A Chance to Say Thank You
Nepal Earthquake 2
BHAKTAPUR, Nepal- It was April 29th in the ancient city of Bhaktapur in central Nepal. Four days had already passed since the country was hit by a devastating M7.8 earthquake. The search dog from a Japanese rescue team I was following started barking at the destroyed home of Sanesh Dhoju, 26. Twenty or so Nepali soldiers started digging the area where the kitchen used to be. Two hours passed. It was getting dark and an air of resignation had started to set in when a soldier finally cried out, "Here!". His finger pointed at what looked like the back of a person. The body had been completely buried in debris and showed no signs of life, but Sanesh could tell that it was his mother, Santamaya by the tattered clothes she was wearing. "Yes, that's her", he confirmed to one of the soldiers.
After the soldiers managed to retrieve the body and carried it to the side of the road, Sanesh and the other relatives immediately took over and carried her to the crematorium several hundred meters away. They were following the Hindu tradition to cremate the deceased as soon as possible. On their way through the fading light, cries of despair could be heard rising from around the city.
The stage normally used at the crematorium was already full, so Sanesh, who held the role of leading the service, performed it in an adjacent lot with the help of a flashlight. At the end of the ceremony, the mother's body was set alight, and Sanesh and his relatives silently watched the red flames rise in the darkness. "I didn't even have a chance to thank her. She was such a kind mother to me", he said.
A few days later, I met Sanesh again. He recalled how his mother managed the farm while looking after the five children, trudging on every day without the least bit of complaining. But at the evacuee camp where he lives with his family, there are no keepsakes to remind him of her other than those memories. "Everything happened so suddenly. I didn't know what was going on" he says of the funeral.
Sanesh has been visiting a temple twice daily to pray. Following traditional customs for those in mourning, his head is shaved and he wears white. And as if inheriting his mother's hardiness, he has already returned to work at the farm in the suburbs to feed his family.
Photo & Text By Yuki Iwanami
Translation by Taro Konishi