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In Focus- Monica Tiwari photographs Nepal after the earthquake

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Catastrophe struck Nepal on the 25th of April, 2015. A massive earthquake, measuring 7.8 in magnitude had brought an entire nation to a standstill. Tremors were felt across the region in India, Bangladesh and Tibet. The ruling government declared a state of emergency citing the immediate damage. Immediate loss of life was quoted at almost a 1000 dead, and nearly double of that injured. These figures exponentially increased over the coming days. Buildings, iconic or domestic, famous or mundane had been flattened.  Television screens across the world were flooded with visuals of grief, destruction, dysfunction and devastation.

New Delhi based photographer, Monica Tiwari decided to visit Nepal and photograph ground zero. ” There is no clear reason (why I went), apart from a keen desire to see things for myself. I just picked up my camera and left ” she says.

She landed in Nepal on the 1st of May, almost a week after the quake had struck. “The international airport give me the clear impression that tragedy has struck, only later did I realise that it was merely a consequence of poor maintenance. From what I saw first up, I felt relief. I started to notice that things weren’t as bad as the television reports.”

“The scenes were different from what I had conceived in my head … shops were re-opening and taxi-prices reducing. The extra food I’d carried quickly seemed superfluous as shops were well stocked. The first drink I had upon reaching was a Thumbs-up, and the lady behind the counter had a smile to spare for me. “

In the midst of destruction and despair, people were still finding a way to get back to their routine lives.

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Rukku, a homeless woman, enjoys an early morning smoke.

She further elaborates ” I spent the first day just speaking to the locals, trying to understand the situation from individual points of view. There was no set methodology, I just attempted to converse at length with everyone I met. Personal stories are all that interested me. The people of Nepal are wonderfully warm, resilient, and tough.”

 She spent most of her time in and around Kathmandu. ” Life in the mountain regions is lived simply” she says.
Padam Bahadur (65), right with his wife Sanumaya (52) on the left, are seen a storage shed, the only remaining part of their 32 year old, 4 story home.
Padam Bahadur (65), right with his wife Sanumaya (52) on the left, are seen a storage shed, the only remaining part of their 32 year old, 4 story home.
Krishna Makaju (55) with his wife Kanchimaya in what remains of their 20 year old house.
Krishna Makaju (55) with his wife Kanchimaya in what remains of their 20 year old house.
93 year old Chopka Sherpani
93 year old Chopka Sherpani

While there is a sense of grief and loss, along with a hope to carry on, there is also an anger and frustration at the situation. Tiwari further reports ” Citizens of Nepal don’t place much faith in their government, and from what I could see, that is a justified apprehension. Reconstruction work, at least in the mountain villages has been postponed to after the land-slide inducing monsoons. Relief work is in abundance, but it is in its distribution that I see a laxity. Relief work wasn’t reaching a lot of places. “

Pmpeii Lamichane (in red sari), 36, a farmer, photographed here with son, daughter, husband and father in law by their temporary home, built adjacent to their permanent one.
Pmpeii Lamichane (in red sari), 36, a farmer, photographed here with son, daughter, husband and father in law by their temporary home, built adjacent to their permanent one.
Dinesh Sakhya (55) sits in the debris of his 30 year old home.
Dinesh Sakhya (55) sits in the debris of his 30 year old home.
Civilians wearing face masks to shield themselves from dust particles and germs in and already polluted Kathmandu air, as rescue and rehabilitation efforts continue.
Civilians wearing face masks to shield themselves from dust particles and germs in and already polluted Kathmandu air, as rescue and rehabilitation efforts continue.
Civilians wearing face masks to shield themselves from dust particles and germs in and already polluted Kathmandu air, as rescue and rehabilitation efforts continue.
Civilians wearing face masks to shield themselves from dust particles and germs in and already polluted Kathmandu air, as rescue and rehabilitation efforts continue.

 

In one of the most remarkable and interesting part of her narrative, Tiwari photographed a wedding in Bhaktapur, amongst the Himalayan tragedy.

I befriended Praveen Adhikari while still in India via a mutual friend, to have some local contact once in Nepal. While conversing with him, I understood that his sister Manju was to be married the same week and they hadn’t been able to arrange for a photographer. It was a happy moment for the wedding photographer in me, and the least I could do for a dear friend. “

Manju Adhikari, 24, gets dressed for her wedding which was originally scheduled for the 30th of april but was rescheduled to the nest auspicious date, the 8th of may due to the massive earthquake which hit Nepal on the 25th of April.
Manju Adhikari, 24, gets dressed for her wedding which was originally scheduled for the 30th of april but was rescheduled to the next auspicious date, the 8th of may due to the massive earthquake which hit Nepal on the 25th of April.
The wedding ceremonies were conducted in Manju’s new, under construction home since her family’s original home was destroyed by the quake.
The wedding ceremonies were conducted in Manju’s new, under construction home since her family’s original home was destroyed by the quake.
Out of consideration for the general sense of loss in Nepal, the groom’s side held a silent “baaraat” with no music.
Out of consideration for the general sense of loss in Nepal, the groom’s side held a silent “baaraat” with no music.

 

Tiwari continues ” I stayed in Nepal from the 1st of May, to the 14th. Reconstruction work had been deferred till the end of the monsoon to avoid landslides. In Kathmandu, debris was cleared in almost all areas by the time I was leaving.  There was a lot of trauma which would take time to wane away, there was also an unspoken fear of more earthquakes, and the 7.4 magnitude on the 12th of May aggravated this quite a bit.”

Funeral service in progress at Pasupati Ghat.
Funeral service in progress at Pasupati Ghat.
Funeral service in progress at Pasupati Ghat.
Funeral service in progress at Pasupati Ghat.
A truck carrying sacks of rice to a village.
A truck carrying sacks of rice to a village.

 

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A Nepalese police officer at a relief operation site in New Bus Park, Kathmandu.
A Nepalese police officer at a relief operation site in New Bus Park, Kathmandu.
Nepalese Police officers on guard duty at KalMochan Mandir of Triporeshwar during restoration work.
Nepalese Police officers on guard duty at KalMochan Mandir of Triporeshwar during restoration work.
At Changu narayan Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site.
At Changu narayan Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Tiwari continues “I spent a few hours at a medical camp set up by Indian doctors in Lamosanghu. It had been over 10 days since the quake, and people were still arriving at the camp, the first time they’d received medical help since the quake.”

A woman comforts her child in a relief camp near Bir Hospital in Kathmandu
A woman comforts her child in a relief camp near Bir Hospital in Kathmandu

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In her visual narrative, it is evidently clear, that it is not just a typical story of despair and disbelief and being bogged down under the weight of a large scale calamity, but also a story of a country and its people coming out and fighting the situation that they are in.

In conclusion she says, ” In my final thoughts I carried the absolute majesty of Himalayan mornings, the strength of Nepal’s beautiful people, the friends I’d made, and, of course, for a long time, an inability to sleep peacefully at night.”

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Images and captions- Monica Tiwari.

The copyrights of the images rests with the photographer.

To see more or Monica’s work click here
To have your work featured on WTL write to – editor.wtl@gmail.com

 

 

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