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.
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.”
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. “
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. “
Tiwari continues ” I stayed in Nepal from the 1st of May, to the 14th. Reconstruction
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.”
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.”
Images and captions- Monica Tiwari.