The mass exodus from the Kathmandu Valley after two back-to-back earthquakes has dealt a severe blow to daily life in the area. Daily wage labourers, vegetable vendors, shopkeepers, drivers, and professionals from all walks of life have left the valley to return to their homes. Some go back to help rebuild, or to check on relatives and loved ones, while most people are simply frightened and frustrated by the continuous tremors beneath their feet.
Within a week after the first tremor, almost 800,000 people left the Kathmandu Valley. Afterwards, as the situation was returning to normal, people started coming back. Following the second quake on May 12, however, the exodus began anew.
As a result, the valley is facing a shortage of manpower just as the need for labourers to make repairs spikes. Likewise, the local economy has suffered, though the situation is normalising once again. As reported by Republica Daily, shortages have in turn slowed Kathmandu’s recovery.
Interrupted supplies of essential goods continue to keep several local factories out of service, and commodity prices have skyrocketed, as labor grows more scarce and transport costs more expensive.
Many of the area's barbers, mostly coming from the southern plains of Nepal and neighbouring India, have also left the valley. Due to this, many barber shops have closed and Kathmanduites are having an unusually hard time getting a haircut. The hair salons that are still open have witnessed long queues of customers with the barbers getting no time even for lunch breaks.
Confronted by the scarcity of barbers, Internet users have started using the rapidly-popular hashtag #ComeBackIndianBarber on Twitter:
कपाल ठुलो भयछ काटु भनेको कतै खुल्या देखिदैन सैलुन अब येतै बाट बोलाउनुपर्ने भयो बारबारलाई #ComebackIndianBarber भनेर |
— आदर्श -_- (@iamadaa10) May 11, 2015
[My] hair has grown. To get a haircut [I] don’t see any salon open. Now need to call barber from here by saying #ComeBackIndianBarber
Cartoons showing men with long unkempt hair have been making the rounds on social media, as well. One image shows a before-and-after scenario, where a man after the earthquake is shown sporting a grown mustache, beard, and hair.
— Saroj Ghimire (@FCB_Saroj) May 11, 2015
Likewise, another cartoon by Barun Pokhrel shows men with long hair, beards, and mustaches roaming the streets, navigating the rubble aftermath of the earthquakes:
परनिर्भरताको हद् । हजाम जति मोतिहारी र दरभङ्गा तिर लागेपछी काठमान्डौको हालत । pic.twitter.com/sFwKpYtcUy
— B-Company (@brnpkrl) May 16, 2015
The height of dependency. Kathmandu after the barbers left for Motihari and Darbhanga [India].
Responding to the scarcity of barbers, the Ministry of Industry is reportedly considering launching a new program to provide haircutting training to local youth in Kathmandu. Officials are also planning to offer mason training in villages to help prepare technicians to rebuild houses in quake-affected villages.
Called by the moniker “Bhaiya,” meaning “brother” in Hindi, Kathmandu's barbers were typically looked down upon. With the earthquake, however, they've become one of the area's most sought-after professionals. This is the right time to respect the profession and call them with alternate names (like “dai” meaning elder brother in Nepali) that are pleasing to the barbers. So that they don’t feel offended. I tweeted:
— Sanjib Chaudhary (@sankuchy) May 17, 2015