Helped by her four children since dawn, Sanju clears away stones from the area that used to be her home, before the earthquake in Nepal transformed her village of Chaughada into a pile of dust and rubble. She sits on a mound of stones that is indistinguishable from the road or from her neighbour’s house. Her mother, busy on the other side of the house, joins us wearing a belt to support lower back and a bandaged foot.
Saturday, April 25, when the earthquake in Nepal struck, Sanju was behind her house. She was knocked to the ground by the force of the earth moving all around her. Her mother did not have time to leave the house. She was buried in the rubble of their home but managed to escape with only a few injuries; unlike the 7,500 people who died in this tragedy. With the sound of hammers in the background, the inhabitants of Chaughada clean, clear debris and put aside whatever they can salvage from the disaster.
A rural village in Nuwakot district, northwest of Kathmandu, Chaughada was completely destroyed by the quake. So much so that one cannot tell where one house ends and the next house begins. The majority of the inhabitants of Chaughada are farmers which means they may not be able to afford to re-build their destroyed homes. Rebuilding will take time: at least 3 to 4 months depending on the size of each house.
Sanju watches her son struggle with his shovel under the hot sun. Schools, closed since the earthquake, will re-open soon and he will not be able to help during the day. The entire community is struggling to restore a semblance of normality to their village. In the main street, the women collect the branches of the great tree that lies on the ground, cut into pieces with an ax. A man sitting on the bent front of his house tries shake down a wall, one of the few still standing.
The rainy season will start soon, further exacerbating the situation and making life extremely difficult in tents. The small road that connects the village to Bidur, the capital of Nuwakot district, could become impassable due to landslides caused by the rains.