It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve tried in this life, whatever you thought you deserved because of hard work was never really meant to be yours because “yours” doesn’t exist.

This is the biggest lesson to learn for each single human.

I was in Nepal before, during and after the two major earthquakes which hit the country last year. I had been in Nepal years earlier and I immediately saw how quickly things had changed there.

The first time I visited Kathmandu, I remember street children dressed in rags chasing rats to have something to eat. There were not so many cars and the relatively small city was interestingly a mix of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhism culture. You could smell the perfume of incense since the early morning mixed with other fragrances coming from the small houses where the women were preparing dalbat – a traditional dish – for their families. Despite poverty, everybody was always smiling, their teeth  white and shining, truly perfect.

My memories of Nepal were all positive: good people, good food and excellent environment. I flew to Kathmandu from Thailand – another country I love from the deep of my heart -. Despite the relatively geographical vicinity between the two countries, the cultural shock was almost inevitable. Kathmandu had turned into a very big city, most of the trees were gone, there was no distance between a building and another and the traffic had become even more chaotic than ever. The noise pollution was simply unbearable, just like in India and Myanmar, even the smallest vehicle had to blow its horn. Despite being  at the feet of the Himalayan chain, the air was thick and polluted.

I only spent a night in Kathmandu and then next morning, I took the first bus to Pokhara because I remembered some beautiful and quiet places around the lake. To my surprise, even Pokhara had been transformed into a cemented galore. Most of the green areas and trees were gone, replaced by fancy hotels and guest houses. Luckily I found a nice and cheap guest house in an area where they still had no asphalt on the road so it was relatively quiet though the concept of hygiene in Nepal seemed to have stayed the same.

There are a lot of species in Nepal that are disappearing from the planet because of the inconsiderate cementification  and deforestation of the entire country. Even places that could previously be reached only on foot because located on the famous trekking trails (Annapurna and Everest base camp), were now connected by buses and planes. The building of roads and airports to fulfill the dream of  tourists have caused unprecedented devastation to the Nepali territory. Of course, at the same time, the local people got some benefits; more money was coming in, children appeared to be all well fed and dressed. The empowerment of women was evident everywhere compared to the past. I saw men happily cooking and serving their women and children; something which was absolutely unthinkable of decades earlier. Women and cows used to be, and still are in some places, believed to be property of men; their father first and husband later. Hindu women were traditionally not allowed to work and had no rights to inherit or possess properties so if their husband died, they were in deep trouble. Thank God that has changed!

I am not an engineer nor an environment expert, but I do know that if you cut down all the trees in mountain areas which are subjected to heavy rainfalls, snow melting and tectonic movement, you are asking for troubles.

The first earthquake caused a lot of damage in Kathmandu and there were no open areas for the people to escape the collapse of the buildings. Lots of tourists left Nepal terrified because the land kept shaking and the numerous landslides wiped out several small villages together with the villagers and all their possessions which included buffaloes and cows. There were no trees to stop the mud from falling down the mountains.

I decided to stay in Nepal because most tourists left and the locals were starting to panic. The second earthquake seemed much stronger  and convinced some of the tourists left that it was time to go. But I stayed longer with other die hard foreigners. Suddenly the entire country became very quiet. Now and then you could see trucks loaded with furniture of people who had had their house destroyed and were moving to other, safer areas.

As humans we seem to forget the fragility of life, we think of ourselves as immortals, but we are not.

Life can terminate at any moment without any prior warning.

This is the reason why we need to be kind and compassionate to all every single step of the way. There was a shop in Pokhara whose long name reminded me of the impermanence of this existence:

This too shall pass


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