It was the summer of 2015,I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of my daughter in law and my two grandchildren, a boy of 3.5 years and his baby sister of 1.3 years. They were to come to Mumbai from Bangalore to spend their holidays with us. But fate decreed otherwise as they went to Nepal for a few days at the invitation of my daughter in law’s friend.
Be that as it may, on the last two days of their trip, calamity struck! They were roaming around the temples of Bhaktapur, half an hour away from Kathmandu, when they felt the tremors of a massive earthquake. It was devastating, confusion prevailed with people running helter-skelter to safer places. They also ran and fortunately for them, by God’s grace, they had been in an open area so they survived.
The temple they had just visited was in ruins and they heard the screams and cries of people who were trapped under the rubble. Many died and so many were injured. My daughter in law was numb with shock and terror and stood in despair clutching the children tightly to her. She prayed to God for help and had to spend hours without food or water. You can imagine the plight of the children.
Then the army came to their rescue, and since the earth was still shaking, advised her to carry the children. So she carried the baby while her son was taken care of by good Samaritans, but all strangers to him, which made him very insecure. She was in a dilemma, whether to try and go back to her friend’s house in Kathmandu, or would the roads be blocked, what to do? Finally with her heart in her mouth and a lot of prayers she reached her friends to find that their own house had to be vacated due to the continuing tremors. They all moved to the grounds of a five star hotel but the place didn’t have any electricity, so phones couldn’t be charged, and to make matters worse sleeping on the ground was terrible because of the tremors.
We in Mumbai were panic- stricken and tried everything to get them back immediately, but it was very difficult as Kathmandu airport was chaotic. After a harrowing time a military plane brought them back. It was an uncomfortable and traumatic flight because the plane had no seats and they had to sit on the floor and hold on to ropes. Here again her little son was held by a stranger, which was very stressful for him.
At last we received them at the airport in Mumbai. She was in a wheelchair, the children clinging to her desperately , refusing to leave her. My grandson who would have normally rushed to me didn’t want to leave his mother at all. After a lot of cajoling and bribes he came to me so his mother could have some respite and sleep after two nightmarish days. They were safe, thank God.
One always feels this sort of catastrophe can never happen to us, but destiny has her own way of teaching us! It taught us never to take life and health for granted, to be courageous and compassionate and to make the most of everyday. It is a gift from God!
* Harsha Mehta
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