12-18 February 2016 #795

Surviving the fall

The young couple out on a secret date lived to tell the tale of Dharara's fall
Smriti Basnet


When Kathmandu’s iconic tower, Dharara, fell during last April’s earthquake, dozens who were on the stairwell or in the viewing balcony perished.

But a young couple out on a secret date lived to tell the tale. Sanjib Shrestha and Ramila Shrestha were on a Saturday outing and decided to go up to see the city from above. They had just got to the balcony when they felt the 62m tall tower shaking, a loud explosion from below and a sense of falling.

"I don't remember feeling anything while it was happening,” recalls Sanjib. “The next thing I remember we were on the ground and people were rushing to help us. I asked them what had happened. They told me there was an earthquake and Dharara had fallen down. I then lost consciousness."

When Sanjib regained his consciousness he was on the cement pavement outside Bir Hospital, surrounded by wounded patients. Bleeding from a cut on his forehead and unable to open his eyes, his first thoughts were of Ramila. Inside the National Trauma Center in Bir Hospital, injured but in good condition, Ramila was also looking for Sanjib.

The two had met at a mutual friend's wedding in Ramechap two years ago and immediately hit it off. They tried to see each other as much as possible since then, but the distance made it tricky. "Her house is 4-5 hours away from where I live. It was difficult to meet back home," says Sanjib.

Ramila and Sanjib visit Dharara for the first time together nearly 10 months after the April 25 earthquake.

On the evening of April 25, when Ramila and Sanjib’s families were contacted about what had happened, their secret was finally out. "We had no idea about their relationship until the earthquake. But, both survived the fall, it seems they are destined to stay together," says Ramila's brother-in-law, Rajan Shrestha.

Although the two feel they have been blessed with a new life, they are still recovering from the injuries they sustained during the fall. Ramila is still in crutches and unable to walk for long, she stopped attending school.

"My wish is to recover from this as soon as possible. Only then will I start thinking about what I want to do in life," says Ramila. Sanjib had a fractured left hand, and cannot lift heavy objects so he has lost his job as a waiter.

Despite all this, the two find comfort in each other and still cannot believe the miracle that saved both their lives. “We often talk about that day, and it helps that we have each other,” says Sanjib, “earthquake or no earthquake, we will always love each other.”

The video was taken in front of Dharara.

Read also:

Between Syria and Nepal, Michael Nishimura

Surviving Dharara