A cold, dreary night out in the open in Kathmandu

By Gaurav Sharma,

Kathmandu : Kathmandu’s quake survivors are spending miserable nights under leaking plastic sheets and small tents in the open, fearful of aftershocks and anguished by skyrocketing prices of essential commodities.

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This IANS correspondent went to Tundi Khel, a sprawling ground that has turned into a sea of bright, vivid coloured tents, and spent Tuesday night with those who survived by the skin of their teeth.

The rain has turned the ground to slush and the inclement weather has added to the survivors’ plight.

“There are cracks at our rented accommodation. We are afraid to go back,” Meera Tamang, 50, told IANS.

Tamang, a labourer, is staying in a small tent, with seven other family members. The youngest is a one-and-half years old girl.

By 11 p.m., the mercury dipped significantly.

The Tamang family put bricks on the ground and placed gunny sacks over the make-shift flooring to keep the chill from rising.

Her daughter-in-law went out to get half kg of ‘masoor dal’ and ended up paying Rs.100 for it. “It was exorbitant,” she lamented.

A little past midnight, Saru, 45, and her two daughters are preparing to go to sleep.

Saru works as a volunteer at an orphanage and her youngest daughter is a Class 12 student.

“Yesterday we ate raw chow-chow. We also ate some biscuits,” she told IANS through chattering teeth.

“We have food at our home, but it is on the third floor and the staircase has crashed. We can’t reach our home,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Saru said the government help was not forthcoming. “But the Marwari samaj (community) has helped us.”

It is now close to 2 a.m. and Mithilesh Sharma, a 22-year-old engineering student is wide awake due to the bone-chilling cold.

He said the people have got aid from “Japan, Germany and India” and hoped that things get back to normal soon.

As most of the tent-dwellers sink into an uneasy sleep, an eerie calm begins to descend. One can hear someone chatting a short distance away and a little further among the tents, a group of youngsters is singing to keep up their spirits.

A man gets off from the driver’s seat of an Omnivan and wakes up someone at the back, so that they can change seats — the driver promptly dozes off in the back while the sleeping passenger is now awake sitting in the driver’s seat.

The fourth night out in the open for those who survived the massive temblor on Saturday is drawing to a close.