I Was There: Nepal’s Razed Monuments Will Endure
Aakash Joshi: I was a tourist in Kathmandu a few months ago and saw the joy the monuments there brought.
I landed in Nepal on September 6, 2014. The first thing that struck me about Kathmandu was how foreign it seemed. It was a bit like a larger version of a north Indian hill station, but somehow different. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
And then my uncle told me why. “Nepal has never been colonised. Every building – from the Palace, to the Durbar square and from Boudh to Pashupatinath – is our own.”
The pride in his voice was unmistakable.
There are three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley. The first one I visited was in Patan. By the time I got there in the evening the temple complex was closed. It was also raining. But the entire place was buzzing in a way that is rare in India after dark. There were tourists of course, bargaining for ‘ethnic’ trinkets. The majority though were just locals. They were shopping for groceries, getting a snack, buying pirated DVDs.
The other two Durbars in Kathmandu and Bhaktpur are much the same.
These ‘monuments’, UNESCO world heritage sites, had no guards or check posts. You didn’t need a ticket to get in. It was not something set apart from people’s lives, it was a part of it.
The Boudhanath Stupa, or just Boudh is on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The stupa itself is ancient. Pigeons seem to find as much peace there as people. There are often some resting on the dome.
Around the main stupa though, there are a network of shops and restaurants. The area is largely Tibetan, a lot like Chhang town in North Delhi. Most people were either shopping or eating good inexpensive food.
There are lot of local kids around, many of them with coloured hair, in the latest Korean fashion.
Boudh is almost a cliche of the present and past co-existing in harmony.
For some time to come, Nepal will be dealing with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. Thousands dead, homes and businesses destroyed – the recovery will take a long time.
But these monuments, architectural marvels each of them, either destroyed or damaged were an unbroken link to their past and a daily part of their lives.
After the rubble is cleared, rebuilding that connection may be the hardest task of all.
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