India Insight

Quake-prone Kathmandu awaits the next big one

Walking through the maze of narrow, crowded lanes of Kathmandu’s old city is, at the best of times, a harrowing experience.

Motorcycles, rickshaws and cars squeeze their way through the tiny, winding streets lined with dilapidated medieval buildings, Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas.

Mangled lines of power cables dangle dangerously above as you dodge the cows that mingle with traders, shoppers and tourists in the densely packed, bustling streets.

With a history and culture dating back 2,000 years, the Nepalese capital – and the Kathmandu Valley where it is situated – ranks among the oldest human settlements in the central Himalayas.

But the region also ranks as one of the world’s hotspots for earthquakes.

Nepal’s lack of disaster preparedness, the decrepit buildings packed cheek by jowl along the tiny lanes and the large families who live in these homes make the prospect of a major earthquake a serious concern.

Table laid out in the winter sun

Ever had a lotus stem salad laced with fermented fish, evaporated cane juice cookie, chopped eel spiced with chillies or a plate of fried mountain onion roots?

Okay, they’re probably not on the menu of your average restaurant but to my pleasant surprise all the above and much more were on offer in New Delhi at a cultural event dedicated to northeast India.

The main attraction seemed to be the food — cuisines from all eight states that occupy India’s hilly northeast region. Maybe it was because of their novelty factor (not many restaurants in Delhi offer such dishes) but many people lined up at the food stalls (although admittedly, many were probably just gawking at the unusual dishes on display).

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