When I walked home that night, after a street movie in Maru, with a friend. When it was dark and we had the long road from Indra Chowk to Ason and then from Ason to Jyatha, all over to ourselves. When it was silent. When it was far away from the usual hurdle of a market place. I felt belonged. Listening to his story, I felt home. Because each house we passed had a soul. There were noises coming from the rooms inside the chowks with dark galli. The noise of TV running, children crying, mothers shouting, fathers laughing.
The big square in the middle of Ason was empty. But you could hear the breathing of people who had gone home after a long day of business. The shops with wooden doors were closed. But you could smell the masalas, the dried fishes and the rice grains they stored inside. Although the houses with intricate windows and detailed walls were standing still, you could feel life in them.
Today, as I stood over a slightly more crowded Ason, a chill ran through my soul. Few of the shops were closed. And unlike that night, the houses weren’t beaming under the moonlight. It was still bright day when I decided to go to Ason to check out the shops. The houses, now felt empty, stripped off their soul. The windows were opened and you could see a dark room inside. The shops were shut down but this time, you couldn’t smell anything but terror. The chowks are now silent. The TV has been unplugged. The family has moved somewhere else, most probably, the big community of tent in Tundikhel. The houses are standing still, but their walls have cracked and wooden beams have broken down.
While during other times, I would get scared to barge into an unknown chowk in fear of invading privacy, I was scared today to do the same in fear of the building collapsing.
The earthquake took many things from us. Family and friends. Homes. Heritage sites. And our favorite gallies and chowks and houses that reminded why Kathmandu was still beautiful, despite the chaos in the first place.