Two years ago we stopped off on the way back from the brick kilns at an ancient Newar town called Harisiddhi. It was very much like other towns of that era, such as old Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Patan … beautiful temples, old houses made of stone and timber; people sitting around making wicks and other things, many leading a traditional Nepali life. It was enchanting.
Harisiddhi was devastated by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake – as was many places constructed years ago using old building methods. February 2016, I wrote about our visit there – and how deeply saddened we were to see the extent of the damage. Except of the very centre of the town, it was almost impossible to orient ourselves because so much had been lost in the earthquake and its aftershocks.
Coming up to two years after the earthquake, we again visited Harisiddhi to see how, or indeed if, the situation had improved for its residents. The hardship of people’s lives was very visible. Most of the temporary housing is still in use. Made of galvanised iron, these shelters are freezing in winter and very hot in summer.
Some reconstruction work is beginning. The streets are now not only full of rubble, but also sand and new equipment for the houses. People sit around together surrounded by all this incompleteness – many are old people and I wonder how many will live long enough to experience a rebuilt town or at least a rebuilt home.
It is bleak and certainly not a place, or way, one would choose to live. As we were looking at one caved in house, we met a man who is building a new house next door. Without us understanding Nepali he told us it had been his home and broken by the earthquake – two of his family members had died there. His grief was palpable and without a verbal language to communicate in, I hope he understood our sorrow for him and the community.