‘Waiting For That Cut’

Dhanbahadur Shresta is a country doctor in the village of Sipa Ghat in Nepal. He had just pulled someone’s tooth, and was reassuring his patient that the pain wouldn’t last too long, when the earthquake came.

Dhanbahadur Shresta points to the place where he was buried.

His small stone building collapsed, burying patient and doctor alive. Lying under the rubble, Mr. Shresta said, he decided: “Death was certain.” 

The two remained trapped for an hour, he told me, before he finally caught the attention of rescuers by whistling loudly to indicate he was there beneath the stones and timber. I spoke with him two days after the quake.

Sipa Ghat is quite literally at the end of the road. It’s a tiny market town, surrounded by paddy, on the banks of the Irawaddy River several hours’ drive outside Kathmandu. If you want to cross the Irawaddy and travel further, you must walk across a rope bridge. Like I said, end of the road.

I found myself in this place because I wanted to quickly travel as far as possible into the countryside to get a sense of scope. 

Some of the few buildings that remained standing in Sipa Ghat, Nepal.

Sipa Ghat is, or was, a village of 200 or so homes and shophouses selling groceries, fertilizer and other rural staples. Almost every building has collapsed. As I arrived, residents feared there were still dead to be discovered, though they couldn’t be sure. After all, it’s a market town, one man pointed out -- who knows what unlucky souls might have walked in from the countryside to do some shopping?

I found Mr. Shresta sitting beside his ruined shop, near the rope bridge. He described the horror of being buried alive. “It’s like when you’re ready to slaughter a goat, but you haven’t chopped it yet,” he said, making a cutting motion across his neck. “It’s like waiting for that cut.”