So violently were the buildings shaking in Kathmandu when the earthquake hit just before noon on Saturday that Aunohita Mojumdar, editor of Himal Southasian, who was trying to run down from her first floor apartment, could not reach the stairs. Losing balance, she kept hitting the walls. The 50-metre high Dharahara Tower, a tourist attraction in central Kathmandu, was reduced to a heap of rubble. Two hundred visitors, mostly families, had bought tickets to go up that morning. Less than 10 per cent survived.
This natural calamity might cost as many lives as Nepal’s manmade disaster, the 10-year civil war. As it has overcome armed conflict through a still to be completed but remarkable peace process, so will it overcome this present adversity, Nepal’s friends hope.
Besides the devastating loss of lives, the earthquake has destroyed much of the cultural heritage of Nepal, bringing down important religious and historic monuments in old Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The heritage of Nepal is indestructible, however, because its culture is a living one. The confluence of two linguistic streams, the Indo-European and the Tibeto-Burman, as well as of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, has inspired folklore, myth and legend, ritual and belief, myriad forms of music and dance. These live on.