A roof over their heads

Devaki Timilsina, tells me to be careful as I turn the corner to come towards her. She stands on what use to be her garden next to a pile of rubble that was once her home. Her daughter in law crouches on the patio, the only standing structure of the otherwise destroyed house, combing her hair with a red plastic comb. She holds a straight face as she combs parts of her short, jet-black her. It almost seems like she doesn’t want me there. I take a step back in trying to give her the space she holds. I look around and found myself looking into a shelter made out of GSI sheets. Devaki catches my eyes.

Devaki Timilsina's house from the inside.
Devaki Timilsina’s house from the inside.

“Does it get really hot in here?” I question.

“Yes, but its ok we at least have this and are able to have a good night’s rest without any fear,” she responds. Devaki’s house was destroyed by the April 25th earthquake, which also killed some of her livestock. The shelter is empty other than two beds with clean beddings. I notice that there is a large gap between the roof and the walls for ventilation.

Taking her response as a sign to communicate,
I ask her what she was doing for when the big one struck. “I had just had lunch and when the earth shook, I rushed out and screamed for her,” she says pointing towards her daughter-in-law who is still combing her hair.

The only remaining structure of Devaki Timilsina’s home.

“Who all were home that day?”

“My husband, her and myself.”

“Where is your son?”

“He works in Kathmandu at a hardware store.”

Bhakta Kumari Bajgain lives next to a water line that hisses like a snake. She has a dog as a pet and goats and buffalos as livestock. Her shelter looks larger than the others I have seen so far and as though she could read my thoughts says, “I live with my sons. I use to live by myself before in a house behind this but it was destroyed in the quake. Two of my sons live near by but after the quake they said we should all live together and I agreed.”

Bhakta Kumari Bajgain sits in front of her the shelter that she shares with her two sons.
Bhakta Kumari Bajgain sits in front of her the shelter that she shares with her two sons.

“Can I take a photograph of your house,” I ask her.

“Yes sure,” she says and even opens the door for me to look inside. I instantly notice that the rectangular shaped shelter has a GSI sheet as a partition wall. I keep quiet.

Bajgain is a widow and has four sons, two of who live in Kathmandu. After the earthquake their family came together to share what little they could salvage from the rubble and worked on building a shed for their livestock.

Bhakta Kumari Bajgain shows the remains of the house she use to live in. Due to massively cracked walls, it now unlivable.

She is eager to show me the damage and gestures to follow her. The house she was living in before 25th April has white walls. The threshold is painted blue to match the blue GSI sheets and wooden pillars. A tiny outdoor kitchen separates the old house from the galvanized shelter. Directly opposite to the kitchen is the door to the section allotted to her youngest son and his wife, from which a white cat stares back at me.


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