru
She: You are kidding me.
He: No, I’m serious.
She: Hmmm duty trip?
He: No. My personal. Want to see people, after the quake.
She: How long?
He: May be a week.
She: Flying?
He: Nope, by car.
She: Hmmm
He: Want to join? ;-)
She: Bhayo, timi nai jau. I have no time for nonsense. And you know I can’t travel with a stranger ;-)
He: J


The road to Nuwakot diverged. Trees alongside the road struggled to shine with the late afternoon sunlight. Hills looked pale under the clear skies. Women and men were busy gleaning their lost possessions in the debris of fallen houses scattered on the roadside. Stray dogs and children were moving around perhaps in search of food or without any reason. Old men and women were basking in the sun in front of their what-used-to-be houses until 11:56 AM of April 25, 2015, perhaps trying to pretend nothing actually had happened -there was no earthquake and their houses did not fall down.

He pulled down the car window. A gust of fresh air broke into the moving car. The sound of Trisuli river became vivid.

‘This is much better’, she smiled.

Rachayita, 28. Friends call her Rachita. She doesn’t care. She has seen worse nicknames.

She looked thinner than usual in her old jeans, casual t-shirt that had a big and overwhelming Hollister logo, and the purple sports shoes her father brought her during his last trip to Delhi. She had asked for a pair of converse, but the shopkeeper in the trusted shop in Connaught Palace told him that the converse weren’t decent for girls. So, he went for the sports. This is one of the millions of reasons she doesn’t like her father –he listens to random people. He should have just asked her once. 

This whole thing happened before the earthquake.

‘Why did you decide to join me?’ he asked with a faint smile.

I don’t know,’ she replied. ‘I want to collect stories. I need something to reflect on when I become old. Or, some people need the service of a dentist,’ she smiled.

The car moved through small hills, big hills, streams, water falls, tiny markets, confused people and powerful winds.

‘Do you want some?’ she took out a packet of muffins from her small backpack.

‘No, thanks,’ he replied. ‘I don’t like muffins, to be honest. I had enough of them when I was a child.

Saral never saw his parents. He was raised by his uncle, who, by some strange coincidences, happened to own a teashop and a bakery. Uncle was not a trained baker. Nor did he have any particular interest. But aunt Meena was passionate about cakes and cookies although she was not very skilled at making them. They set up a small business in Jhamsikhel in 1970s. The fact that it was called Jurgan Bakes & Cakes attracted tourists. Despite uncle’s interest in educating him in food technology, Saral studied zoology.

Saral, 27. Friends think he is too sentimental. He thinks he is okay for his age.

‘So you are a disenchanted muffins expert, huh!’ she stared at him with half smile.

‘Sort of’, he replied trying his best to be indifferent about muffins and the intended pun. Memories of uncle Ramanath, aunt Meena and Jurgan Bakes & Cakes danced in his mind. He also didn’t forget Benjo, the Lhasa Apso whose hair occasionally appeared in the muffins, although they never received any complaints from their customers.


‘The best thing about this place is that you can come here and easily convince yourself you didn’t ever exist,’ Saral murmured. ‘It is not that Trishuli is special in any way, but the way it is formed here is significant’.

‘I never liked rivers’, she said. ‘They are too scary. You can find noise in them but not life. You cannot lure me into enjoying rivers. I rather get frightened by them.’

The car passed through the narrow bridge and then a pale hoarding board that said in big letters Rasuwa Jilla Ma Yahalai Swagat Chha. On the other side of the bridge alongside the river were big white tents set up by the Red Cross for the people who left their homes, and cattle, and everything due to the earthquake. Outside the tents, groups of women could be seen sitting in sequences brooding over each other’s heads searching for lice. The Trisuli river flew with a dull repetitive sound.

‘When you travel, you get rid of the mundaneness of everyday life’, he uttered.

‘True,’ she replied. ‘I am bored with people with their screwed teeth and screwed attitudes’.

Saral’s supervisor, Dr. Sterley was was an expert on migratory behaviour of red pandas in the Langtang region. Both Saral and Dr. Sterley travelled to Rasuwa many times, chasing red pandas and talking to people. Stories of red pandas and the taste of tongba had almost become their routines –with rare sightings of the animal. 

All that was before the earthquake.

After the earthquake, people left villages. The stories of red panda and the taste of tongba will never be the same.

‘This travel is different’, Rachita said. I don’t think this is special in any way. How can I be happy? I feel sorry by the grim faces of people. I am sure they will never be the same again.’

A deep silence broke in. The car rumbled on in a strenuous effort to leave corn fields, debris from fallen houses and cattle sheds behind.

Ramche Bhir

‘We will pass this landslide before dusk’, he said. ‘I have booked a hotel for us in Dhunche. We start for Sing Gompa tomorrow morning’.

‘I hope your hotel is strong enough for the aftershocks,’ she said. ‘You know how scared I am.’

‘Don’t worry’, he said. ‘We survived the typhoon. The light breeze will pass, too.’

Saral and Rachita first met in a bar somewhere near Sanepa, which led them to becoming friends in Facebook. This led to some kind of friendship. The some kind of friendship led to some kind of puzzle -which they were never able to solve.

The car moved over the rugged road on a slow but heavy pace. Ramche Bhir looked more scary after the earthquake. The danger of falling stones from the hilltops had been made worse. The traffic was less than usual. A lorry probably carrying the relief materials could be seen ahead struggling against the rugged road.

‘What if we stop here?’ he muttered. ‘I want to relax.’

‘Are you crazy?’ she exclaimed. ‘Why on earth one would want to relax in the middle of this scary landslide? Hello!’

‘This place is safe, don’t worry,’ he stopped the car engine, and opened the door. ‘We may die of cholera here, but not of falling stones’.

She lingered out of the car carrying a bottle of water. Without waiting for her he walked towards a wide stretch of white and grey stones spread along the crumpled and muddy road which looked like a middle-sized stone avalanche, and waited for her.

‘Do you think we deserved this quake?’ he asked with a deep voice.

She sat on a stone, drank some water from her bottle, and stared at him containing an inexplicit sadness within her chapped lips. Cold and noisy gusts of winds strutted through her unkempt short hair. A helicopter hovered aimlessly on the sky as if it was sending a warning to people that something really grave was going to happen soon, and quickly vanished through the narrow gorges towards Langtang.

A man and a woman lamenting after disastrous quake –would be the caption of National Geographic Magazine if it were to take their picture in this position and make it a front page story.

‘Can I ask you something”, she posed.

‘Shoot’, he replied.

‘Why did you ignore my Valentine’s Day gift?’, she asked.

He smiled, came close to her, and spread his arms. She locked her body against his and hid her head within his chest. He deeply smelled her hair and held her against his body more tightly.

‘What if I caress you all over?’, he mumbled in her ear. ‘It may take an earthquake to feel the power of love.’

His palms started moving around her back, stealthily –first on her head, then around her neck and down towards her buttocks. She felt his palm moving around all over her body panting secretly, and continued to hold him on his back with as little movement of her palms as they can be called still. She didn’t think it necessary to answer his question.

‘Turn around’, he cajoled. ‘We are not in a hurry’.

She obliged.

Locking her shoulders with his left hand he started caressing her –first around her neck and slowly down, towards her chest. She shrunk trying ostensibly to remove his hand from her body. His palm moved down around her stomach, gently. Then towards her pelvis, and then around inner thighs. All the while he kept on biting her earlobes, blandly. All four eyes were closed.

The sun glided down the gorges of Haku Bhir. He and she slowly walked down the road. He started the car. Journey resumed.

‘How far are we from Dhunche?’ she asked.

‘About 20 kilometers’, he replied. ‘We will be there before 8.’

‘What are you carrying with you for the quake survivors’, she asked.

‘Nothing big’, he said. ‘I have some hygiene kits with some basic stuffs like soaps, tooth brushes, tooth pastes, small mirrors, nail cutters, and so on. I have some instant noodles, too, but I don’t think they will need them. Perhaps they have now enough of these.’

‘The simple bare necessities of life’, she smiled at him.

‘Forget about your worries and your strife’, he smiled back humming the Jungle Book song.

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