First, may the brother in the photograph, and all other brothers and sisters, especially the little ones, rest in peace.
Here’s the dream I have: that we raise a hundred grand to be distributed on the spot in cash to earthquake victims in Nepal. And that we raise it today. We can do it. We’re a lot closer than you might think.
In yesterday’s post/rant, I mentioned how I considered Kathmandu my hometown. Apart from my love for the country and the Nepali people, there is another personal aspect to this that I can’t help but relate to this, which is that I know exactly what it feels like to be crushed in Nepal - I mean physically crushed, under hard, heavy things, like stone, bricks, timbers; in my case it was a jeep and boulders. Same thing. The medical system was a lot worse 30 years ago when that happened to me than it is now, but the overburdened hospitals and rescue crews mean that now there is no medical system at all for the vast majority of people who have been crushed.
This is a nightmare of Dark Age proportions. We can not begin to imagine it. And Kathmandu is teeming with little children. A huge proportion of little kids is a feature of Nepali society. I have never met anyone who has visited Nepal who doesn’t comment on how beautiful and happy - and numerous - the children are. In Nepali society, all the kids are all always running around. Thousands of them were hit by the quake. No one knows how many are still under the rubble. The ones who are with their family are terrorized, hungry, drenched in rain and mud. People are using makeshift bandages from old clothes.
I spoke with my friend - we are more like brothers - Paki. His house is damaged, but not badly. There is a brick wall that surrounds it, it has collapsed, and the water system is toast. But no one is in his family was hurt.
When the quake hit, he was in his bookshop across town in the tourist neighborhood. All the books, his entire investment, carefully tended to, instantly flew off the shelves and began to form in moving heaps. The only thing you could over the roar was some shouting and screaming, though it had to be close to make it through. A big quake sounds like you’re in the middle of a big thunderstorm. The shaking instantly grew to a ferocious strength. Everyone up and down the crowded street was rushing for their doors. Out on Tridevi Marg, a huge split appeared right down the center of the street where people were crouching, hoping that buildings wouldn’t tumble over onto them. Just there, they didn’t. All over the rest of town people weren’t so lucky.
When the main quake stopped, Paki pulled the old Yamaha motorbike he uses to commute in the gnarled Kathmandu traffic to try to get home. He is a masterful rider. Yo should see him weave in and out of bullock wagons, the constantly beeping little Toyota taxis, the old buses - left-overs from other countries - rickshaws piled ten feet high with bales of straw or burlap sacks, bicyclists, chickens, schoolchildren in uniforms - only this time, everywhere he looked were the injured or the dead or came the screams from inside buildings. You’ve seen films of buildings imploding, the dust they throw up. This whole old city had imploded. A thick brown cloud established itself right away. The constant aftershocks have just made it thicker.
Paki made it home. His wife was okay. Paki, who started off selling books on a street corner, a strip of black velvet with half a dozen books on it his only shop 30 years ago and parlayed it into Kathmandu’s best bookstore by working every single day, managed to send his son to university in America. Everyone was okay. His son, Pankaj, had just returned from the United States two weeks ago to telecommute to his American job. He was, like all Nepalis who leave, homesick.
Their house might be all right. Sheer luck. The destruction is everywhere. Everyone is shaken to the core. The way they sounded on the phone reminded me of the way some little kids looked after a shelling in Burma, when they were taken out of a little teak bunker, their eyes and ears bleeding from the concussions of the 120 millimeter shells, the dazed looks on their faces common to a certain degree of overwhelming trauma.
Of course, like almost all inhabitants of Kathmandu tonight, and for many nights to come, the family has to sleep outside. Continuous aftershocks are shaking all the houses towards unknown tipping points. It’s too dangerous to be inside. It could all come down at any instant. Just like it did on Saturday.
In no society on Earth does everyone have a tent or a tarp to make emergency shelter with. Do you? I don’t.
Tens of thousands of grieving, wounded people, surrounded by rubble and blood, many wondering whether their family members and friends are dead or hurt, are outside. That’s Kathmandu and much of the rest of Nepal now.
And to top it off, the monsoon season has begun. There are people who travel to Nepal simply to experience the legendary thunderstorms there. The noise of them! You hear peels and cracks and reflects and prolonged bass thrums that last a minute and a half. And the sky opens. Every day until the middle of next week is predicted to bring rain. Some days, lots of it.
Back to the hundred grand we’re going to raise. You and I.
A hundred grand would mean Paki and Pankaj and my other friends who are uninjured - thank the Gods who watch over that beautiful valley - being able to hand a grand at a time to people who need whatever it is they need. Baby formula, tarps, tents, rice, vegetables, flour, bandages, milk, transport - whatever. Not for us to say. The needs can only be met on the spot, and with some money in their pockets or saris, a tiny bit of the pressure can be relieved. The best thing people could have right now is money. And no, a hundred grand won’t help that many people in that sea of suffering, but it will help 50 or100 or 200.
A hundred grand - for tonight. We’ll keep cranking for the next hundred grand after that. But let’s start with the first hundred grand.
Not a hundred thousand dollars. That would be difficult. A hundred thousand rupees. That’s about 1000 dollars. We’re almost there. Considering GoFundMe fees and commissions, and then a wire transfer fee, we need about $1150. That would deposit 100,000 rupees in the bank.
In Nepal - and India - 100,000 is called a lakh. A good, round figure.
So, the plan is, as soon as the account hits $1150, off it goes. Whoosh - a hundred grand will hit the streets in Kathmandu as soon as possible. With the unknown level of destruction to the banking and electronic systems, might be a few days, but at least it’ll be there as soon as possible. And then we'll keep trying for the next hundred grand.
And thank you to all the angels who have been contributing.