So, while we're waiting, here is the beginning:
It was a Saturday morning in April. I rolled over, half asleep, to turn on my radio and listen to the News.
Early accounts were disorganised. An earthquake had rocked Kathmandu. In the foolish light of dawn I believed it was nothing more than the earth grumbling, far beneath the city. But, as I carried on listening, the full devastation became clearer. I made tea and turned on the television. All those glorious temples, reduced to rubble. Families wept in the streets, for themselves, and for the thousands who had died. Villages flattened. Avalanches crashing down the mountains, taking tents and trekkers with them.
I felt as if I were drowning in helplessness. It was hard to eat, to sleep in my warm bed, knowing so many shivered in tents in the parks of Kathmandu, and who knew how many were searching for shelter in the mountains.
What of my friends? Where was Tika? Shobha? Bhadra? Ajay and Upama? Those who had kept me safe and laughing since my first visit to Nepal nearly fifteen years ago. It was a few days before I knew that they were all safe, but they were frightened. The ground hadn’t stopped quivering. My feeble efforts to support them were not enough.
Now, five months later, I’m going back to Nepal. I can’t abandon them, these friends of mine, considering all they’ve been through.
We’ve all seen those after-the-earthquake pictures: the ruins in Durbar Square, temples where the faithful once rubbed shoulders with tourists wielding selfie-sticks; where incense wafted across crowded streets and made my eyes water. We’ve read of villages flattened; of families facing the ravages of the monsoon with nothing but a bit of borrowed tin above their heads. We’ve read of avalanches and death in the mountains.
Yet – I confess – I’ve been reluctant to go back. Even now, in the sterility of the Departure Lounge at Heathrow Airport, I have misgivings. I will not exploit the needy, nor gawp at their misfortune. I’ll not gaze at people living in wretched tents. There is something uncomfortable about travelling from the comfort and safety of my western home to a country where the needs are so huge. Might I be seen as patronising? What use could I be? I can’t rebuild a home. I can’t even cook something edible over a fire. I can play with children – surely scant consolation for people who have lost everything.
But Tika has invited me. I’ve known him since my first visit here. He has guided me through an adventure or two in the past. We want to see you, he said. Stay in our home, he said. It is enough to stifle my qualms. Besides, there is no resisting Tika.