Quake-displaced teenager shot to fame after meeting Prince Harry in Nepal


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By Shristi Kafle, BHAKTAPUR, Nepal, March 21 (Xinhua) — Purushotam Suwal, 14, his eyes glazed over with misery and regret, was going about living his harsh life as a displaced quake victim in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, after losing his home in the devastating April 25 earthquake last year that forced him to call a tent at a temporary camp near Durbar Square his new home.

In a cruel twist of fate, the spoiled, only-son of his family, was compelled to have his world turned upside down and live as an impoverished and displaced quake victim.

Studying in grade 8 in the local Prabhat Secondary School, Purushotam never imagined he would meet any celebrities or talk with high-profile personalities in his life.

However, the local teenager’s dreams came true when he was unexpectedly shot to fame and met with a mob of camera wielding aficionados with their flashing bulbs, as he was elevated to “stardom” after spending around 30 minutes with British Prince Harry on Sunday evening.

It was Purushotam who introduced the Prince Harry, who is on a five-day official visit to the Himalayan country starting Saturday, to the living conditions of displaced families in their camp and guided the prince to the historical Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

“I had only heard about the existence of a few princes in the world, but had never seen them in books or on television. But today, I spent nearly half an hour with a British prince. I cannot express the bounds of my happiness,” Purushotam Suwal told Xinhua, after bidding goodbye to Prince Harry.

31-year-old Prince Harry landed in quake-ravaged Nepal on Saturday with a hope to shine an international light on the resilience of the Nepalese people who are trying to recover from the earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and left more than a half million homeless.

These reasons underscored Prince Harry’s decision to spend his time in a camp with quake-displaced families. Dressed in a simple white shirt, the flamed-haired second son of Prince Charles entered the camp and happily shook hands with the children and their mothers.

The prince listened to the stories of the displaced families while sitting inside their tents at a time when the first anniversary of the deadly disaster is approaching.

“The prince inquired about what it was like for the families living in tents and asked about their experiences. He was interested to know about the lifestyle of Nepalese people. He also asked about the camp management,” Purushotam, also the chairman of camp, told Xinhua.

The temporary camp has been a happy home for 60 displaced families comprising 250 people, for the past 11 months.

Besides focusing upon how the people of this small Asian nation are coping after the disaster, Prince Harry visited the ancient Durbar Square which is filled with artistic temples and monuments.

He took a five-minute walk from a temporary settlement to the square enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and learned about the damaged structures that are being supported by wooden beams.

Purushotam told Xinhua, “I briefed him about the monuments and architecture of this beautiful heritage site.”

Prince Harry, who spent 10 years in the British Army and became a captain and was known as Captain Harry Wales, however did not mention about any immediate support to the post-disaster reconstruction efforts as he is already a globally-popular ambassador for a number of high-profile charities.

Earlier in the afternoon, he toured another UNESCO site, Patan Durbar Square, in Lalitpur, and stepped into the ancient royal palace and Golden temple and learned about the damages and rebuilding efforts. He also observed the ongoing work to restore the monuments through craft skills like wood-carving.

Before the earthquake, Bhaktapur, which is some 30-minute drive from the capital, used to welcome around 300,000 tourists annually. But the last 11 months has witnessed the lowest tourist levels since record keeping began.

As the prince walked in the square, he was greeted and snapped by cameras by hundreds of locals whom he showed his respect to by waving repeatedly.

In return to the frenzied screams of “Prince Harry!” by young female admirers, the handsome prince could only return a gentlemanly smile. However, his tour-companion Purushotam was lucky enough to be in close quarters with the prince for 30 minutes and even got to take selfie on his own phone, prior to the Prince bidding him farewell.

The prince left the site after his short tour. But deep inside Purushotam’s eyes, a different, positive sparkle was there that seemed to defy explanation.

 

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