“Sir, Sir, give me money to buy cookies” she cried,
As we ambled by in the chill – approaching twilight;
I couldn’t comprehend what it was she had in mind —
Her Nepali tweaked English was distinct from mine:
Construing the puzzlement in my eyes she blurted –
“Give me biscuits ma’am, I’m hungry since last night.”
The teenaged girls had come from asbestos shelters
Or blue tents by Bhaktapur Durbar Square, I realised.
I shoved all the Nepali currency I had into their hands
As humbled I was – after shopping Rs.100 is all I had:
Discerning what could it do to alleviate their raw plight –
An LPG cylinder at Rs. 8000–10000 was bizarre a price!
Yet in the late December chill the girls’ smiles did light
With their sincere gratitude – as if a brazier in my mind:
That for twelve hours a day Kathmandu has no power —
In asbestos cubicles it freezes without blankets all night.
We walked by, miles and miles on the way to our hotel
As taxis were scarce, fuel rarer – costs an all-time high:
Only cabs got 5 litres fuel queuing daylong twice a week —
The economic blockade with India is four months now.
Basic medicines are scarce, major surgeries are on hold,
As houseful hospitals cook meagre meals on firewood.
While children, take 3 biscuits – one per meal to school –
Homes have no electricity, gas, even if groceries to cook.
Is it not just few months since the city is raising its head –
After destruction of homes, property, mass loss of lives!
Barely was civilization billeted in tent-camps, tin-shelters:
Tested anew with hunger, cold, manmade strife is unfair.
It was an ordinary day, on the date of Christmas, last April —
When nearing noon, flocks of a variety of birds screeched;
The dogs – both strays and pets began to howl incessantly
As tremors of an earthquake Kathmandu felt below its feet.
Before humanity yet realised what creatures fussed about –
Snakes slithered out of their hovels, ran amok into homes.
Young people, at best screamed, slipped on shaky floors —
As buildings, homes, lives crashed to the precarious ground.
In few hours, a day, old heritage sites were a cluster of rubble –
Remnants of Bhaktapur, Patan, Kathmandu Durbar Squares’
Shortly bolstered by wooden planks, still display natures’ fury:
On a frame of stoic resilience stands poised vestiges of humanity!