Kathmandu: He nearly breaks down when he shares his past predicaments.
“I was taking rest in my apartment when the first earthquake struck. That is all in the blink of an eye,” recounts Yagya Prasad Adhikari at a tea shop in Kirtipur recently.
He has lost everything he had – two precious family members – wife and a five-year-old son – and his job to the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that rattled the country on April 25, 2015, killing nearly 9,000 people, injuring around 22,000 and damaging hundreds of houses.
The day of April 25 had come as a nightmare for Adhikari when the mega quake struck at around 12 pm. The day was Saturday, a holiday for then the secondary school teacher. He was taking a rest in his rented apartment in the third floor of the five-storey concrete building after just finishing his last meal with his family when the quake occurred.
“We all screamed when the first temblor shook our building. It all happened within a second and that was the last time when I saw my family members.”
He was rescued severely injured and in semi-conscious condition by security forces four hours later. He cannot recount how long he was buried under the rubble before his rescue. Neither can he recollect the incident in which he phoned one of his friends in Kathmandu by mobile phone of one of the rescuers following his rescue. Among other tenants perished in the disaster, he was told that he was the lone survivor.
He was given first-aid in the incident site and slowly started regaining consciousness. It was only when he was admitted to Civil Hospital in Kathmandu two days later that he got back his full conscious. “I in the first place did not receive phone calls from my relatives during my recovery process. It means I did not want to remember the darkest incident,” says Adhikari, 33, permanently from Ilam (Ekatapa VDC-5). “Neither do I entertain phone calls nowadays.”
Adhikari was just 25 when he completed the Master’s degree with 69 percent marks. After completing and before the Master’s oral examination, he was offered a job in Sindhupalchok, which he happily accepted. Despite his friends’ suggestions to teach at Tribhuvan University, he headed to Sindhupalchok along with his wife.
“It was my fate that drove me towards Sindhupalchok,” he says. “Now I wished that I had not gone there.”
Adhikari’s road to recovery
His recovery journey was much difficult. After preliminary treatment at Civil Hospital, he was referred to Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre at Sanga in Bhaktapur where he spent around eight months bed-ridden. He underwent a spinal surgery. He had also suffered from depression.
“In the beginning during my recovery, I, confronted with a stream of negative thoughts, wished that I had been dead in the disaster. Doctors, my relatives and friends visited me and started counseling me which I found useless,” he says. He has a steel rod fitted on his back.
He was also given psychotherapy and countless medicines prescribed to treat his mental illness. “I did not take much medicine. It was only when a foreign psychiatric counseled me about my mental problem, then I started seeing hope.”
Adhikari further says: “I thought that it was me and my willpower which can overcome depression that consumed me internally. Still I sometimes feel sad when I think about my past. And I possibly avoid any phone call that reminds me of my past.”
He cannot walk long distances as his back aches. It becomes severe especially during winter and when the body jerks.
Light at the end of the tunnel
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Although Adhikari was weak mentally and physically, he never gave up. He thought that it was himself who could get over what he was going through and rise beyond the darkest life.
Having lost his job as a temporary government school teacher following his incident, he in the first place could not even think of how to move on in life — thinking his worst health condition was a big barrier. At times he had rested his hope for a normal life ahead on the government and others only to be thrown further into despair without any help – financial or any other.
Life will never be the same. Upon hearing that the Teachers Service Commission had announced vacancies for positions of government secondary school teachers under the ‘open category’, he reluctantly thought of giving a try. It was six months ago when he was still suffering from mental problems and was on the recovery process.
Luckily, he passed the exam. “It was a tough competition. Only 14 positions of secondary teachers were wanted from eastern districts (16 districts), less than 1 teacher: one district. I sat the examination based on my past teaching experiences,” says Adhikari.
Now his posting is located in Jhapa and is planning to go there. He is currently living in Kirtipur.
Adhikari yet to get quake victim card
One thing he is always sorry for is he is yet to get quake victim card. It is not that he did not make efforts to get himself registered as earthquake victim, but the government is reluctant to recognise him as quake victim. This way, he is denied the quake victim card and thus deprived of any compensation and state facilities from the government or any other quarter.
“I approached former Speaker Subash Nembang and other leaders of political parties for the quake victim card. All I got was only assurances,” he says. He also reached Ilam District Administration Office where his wife and son were recorded dead due to the quake, but to no avail.
“The DAO, Sindhupalchok told me that there is no provision for temporary residents affected by the quake to be granted a quake victim card. I have lost everything to the quake. But I am still yet to be recognized as quake victim officially. I feel sad,” he regrets.
However, life goes on for Adhikari. About his future plan or remarriage, he says he has no such plan so far. “I am just recovering and moving on, and I do not have such plans at least at this point of time.” RSS