(photo from the internet – theguardian.com)
The powerful message is when MOTHER NATURE lets out her fury, nothing can remain the same. The Nepal earthquake of 7.9 magnitude is truly devastating. The more you ‘see it’ on the 24×7 TV channels [I prefer ‘TimesNow’] your heart is filled with sadness. I feel much more ’cause I have traveled to Nepal three times and have very good friends there.
We had three Nepali students who had come to study in GCT, Coimbatore under the COLOMBO plan as the student exchange was known then. I was very friendly with all of them -Upendra Prasad Dhital, my course mate who went on to head the Nepal Airport Authority, Gautam Bahadur Amatya, who rose to head the Kathmandu water board as Chief Engineer and Girija Prasad Ghimire, who became a minister as he was a Nepali Congress leader.
The first time I went to Kathmandu was in 1970 after completing my engineering course from GCT along with Upendra. I remember the long train journey from Coimbatore, the couple of days halt at Calcutta [we stayed at RG Kar Medical College hostel where Upendra’s cousins were studying, at the height of Naxal Problem in West Bengal], reaching Raxaul, Bihar by train and crossing over to Birganj a Nepal border town. Due to bad weather, our flight was cancelled and we had to take a bus that reached Kathmandu in the night. When we reached UP’s house in Paknajole, Naya Bazaar the children in the house were very curious to see his South Indian friend. After a couple of days, when I became familiar with the family, I asked his elder brother- Dhaju in Nepali, why was the rather strange and curious reception by the childern, he laughed and said,’since they were told that a South Indian friend was coming, they expected to see a very dark skinned person and not a fair skinned one’. I was treated as part of the family and I still carry very pleasant memories of my First Trip.
The second time was in 1980. I did my Basic Mountaineering Course at HMI,Darjeeling as an Indian Air Force Officer. After completion of the course, I had called my wife to join me at the beautiful Darjeeling and along with my son who was about three, flew to Kathmandu. Upendra was away but Gautam and Ghimire looked after us well for the couple of days we spent in Kath.
The third time was in 2000. By then, I had taken voluntary retirement from IAF and living in New Delhi. We were invited by Gautam to stay with him at his house in Kopundole, Lalitpur, Kathmandu. Along with his charming wife Kenny and children Sarina and Karina, he treated us in royal style. Along with his family, Upendras and other friends, we had a wonderful 2000 New Year bash. Sadly, my great friend Gautam passed away a few years back.
When I heard the news about the latest earth quake on 25th April, our first instinct was to find out about Kenny and the girls. After what appeared to be a long wait, atlast, Kenny answered the mobile call towards the afternoon and confirmed that she and her daughter were safe. Along with the neighbours, they have moved to a open ground as a precaution. We were greatly relieved to know that they were safe.
And, Kenny Gautam Bahadur Amatya was very grateful and felt happy that her family friends living so far away in South India remembered and had a word of comfort for them. We, as Indians, never forget our friends where ever they are in this world and remember the adage ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’.
We are also happy and proud that Prime Minister Modi has galvanized the entire government machinery to render all possible help to Nepal at this hour of need. Nepal, we are with you to share your sorrow and sufferings!