by Deepak Shimkhada

 Devastation of a nation—whether Nepal or Haiti—is tragic.  There is no compensation for the loss of life, whereas there is for the loss of property.  Things destroyed by earthquake can be replaced or rebuilt.  But history—once destroyed—is gone forever.

Although we can duplicate a building or a temple, it will not be the same for two reasons.  First, it will have no history.  Second, veneration of objects can’t be bought or commanded.  It’s instilled in the minds of the followers over a long period of time.  So even if we are able to recreate the same old design and atmosphere in the Kathmandu Valley, the main ingredient that is missing is history.  We lost that when the buildings collapsed.

One person’s loss is another person’s gain.  This is what happened in Nepal.  While thousands of people died, thousands became homeless and thousands were wounded, thousands more will benefit from this tragedy.  There are reports that the merchants have raised the prices of their goods of daily consumption by 200%.  It is as though some folks—merchants, politicians and unscrupulous people—were waiting for the earthquake to happen.

As of today, over 200 million dollars have been poured into Nepal by many nations in the form of humanitarian aid.  More money is being raised, and they will travel the Himalayan trail. But where all that money goes no one has any clue.  There are reports that no citizen has received any money or goods from the present Nepali government.  Charity organizations and private individuals within and outside Nepal along with local police are the only people that are working on the affected areas with their own resources.

While the government sits idle, groups of individuals and NGOs work on the frontlines.  Who’s protecting Nepal’s heritage—historical records, artifacts and fragments of buildings?  All three cities of the Kathmandu Valley—Basantpur, Patan and Bhaktapur—were living museums.  Even an old brick is full of history; it is priceless.  After the quake, fragments of broken statues and architectural parts are strewn all over the Valley.  It’s a field day for the thieves, robbers, poachers and smugglers of Nepal’s ancient art.  Their agents had been mercilessly hacking, stealing and smuggling Nepal’s ancient heritage by bribing authorities for years. Now that the citizens are worried about their own lives and properties, the thieves, robbers, poachers and smugglers are busy roaming the fallen cities with shovels and hacksaws.  The once vibrant cities of Kathmandu have today become the graveyards of artifacts.  What a sad day for Nepal!

Citizens of Kathmandu please be aware of the thieves.  Protect not only your lives and property, but also your history.  The thieves will steal any remnants of your history and will sell them on the open market.  Any items you can salvage for the future please do so now before it’s too late.  Most of all, education about preserving and restoring one’s heritage is important for the grandchildren of our grandchildren.  A fistful of dollars you earn today by selling your history will be spent in a few days, but the history will last for thousands of years.