Surviving the aftermath

It has been four years, but for Nanmaiju Prajapati it seems like yesterday. She was preparing lunch for her family when their home in Sankhu on the northeastern edge of Kathmandu Valley started shaking violently.

It was just before noon on Saturday 25 April, 2015. Prajapati immediately realised it was an earthquake and shouted at everyone to get out of the building.

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She was hit by falling bricks, but made it out. The rest of her family could not leave on time. Her husband, daughter, son-in-law and their two children were all killed. Only her son, Suraj, survived.

There was a big roar as buildings in her neighbourhood collapsed in clouds of yellow dust. People were screaming, and there was a fearsome grinding sound from beneath the earth.

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Prajapati is now 50, and looked surprisingly composed as she recounted the horror of that day while she knitted a woolen sweater. After living for three years in a tin hut, she has managed to start rebuilding her house.

Without her husband, no income, and having lost her land titles and other documents, it was a struggle to rebuild. But she sold her land, and with savings from her knitting work, she managed to put up concrete columns for her future home.

“The government hasn’t given us much, so I had to put this together myself,” she says, gesturing at the unfinished first floor that is incomplete even after one year.

Prajapati says she is reminded of the impermanence of existence by the tragedy. “What do we do with money? We have to leave it all behind when we go, still we need money to survive and to rebuild,” she adds, knitting away.

She has tried to get her surviving daughter-in-law, Anita, to also knit to augment the family income, but she says she doesn’t know how to. “Do I knit, or do I take care of the baby?” asks Anita.

Prajapati says her son is sick, and cannot work. The house is incomplete but the money is finished and she has to earn by knitting. She says: “I have to do everything around here.”

But as the memory of the earthquake and the death and destruction it caused begins to fade, and Nanmaiju Prajati starts coming to terms with the loss, another generation of the family is being raised. It is the baby that gives her hope for the future.

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