8-14 April 2016 #803

Recurring nightmare

Families who lost their homes in the earthquake remember their loved ones killed during the war.
Sahina Shrestha in Kavre

Gopen Rai

66-year-old Maiya Ranjitkar has been waiting for ten years for her youngest son Jiwan to come back home. Sitting at the door of her earthquake damaged house in Rayale village of Kavre district, she stares at the road leading to Panauti on which she last saw her 18-year-old son walking away.  

A tenth grader, Jiwan was living away from his family in a rented room in Panauti preparing for his SLC exams. The last time he came home, Maiya had asked Jiwan to stay back but he left, saying he had something important to do.

“I told him not to go, but he paid no heed to my words.” remembers Maiya, “We didn’t even know he had joined the Maoists.” A few days later, she received word that Jiwan had been detained by the Army, and soon after news came that ‘Comrade Mausam’ was dead, his body was never found. 

The Maoist party gave the family Rs 200,000 compensation, but even after ten years the family is still waiting. “I don’t think he’ll ever come back but we want to know what happened,” says Maiya, tearing up.

The youngest of five siblings, the vivacious tenth-grader was just stepping into adulthood when the course of his life changed like many others at the time. Maiya doesn’t know why her son decided to join the Maoists, whether he was forced or it was of his own accord.

She just knows the son the family had pinned their hopes on for a better future will not return. “We had sent our son so he could receive education, who knew this was going to happen,” asks Maiya, who remembers his face, his gestures, little moments in their lives every time she moves around the house.

But the home with such strong memories of Jiwan is no longer the same. The earthquake last April damaged it, and made the top floor uninhabitable.

The Ranjitkar family moved to a temporary shelter after the quake but were forced to live in the damaged house through the winter. Maiya’s husband Bhagat Bahadur, a mason, lost his sight in one of his eyes while working six months ago.  

When they moved back, Maiya took to patching up the cracks on the wall of her house with clay and red mud. But she no longer does that. The Gwarko to Panauti road that is under construction will slice right through her house, and the family has been asked to vacate the home.

“First my son and then my house, I don’t know why God is trying me,” she says, looking at her cracked fingers and dirty nails that testify to her hard life.

Gopen Rai

62-year-old Purna Maya Tamang of Rayale village in Kavre (above) moves around a temporary shelter tending her chicken. She looks forlornly towards the space where her double storey mud and brick house once stood. It was the home her husband Singhabir brought her to for the first time after they got married 42 years ago. Now both the house, and her husband are gone.

Singhabir was one of the more educated people in the village, he had a government job and had voiced dissatisfaction with Maoist threats and intimidation of villagers.

At midnight 14 years ago Maoist guerrillas abducted Singhabir saying they would bring him back in a few days. They threatened the family not to look for him. Two weeks later, news came from another village that a body had been found in a nearby forest.

“The villagers went to look and it was my husband,” recalls Purna Maya, holding Singhabir’s photograph, “there were cuts all over his body, we had to stitch him up for the cremation.”

Then, ten years later, tragedy struck again when her house came down in the earthquake. Far from rebuilding, there is no one to even clear the rubble.

“I remember him every day, especially since our house was destroyed,” says Purna Maya. She has a widow’s cheque from the government, her daughter-in-law sends some money from Kathmandu, but there is no sign of the Rs 200,000 the government promised for reconstruction. Her son has been jobless since the earthquake, so there is no money to rebuild.

As for the war, she hasn’t forgotten what happened that night and still fears the Maoist will come for her son and grandchildren.

Both Maiya and Purna Maya say they expect nothing from the government, neither for the loved ones they lost nor for the damages in the earthquake. “They have forgotten everything. They have forgotten the war and now they are forgetting the earthquake,” says Maiya.

Read Also

The tale of two tragedies

Coping and hoping, Editorial

Bombed, rebuilt, destroyed again, Om Astha Rai

The hospital that was destroyed twice, Om Astha Rai

Victims of war, Seulki Lee

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