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A year after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake ravaged Nepal, there is an odd predicament in the country: the only people who are happy are the ones who aren’t connected to the mainstream.
Five months ago, 60-year-old Laxmi Prasad Shilpkar, or the “Flag Man” as he is better known, began a nationwide tour carrying a three-metre flag. So far, barring two, he has visited all of country’s 75 districts. And on Sunday, he had this to say of his journey: “I trekked for four days to reach Humla — the northwest corner district. There was no road. But like everywhere else, the people were happy.”
On the other hand, in Kathmandu, about 100 persons scuffled with police outside Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli’s office on Sunday, angry with the slow rate of reconstruction in the nation ravaged by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake last year.
Around 8,00,000 houses, including hundreds of school buildings, had collapsed due to the twin earthquakes of April 25 and May 12 that hit as many as 14 districts of Nepal.
Led by Prime Minister Oli, commemoration ceremonies marked the nation on Sunday, as according to the Nepali lunar calendar, the earthquake struck on the 12th of Baisakh, which, last year, fell on April 25 in Gregorian calendar and on April 24 in 2016.
The Prime Minister laid a wreath at the ruins of the Dharahara tower, where over 100 persons had died last year as the iconic nine-storey structure collapsed.
At about 9 am, Karmacharya family gathered at a temple in Basantpur Darbar Square for a ‘kshama (forgiveness) puja’.
Srijana Karmacharya, 43, her husband Rajesh, daughter Simran, and mother in law Devika, sought forgiveness “from all Gods.” “My relative Niru worked in a bank and they had organised blood donation camp that day, when the structure collapsed on her, killing them,” Srijana said.
Former PM Baburam Bhattarai participated in a memorial ceremony at Maru, as banners with the names of hundreds of dead hung on the wall behind him, extending on the wall beyond the corner of the street. The masthead on the banner reads in Nepali: “We will always remember you.”
Before him, people lit a ceremonial fire within a map of Nepal drawn on the street in red, as dozens of people took a symbolic five minute walk to the Durbar Square sweeping the road with brooms.
“A year has passed but government hasn’t done anything. So it is time to clean up,” said Kabindra Bajracharya, 32, a salesman.
Looking at the white banners with names, Rajendra Shrestha, 48, a local, says he can’t identify quite a few places. “These are remote areas, I have never heard of these villages,” he says.
A little further ahead, in the precincts of Basantpur Durbar Square, people stood by a temple around 11 photographs with candles. In the main courtyard, volunteers were enthusiastic about a new beginning. Students from Arts College under Tribhuvan University worked all day to create a replica of Dharahara and Kasthamandap with earthen lamps. “Government is quite slow and it might take over 10 or 15 years to rebuild, but we will rise,” said Nirmal Shrestha, director of We Will Rise Foundation. As 9,000 lamps lit up the evening, one for each person dead, Dhruva Raj, 24, one of the student volunteers, said, “We have to rise.”