At 2.15 pm on Wednesday, a bus pulled into the Ambedkar bus terminal. It carried 50 passengers, no different than any other who arrive and leave from the bus station. Yet, when this one arrived, those who were on it rushed out into the arms of many waiting for them. Some cried, happy to be home. Others still had journeys to make to reach home. Each one of them, though, was glad to arrive in the national capital after a 26-hour bus journey from the devastation that is Kathmandu.
In the hours before they arrived, many family members had reached the bus station. “We spoke to Rajesh one day after the earthquake. He then sent word that he had bought a ticket on a private bus yesterday, and that it would come any time today. There is no charge on his phone, so we don’t know when exactly the bus will arrive. But I am so happy he is returning,” Mohit Yadav, whose brother had gone to Nepal to visit its many Hindu temples, said.
Minutes later, the bus would arrive with families meeting. Brinda Iyer too sat for a few minutes in wait for her daughter. “We had gone to Nepal together, but then she returned for work. I stayed and visited more holy shrines and I was at a temple some kilometres out of Pokhra when the tragedy struck,” Iyer said.
The elderly Iyer, who lives in Mumbai, narrates many other stories of how the ground began to shake. But after it was over, the difficulty was not only the devastation, but those that took advantage of it. “People were taking Rs 1,000 for a kilometre, otherwise you couldn’t go anywhere. Somehow I made my way to Kathmandu, where I had to stay in a hotel for two days. But people asked me to return quickly because Kathmandu is fast running out of supplies. So I waited and then heard that a private bus was leaving,” Iyer said. A Rs 2,265 ticket, a Rs 300 commission to the agent and over a thousand kilometres journey later, Iyer was happily sitting at the Ambedkar Bus Terminus, waiting for her daughter to pick her up.