Resilience and Reasons

Nepal Earthquake by Abir Abdullah
text by ?Photographer Syed Latif Hossain?
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Our sub-continent is now emerging from a crucial experience of its history. This history narrates defining moments captured in epic tragedy, inflicted wounds that are slowly fortifying, and material and spiritual loss that would be embalmed in the hearts of generations. On a seemingly normal weekend day as people went about their business, the earth in Nepal shook up its natives to the point of unfamiliarity. An earthquake, that registered 7.8 on the Richter scale. It caused many people to flee and it rendered many others immobile; and it caused hearts to freeze as they witnessed their world crumbling around them. A sea of hearts, many which remained trapped in the sea of rubble, with their homes, their temples and their loved ones.
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The world watched, horrified by the destruction of human lives and property. Beautiful and historical temples, towers and valleys were tranformed to ruins. The quake was felt as far as some places in India and in Bangladesh. Fear, worry and concern spread like wildfire and the sobering statistics that followed heightened disbelief and panic. The 55 seconds quake killed more than 8,000 people and injured more than 18,000 all over Nepal.
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Bangladesh did not remain a quiet bystander. Relief was sent. Journalists and photographers rushed from here too. Abir Abdullah was one of them arriving in Nepal on the second day of the quake to cover the devastation as a photojournalist. He witnessed the fear and tear of the people who lost their loved ones, families and neighbours. He travelled major affected areas documenting the catastrophe of nature and the struggles of the surviving people. His eyes and his camera recorded once again how defenseless we humans are against the forces of nature.
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These photographs are to educate us on the need to anticipate and prepare for such a calamity in our own country where buildings often violate building codes, structures are placed on the map in an unplanned way, and most importantly, where building occupants are least informed about how to react and respond to disaster. It urges us to reflect whether we have enough preparation to cope with a disaster of this scale, or even a lesser one. If not the occupants, but could the responders at least conduct a fruitful rescue operation? His photographs also show empathy, the collective empathy and solidarity of Bangladeshi people towards the ancient people and the beautiful country of Nepal.
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As we emerge from this documentary evidence, the resilience of this friendly people of Nepal strikes us. People have started rebuilding whatever they can. A wedding even takes place. What is the force behind this undeniable resilience? Is it because of the vulnerability they inherited and grew up with, or is it the teachings of Lord Buddha? The guidance that tells us to remain calm, come what may.
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Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.” His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” published by Steidl in 2020, is listed in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. Alam received the “International Press Freedom Award” for 2020 from ‘The Committee to Protect Journalists’.

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