NEPAL QUAKE: Down Memory Lane


Shweta Sharma meets Ramesh Nath Pandey, a survivor of the 1934 Nepal quakewhich killed over 10,000 people..

Nepalese  participate in a candlelight vigil for victims in earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal
Nepalese participate in a candlelight vigil for victims in earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal

Sitting inside a tent set up on the porch outside his now unlivable house that was made 73 years ago, Ramesh Nath Pandey still vividly remembers the earthquake that struck the Himalayan nation in 1934 – when he was just eight.
“Though it was bigger than this one, the time span was much less,” said 89-year-old Pandey, scratching the bruise he received on his temple while trying to stabilize himself during the current quake.

“I hit the wall,” he said smiling mildly on being asked how he got hurt. He then took a pause before coming up with a story of a forecaster who killed himself before the 1934 earthquake.

“I was just eight years old then. We were a joint family of more than 30 people, and our newly built house was right at the spot you are standing.” Pandey, munching on his paan (betel leaf), told this visiting IANS correspondent.

According to Pandey, a week before this massive quake in 1934, a dejected looking astrologer, Kalu, came to meet his father.

“He looked very sad, as he was chided by King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah’s guru for predicting a massive earthquake in a week’s time at 2.10 p.m.. The guru shouted at the astrologer and called him a fake person and threatened to banish him from Kathmandu. This incident affected Kalu a lot and after a day or two he committed suicide by hanging himself,” Pandey narrated while the family’s dog, Buddy, moved around.

“Believe it or not”, he said, “the quake came on the same day and at the same time as predicted by Kalu.” “It was of 8.4 Richter scale, I think.”

The octogenarian, who was wearing a kurta pyjama and sporting a Nepali topi (cap), continued: “And with the death of Kalu, the art of predicting an earthquake also was lost.” He smiled sarcastically, probably at the scientists today who have not been able to do so.

The earthquake that hit the country on January 15, 1934, killed over 10,000 people.

The Pandeys were lucky to escape the quake then, but this time their house in the Gyaneshwor area, considered to be one of the posh localities, suffered major cracks with a group of architects tagging it “red” – deemed unfit to live in.

Pandey lives with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

One of the monuments damaged in the 1934 earthquake was the Dharahara tower, a nine-storey 19th century structure that came crumbling down this time as well.

According to the Nepal Red Cross Society, the death toll from the devastating earthquake in Nepal has risen to 8,413 as on Thursday.

A Red Cross report put the number of injured at 17,576, adding 260 people were still missing following the quake.