Himalayan tragedy

To Kathmandu and back: ‘Even now when I stand up, it feels as though the earth is moving’

How tattoo artist Kevin Andrade survived the Nepal earthquake and managed to get out of the country with his wife and six month-old baby.

Kevin Andrade, the 25 year-old proprietor of the Flying Lotus tattoo studio in Andheri in suburban Mumbai, was in Kathmandu in Nepal attending a trade convention when the earthquake that has already claimed over 3,000 lives struck. Andrade was accompanied by his wife, Kruti, and his six month-old daughter, Trinity. The family had a miraculous escape on April 25 and managed to return the next day on an Indian Air Force plane that was a part of the Indian government’s relief efforts. Andrade is finally back home in Mumbai, from where he shared his experiences and some photographs with Scroll.in.
"We were in Kathmandu to attend a tattoo convention organised by a renowned local tattoo artist named Mohan. We had a booth at the Yak and Yeti Hotel. The convention was from April 24 to 26. We were staying at the Annapurna Hotel, which is a few minutes away from the convention centre. Of course, we had no idea what was in store for us."

At the tattoo convention the day before the quake.
"The first day went great. On the morning of April 25, I went to the venue early to put up some stickers. At around 10.45 am or so, I was standing on the parapet with a few other people when everything started shaking. It was violent, and I hope no one else ever experiences it. All of us were tossed around like salad. I rushed out of the hotel as soon as the shaking stopped to check on my wife and baby. The Annapurna hotel staff had already vacated their guests, but I could not see my wife and child. As I rushed towards my hotel room, I saw my wife coming down with the baby. Kruti was a little shaken up. The baby had been on the bed and she had fallen off, but she was fine.

We went outside the hotel to hang out with our other friends from the convention. All around, we could feel mild vibrations. My friend’s client had come down from Dubai, and the earthquake happened in the middle of a tattooing session. All our stuff was left back at the Yak and Yeti. Except for one tattoo artist, who was injured when a wall collapsed on him, everybody I knew was fine.

It was chaos all around. There were cracks in the walls, everything was on the road, and people were driving like crazy to get away. It was like being on a giant wheel and going down backwards. No matter who you are and how ready you are for this, you will lose your composure no matter what.

The Annapurna hotel guys were amazing and took really good care of us. I went once to the Yak and Yeti to pick up my stuff. Imagine walking into your office and finding everything to be a mess. There were tattooing machines and needles everywhere, ink on the floor. As I tried to take my stuff, the building shook again, so I ran out and went back the next day.

We stayed the night in the lobby of the Annapurna. We found a place to charge our phones. We had some tea, and although the bar was open, very few of us made use of it. I found it stupid that someone would drink on an occasion like this.

By now, it was 6.30 pm, and there were predictions that there would be more tremors. We had our bags packed and our passports ready in case we needed to run out. My baby was fine, she was smiling and laughing, and she took it very well.

In the morning, I retrieved all my equipment. I had tattooing machines that were like my sweethearts. I had been using them for years and there was a lot of sentiment attached to them. I was also worried about the other vendors. Each artist had equipment that was worth a minimum of Rs two lakh.

We went to the airport later in the day. That was a completely different story. It was chaos, and I was scared that if another quake happened, there would be a stampede. After standing in a long line, we went to another part of the airport where the Indian Air Force planes were. People had lost their marbles, they all wanted out. The organisers had no control over them. There was a tremor while we were there, and again, people went wild.

We stood in the line for hours, chewing on Wai Wai noodles and biscuits. Finally, we were shifted to another queue and were put on a plane to Delhi. From there, we took a night flight to Mumbai.

Even now when I stand up, it feels as though the earth is moving. I was very lucky to have gotten out of there. My other Indian friends are still there at the Annapurna Hotel, and they haven’t managed to get out. I am going to see what I can do for them from here, see if I can share with them the right procedure to get out of Nepal."

At the airport waiting for the IAF plane to take off.

Kruti and Trinity inside the IAF plane.

Other Indian passengers on their way home.

All photos courtesy Kevin Andrade.

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