For long, Kathmandu has been suffocating beneath the weight of its own identity as an urban centre. As the city has sprawled beyond Ring Road in the new millennium, devouring vast agricultural landscapes and eating away into forest land farther out, its population has boomed. Cars, motorbikes, throngs of people crowding markets and malls, all have increased, swelling the city beyond its capacity to hold.
But the changes triggered by the lockdown in the past week have been so sudden and drastic, to look out one’s window and witness the calm that has engulfed Kathmandu can be described as jarring in the least. Schools and offices are shut. Factories have closed down. Coronavirus has drawn productivity to a halt. Empty roads now serve as meandering memories of what travel and movement used to be.
The city, nevertheless, putters along, thanks to the few who continue to risk their lives to make basic needs available to its denizens.
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Much of life in Kathmandu has come to a standstill ever since the government’s decision for a nationwide lockdown that took effect on 24 March, 2020. In Bagbazar, a street otherwise crowded with cars, pedestrians and hawkers alike, a man walks below garbled electric wires that suddenly appear more prominent.
A woman in Bhaktapur continues to sell fresh produce out in the open, although the number of street vendors has sharply reduced. Even as she protects herself with a reusable mask, she is nevertheless at greater risk of being exposed to the virus as she encounters numerous customers.
A sweeping view of a vegetable market near Machhapokhari in the early hours of the morning. While many have stockpiled groceries and other essential items to last a while, people are still making regular rounds of vegetable markets despite the lockdown.
An employee of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office sprays disinfectants at Singha Durbar. Although this trend has been seen in cities across the world as a way to combat the coronavirus pandemic, there is little proof about its effectiveness.
While there hasn’t been a shortage of basic supplies in the Kathmandu Valley so far, gas cylinders have nevertheless been hard to come by. The capital has had a prolonged history of gas shortage time and again.
A fruit and vegetable vendor squirts hand sanitizer into the palms of their customer. News and public service announcements encouraging people to wash their hands, wear masks and use sanitizers in order to stop the spread of the virus have proliferated traditional and social media in the last two weeks.
Over the course of the lockdown, now in its eighth day, the Nepal Armed Police Force has deployed an increasing number of its personnel on the streets of Kathmandu. At the entrance of its headquarters in Halchowk, officials have been delegated specifically for the task of disinfecting incoming individuals and vehicles.
A policeman uses a six-foot metal clamp to detain an individual who violated the lockdown restrictions that urge everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. The Nepal Police is facing flack for harassing people who have been seen out on the streets.
Due to the existence of wide economic disparities, people living in the bottom rung of society face incomparable corona-related hardships. A homeless man passed out atop an overhead bridge in Koteshwor will be one of the many homeless and poor to be affected by the pandemic.
Even though children have largely been unfazed by the virus itself, the lockdown has significantly altered their lives. Schools are shut and regular play is no longer possible. Here, a lone child rides a bicycle on a decidedly empty street in Patan.