One of the women present lost her husband in the earthquake. He was only 25 years old. She was pregnant at the time. Her husband had been working with 50 other people on the construction of a new house. Eight of them didn't survive. Now the baby is 3 months old. In Gurung culture it is not possible to remarry so she will be alone with her child for the rest of her life.
Below an interesting story by Shri Maya Gurung about how the village of Barpak was formed in Gorkha district.
One century ago there were only 2 people in Laprak, Pajlama Lama and Ckimpo Lama. Lama is a caste group within the Gurung people. The two Lamas decided to make an agreement after having had differences and fighting with each other. They wanted to have a judge so they invited King Ghale from Khorla to adjudicate. When the King arrived at the top of Barpak and saw the nice area was he decided to settle there. The King was followed by many people from Khorla. So that's why there are now two castes in Barpak: Gurung and Ghale. These two castes are still divided. "Gurung's" caste name is meaning "I am big" but the "Ghale" caste people are think they are even bigger and stronger people.
Bhakta Bahadur Gurung’s personal story:
about what happend to him and around him when the earthquake came in Barpak.
When the earthquake came he fell to the ground and was tossed about by the shaking. It looked like the trees were falling down over him. He was thinking only about his family and afterwards he went up to look for them. On the way he drank some water at the place some French people had been making a drinking water tap. He met 5 French people on his way up. At this time he felt like he wanted to cry. Together with the French people he ran. On his way he saw destroyed houses everywhere. Arriving in the village he heard crying.
He saw people gathering in an open area of the village. Most were crying and screaming ‘where is my wife, husband or children?’ After 2 hours he found his family here. His house had been destroyed. He told his wife that they should go to where their house had stood but his wife told him she didn’t want to see the ruined house and was very afraid that more earthquakes would follow.
At this time it started raining. Other people from Barpak provided people plastic to make a shelter. He didn't get any plastic but managed to build a shelter anyway. In evening all the people were very worried about finding food. Everything had been lost in their houses. He decided that they needed to have hot water but he didn't have a pot. Eventually he managed to find a pot and build a fire. They drank hot water but had nothing to eat.
That night they shared a tent with people from 28 different houses. All night they were very afraid and didn’t sleep. In the morning they were all hungry and the children were crying because of their empty stomachs. The parents started searching for food in their destroyed houses. They found some rice and shared it as best they could. There was not enough for all but the children were most important to them.
While searching in the destroyed buildings they found the bodies of 8 people who had been killed while working in a new house built from concrete. At that time there were about 100 people constructing houses. At first they didn’t know how many people had died in their houses. But when people didn't appear the survivors knew which people may have died. They tried to help rescue the people that were trapped under the stones. They searched and lifted stones away but often they didn't know exactly where to find the people. They found one boy under the stones. He was only 17 years old and only his head was visible between the stones. He was dead. The Indian Army arrived by helicopter to help to search for people. The local people joined the soldiers and became more encouraged to search for survivors. That day they searched for bodies and took out 8 dead bodies: 6 women and two little boys.
Seventy five people died that day in the Gorkha district. The death toll eventually rose to around 90 people. (The final totals were much much larger)There were terrible injuries: amputated limbs and even decapitations. The Indian Army helicopter had brought medics to the village but they could only provide basic medical care. After one day the Nepalese Army and police came. Fifteen days later the Nepalese government provided food to the people and a further 15 days later trucks arrived with more food. Local government officials allocated and distributed the food. Food and shelter materials arrived from Pokhara, arranged by the Sathi Khola organization, an NGO. While waiting for help to arrive the villagers searched their old houses for food, cooked and shared it amongst themselves. There was not enough so most were hungry all the time. They cooked big pots together and ate together. At this time all people were given the same amount of food and there was no caste discrimination.
During our talk we heard large cracks, like fireworks. I asked what the sounds were and was told that this was a big landslide.
There was no cultural or religious ceremony for the people who were killed. In one day they brought 30 people out from the collapsed houses. There was no time or energy for a proper ceremony. The dead were simply buried. In this area people are normally buried and not cremated. Some animals died under the stones and are still there creating a terrible smell in the ruins
After 19 days there was another strong earthquake. People were more aware this time. Their village was already destroyed but they realized they should take care of each other. And after the second earthquake aid organizations were already there so they received more support. That waited long time for food. They didn't have the energy to take care of their cattle which were walking around freely and eating the crops in the fields. After a few weeks they started searching for the cattle and collecting them.
As for the future… Everyone people is thinking about building new homes. Some rich people are buying land now and beginning to construct new houses. But poor people don't have these possibilities. Bhakta Bahadur Gurung says that if the government provides support the people can build solid, earthquake resistant houses. Until now however, they haven’t received any information from the government. They feel that they should still have faith in the Nepali government. They are all still waiting for their government to support them.
I would like to thank Bhakta Bahadur Gurung for the interview.