Earthquake Trauma

Raju Nepal

Shaken, But Till When?

  • Raju Nepal


After the devastating earthquake of April 25, 2015, Saturday, in Nepal, the citizens were forced to leave their lavish life behind for something cheaper than their concrete buildings. The higher they lived before, more problems they are facing now. Houses made of wood and raw bricks do not stand today where they were proud to be yesterday, and which do, are sadly being brought down by the house owners themselves. With all the international medical and financial aids flowing inside the country, continuing daily life with basic necessities isn't a big problem. But how long can Nepali people survive in the tent pitched on national parade ground; Tudikhel?

The earthquake hasn’t been biased in terms of age, gender, ethnic groups, language, financial capability and regions. It has affected the people living inside and outside the country. After the first earthquake hit, I ran out of my room and started calling my wife and daughter who were in the first floor. We all ran to the ground outside our house where our neighbors had already been gathered. We waited, made some calls to near and dear ones, and surfed the internet looking for answers about what had just happened. When we were all still experiencing the constant movement from the earth below us, my daughter, who is currently living in Australia, called me to tell me that Dharahara is no more. I cannot express how I felt after hearing that. And I am sure, none of us Nepali can because it was our pride, our identity, a public property that belonged to all of us and was dear to our heart. Many people lost their house, their family, their livestock and their pets. But what we all lost in common is our national heritage.

The first earthquake didn’t affect me as much as the second one did. I was already getting back to my normal routine except for sleeping in the vehicle. I was going to work and like every other Nepali, was getting updated to what was happening in the affected areas. However, after the second big earthquake on May 12, 2015, Tuesday, I haven’t been able to think straight, I am scared of the earthquake all the time, I try to avoid the news as much as possible, I come back home way too early that the normal days, all I feel like doing is lying down with my eyes closed, I make sure the room’s as well as the bathroom’s door is unlocked, I don’t want to talk to anyone, seeing yellow and blue tents on the way back home everywhere is making life more out of balance, I feel irritated all the time, I am not being able to fully concentrate on anything that I do and I have stopped socializing at this point because no matter who I meet or I hear talking, they are always talking about the earthquake and the amount of damage that has taken place. The more pathetic situation I faced every time I talked to people was forecasting or spreading rumor about big earthquakes coming in near future. And most frightening, seems like the earth is continuously shaking and I should be ready to run no matter where I am and the situation I am in. After few nights of sleeping in the vehicle post the first earthquake, my family and I slept in our respective bedrooms. But after the second earthquake, neither have I been able to go upstairs, nor do I allow my family member to go upstairs unless very necessary. We are all staying in the ground floor and sleeping in the living room. And I don’t know for how long is this going to continue. I can hardly think of the things that I was thinking about seconds before the earthquake hit because it’s all-different.

Not realizing what was happening to me, I talked to some of my friends about how they are coping up with the aftermath of earthquake. They all had the similar answer. The second earthquake has left people more devastated than the first earthquake. The physical loss and physical pain is huge and is limited to certain areas, whereas, the psychological loss has been spread throughout Nepal and abroad.

Not only the office employees, but people from all profession possible have fled the capital to protect themselves and their family from this disaster. And why wouldn’t they? The love for life is same for all. The daily wageworkers such as drivers, barbers, builders, are busy crying over their own loss and barely have time to think about building this nation back.

We, the residents of Kathmandu had only experienced such Empty Street and closed shops during Dashain, the biggest festival of our country. But, having to ride my vehicle through the empty street on a regular office day, when there had to be heavy traffic, and would have to take me at least 35 minutes to reach my office from my house, is scary. Where are all the people? Now I can drive from my home to office in merely 15 minutes. Thousands have left the town to be with their family in a time like this, and other hundreds have left to avoid the situation like this.

On the other hand, there are also people who are living in tents for free meal, free medics and so on. People don’t want to go to their jobs and aren’t actually hoping for the disaster to get over. However, they are busy playing cards in their tents, waiting for the next earthquake to come.

I am mostly worried about the children who have lost their homes and who have lost their schools. There are approximately 1 million students who won’t be able to return to the school because their schools do not exist anymore. With their education being violently interrupted, they sit with their parents all day long, look at the rubble of their house, listen to what their parents say, wait for the relief to reach their area, and if they are old enough, think about how their life is going to get back to normal.

It’s a good thing that many organizations and schools are establishing temporary classes for children where they can come and draw, play, carry on with their basic education and get engaged in a daily routine. It is important that we all should do whatever possible to offer children the psychological support they need as well as a safe environment to help them get over with their experiences.

So, now what’s done is done. Humans didn't do it and they were no way stopping it. But what we are doing right now is taking us more backwards and creating a space in our mind that is filled with just fears. It’s time for us to slowly get over with it and live a normal life. We should start doing what we were doing before the earthquake hit by returning to our daily life- going to work, socializing, talking about what to do next instead of talking about what happened, and we should look forward for the next day. Influential people should start disseminating positive information. Artists, writers, can get together to start a creative club to aid in rehabilitation of the trauma for all age group. Media can start by covering the positive activities that is taking place all around our country to help get over with the post earthquake disturbance. Big business houses should announce vacancy so that people are encouraged to work and motivate the other small business houses also to get into action.

The aid work will go on because there are large national and international organizations involved. But that isn’t enough. Getting back to our regular lifestyle is what we are absolutely in need of right now. So, let’s get back to work and normalize the situation of our mind and our country.