Even in the grim aftermath of the quake, hope shines through.
ON April 25, a massive earthquake shook and shattered Nepal from its weekend stupor. I remember my limbs cowering in a silent mantra to all my gods. As a Sherpa, our lives are intrinsically linked in prayer to our protector deities, in happy times and in calamities.
For most Nepalese, this apocalyptic moment turned their lives topsy-turvy. More than 7,500 have died and thousands were left homeless. The physical scars will serve as perennial reminders of the aftermath — those proud monuments from a mythical valley of forgotten kings, the intricate alleyways of ancient townships, the antiqued patina of a multihued culture now lie under brick rubble. The cruelest wounds have been inflicted on our remote villages — those once picturesque getaways for trekkers have now turned into disaster zones. That very charm of remoteness has turned these hills into landscapes of misery.
The sad irony is that we knew the big one was coming, but no one expected it. The tragic paradox of Nepal today lies beyond the trauma of the death and damage wrought by this earthquake. We are a country abundantly blessed by the awe-inspiring magnificence of our snowcapped Himalayas, the glacial foaming of our roaring rivers, the cleansing purity of our verdant valleys. Our people are icons of bravery and our homes legendary for their instant warmth and hospitality. They say people visit Nepal once but come back for their friends.
Charities helping victims
Sherpa Adventure Gear is raising money for earthquake victims in Nepal. The company says 100 percent of donations will go for immediate relief on the ground through its Paldorje Education Fund network, already set up to benefit the children of Sherpa families in remote villages:
Other ways to give:
But we are also afflicted by man’s failings. Nepalese have endured centuries of social discrimination and exploitation from despots and modern day oligarchs. A long civil conflict killed thousands and chased away a generation’s opportunities for economic and social progress. Millions of youths have left the country to seek their futures elsewhere. We are still ranked close to the lowest end of the poverty index.
The messy vortex of Nepali politics has left little space for nation-building. Corruption is endemic and little of any economic benefits filter to the poor. Even in the best of times, the political leadership is mocked daily for its ineptitude. No wonder then, at the worst of times, no one was prepared for this colossal earthquake.
I am a Nepali American and I’ve lived here in the beautiful Northwest for 25 years imbibing the values of a liberal, democratic lifestyle. The laid-back sophistication and insouciant hipness of Seattle are not accidental. The wheels that created this environment were spun from decades of deep political commitment to public service for the greater good.
I built my business here. I am grateful to America for giving me this space, but I learned my trade in Nepal. I straddle the best of what both worlds offer and I am proud that as an owner of a small outdoor company, I am able to contribute my bit to both countries’ economies. If a Sherpa family can prove the American dream is alive here, then, surely, why not in Nepal?
Even in the grim aftermath of this disaster, hope shines through. There is a new age in Nepal. A grass-roots movement is taking place among its young, educated and talented people. They are back to show the entrenched old guard how it should be done: entrepreneurship, a passion for social enterprise and a fearlessness to question the establishment.
There is a new age in Nepal. A grass-roots movement is taking place among its young, educated and talented people.”
Every day, I see new startups being eagerly initiated, young graduates inspired for social service in faraway villages, professional investors becoming more common and voters pushing for reforms. The subtext is a warning for those who refuse to change. Nepal’s spring of change is happening right now.
In the immediate aftermath of this calamity, the one thing that stood out was the instant compassion and a can-do resourcefulness of a new force in our country. The pushcart vendor who gave all of his fruit to the tent-city occupants, the soldiers and police constables, the selfless nurses and doctors working without rest, the thousands of volunteers braving the odds: They are Nepal’s finest, all working tirelessly through the nights to rescue those trapped under rubble. These are the mental notes I take away with me so that I can proudly tell of what happened when the great earthquake came. Nepal will rise.