The boy who taught me what it means to wait | Nepal


Not many photos have changed my life, but there is one that changed me as a person, hopefully for the better.

April 25, 2015 is a day I will never forget. It was the day I lived my first earthquake in my then home in Kathmandu, Nepal. I was sleeping in what should have been a lazy Saturday, when my wife woke me up. The house was moving.

When it started shaking even more, we decided to run. We lived on the sixth floor of a 12-story building. We ran downstairs wearing only our pajamas. On our way down, the walls in the stairwell fell off, and from the windows, we could see huge waves coming out of the pool.

I ran without being sure of what had happened, but when I reached the street and saw the fear on people's faces, I realized that it had been a great earthquake. From that moment, the earthquake in Nepal became for me not only an event to photograph, but in the history of a country that I love.

During the first days, we slept in the streets of Kathmandu along with the many who had lost their homes or were afraid to return to their homes, as dozens of aftershocks continued to shake the country. Two Nepali colleagues, Niri Shrestha and Navesh Chitrakar, became familiar during those days. We walk together for hours through the damaged areas. The smell of death came from the rubble. Every street we went through was a horror scene when neighbors and police dug through the rubble looking for life, working against the clock.

From the second day, I concentrated on Bhaktapur, a city on the outskirts of Kathmandu, where only a couple of weeks before I had photographed Bisket Jatra, a festival of joy. Her beauty was captivating. In the days after the earthquake, however, Bhaktapur resembled a war zone. The streets were covered with debris. Processions of bodies were taken to hospitals for family identification. Then, the bodies were taken to the cremation site for families to pay their last tributes to their loved ones.

Sadness and frustration occupied my thoughts. I had to leave since my wedding would be held in France on May 22 and there was no way I could delay it. Thousands of kilometers away in France, I couldn't stop following the news and talking with my friends in Nepal. International media began to forget about Nepal.

A month later, when I returned to Kathmandu, it was as if the earthquake had just occurred. But something was changing. There was hope again, life returned to normal and a message began to be heard throughout the country: "We will be resurrected."

I felt that the people of Nepal were giving the world a lesson about life, but that nobody was listening. I wanted to tell this story. Gradually, this became a project, and a personal journey, which I called Resistance.

I photographed Endurance for a total of seven months, although the project lasted four years. I have thousands of photographs, but there is one that makes my heart beat even today: it is that of a child walking to school the day he reopened.

To go to school, this boy had to cross a square in Bhaktapur where 27 people had died in buildings that fell in the earthquake. For me, this image represents the strength of the Nepalese people, walking through the rubble of a disaster towards a hopeful future. And capture what a father in that square once told me about his son's role in the reconstruction of Nepal.

A square in Bhaktapur

The square in Bhaktapur became the center of my project. I grew up near the people there and heard their stories. Before the earthquake, it was a typical square where children played, and older people sat and talked. But in the months after the earthquake, it was difficult to find a square meter without debris.

Residents tried to save what they could from the ruins of their homes. Day after day, I saw the same people working hard while their frustration grew due to lack of help from the authorities. But there was no time to lose. The neighbors joined forces to demolish houses, risking their lives. Nepal needed to be rebuilt.

I have lost members of my family, my house. I lost everything in the earthquake, but I have a nine-year-old daughter and she is the future of Nepal. The reconstruction of this country is his education and, as a father, I risk my life to recover the books and notebooks from the ruins of my house. This country will not be rebuilt with brick. Nepal can only be rebuilt with education

A father in Nepal

One day, I was smoking a cigarette when I saw a man coming out of a small hole, no more than a meter in diameter, from the remains of his home. The ruins could collapse again, but he entered and left without stopping, taking out papers, notebooks and books. I saw him do this several times, before running to him to tell him that he was crazy about doing this and that he could die if the debris moved. But he smiled at me calmly and said: "Nepal has to be rebuilt, and everyone is focusing on the buildings, on the bricks. That is a mistake. Nepal has many problems, and the earthquake is just one of them, but if we want to rebuild this country, we need education."

"I lost members of my family, my house. I lost everything in the earthquake, but I have a nine-year-old daughter and she is the future of Nepal. The reconstruction of this country is her education and as a father I risk my life to recover the books and notebooks from the ruins of my house. This country will not be rebuilt with bricks. Nepal can only be rebuilt with education. "

Walking to school among rubble

On July 20, at least two schools in Bhaktapur reopened. Where there had been mostly silence before, the streets were now filled with the joyful sound of the voices of children preparing for school.

I photographed children who were going to school. Finally, there were happy photos to take. When I decided that I had enough material, I was leaving the square to have coffee with my driver before returning to Kathmandu when something stopped me.

There was a boy of about seven who carried his backpack and walked silently on his way to school. I was alone in the square and something very fragile in the way I walked caught my attention. There was something special in his quiet steps. In my eyes, he represented the happiness and hope felt by the Nepalese when schools were restarted. And it reminded me of the father's powerful words about reconstruction through education. I wanted to show that Nepal was increasing again, despite the huge obstacles along the way. I followed him for a few meters, taking pictures.

Next, I wanted to see his face, partly to make sure everything would be fine for both of us. So I ran in front of him and smiled at him. So I didn't take a picture, but I will never forget her beautiful smile.

Now I keep a copy of this photo on my desk so I don't forget that, despite the problems of life, I never lose hope. He showed me how to smile and keep walking forward. I will always be grateful.

The hope that the Nepalese had, the politicians stole; Many have not received the help promised by the government. People with money today have better houses, but the poor lost everything. As that father taught me, the hope for Nepal lies in education. I hope that children are the ones that make the country a better place for everyone.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.