International Elephant Race in Nepal (Chitwan)

Blogmandu: My conversation with the winner of the elephant race is here.

school kids rally elephant race

Rhinos overshadowed the Elephant race: The public concern about the illegal poaching of Rhinos in Chitwan National Park overshadowed the international elephant race. People were carrying placards, like these students, demanding life for Rhinos. Rhinos here are being killed by poachers almost every month.

school kids rally elephant race and demand life for rhinos

26 December 2006: The formal program began in Sauraha, tourist district in Chitwan. Third International Elephant Race was formally inaugurated. Instead of listening to tiring speeches delivered in the opening ceremony, I went to the other side of the large ground and enjoyed the company of more than two dozen elephants. They were all set to give us glimpse of the race that would begin next day. I had never seen assembly of elephants bigger like that before. Elephants of all sizes were there. Small is beautiful even among elephants, I found. A Chhawa was moving here and there playing with humans as her mother was attentively watching his activities.

tharu cultural rally in chitwan

Tharu women take part in the rally organized on the opening day of International Elephant Race in their traditional outfits.

girls with traditional tharu mud pots posing for camera

Two city girls pose with traditional Tharu mud pots

It was damn hot and the heat was slowly killing me. The program ended and we headed for Paradise Lodge for tea and a briefing by an FNCCI Narayanghadh official on the upcoming Chitwan Festival 2007. He presented his ideas of promoting internal tourism in Chitwan. People are full of ideas but whenever time comes for execution, they look towards the government. This has become our standard tendency in Nepal. The guy was no different. He was full of complains about government not helping enough in the development of Sauraha. He didn’t talk about what he was doing on his personal capacity to development the area.

elephants ready for race

Need any caption?

I came back to hotel and gave an interview to Radio Sagarmatha on blogging. Deepak Aryal, the host, asked me about the technology and how can people blog. Talking about blogging is one of the easiest topics and I tried my best to answer his questions in the 10-minute-long conversation. The interview, he said, would be broadcast next day. Unfortunately, Radio Sagarmatha is not available in Chitwan and I couldn’t listen to the broadcast.

elephants ready for race.jpg

Elephants kneel down so that participants of the elephant race could climb on their back.

Dinner was in Gainda Wild Life Resort inside the national park jungle. There I met a few familiar faces. Surendra Phuyal, a reporter with BBC Nepali Service was holidaying. Biplov Prateek, a poet and journalist was with his Indian friend. Pawan and I drank juice where as other were enjoying whisky or something. The aura was entertaining. Some guys were cracking jokes and others were laughing. After dinner, we returned with Keshav Pande on the driver’s seat. He was more into singing folk songs than driving. The jeep was dancing on the road in the tunes of Pande’s songs. Occasionally, he would remove hands from the steering wheel and hammer them on the door to produce the music for his songs. No accident occurred during the trip.

elephants ready for race

Get, Set, Elephant! Ready for the race

We came to Hermitage hotel and there too people sang and danced. I wanted to go back to hotel and sleep. I pressed Keshav Pande to return to the hotel but some people, other than our team, insisted that we stayed there for a few songs and dance sequences. There was nothing I could do so I quietly witnessed the ‘celebrations’ standing under a tree nearby. At one point I thought I wasn’t being interactive enough with the team members. It was true that I wasn’t feeling like singing and dancing because, first, I wasn’t feeling really well and, second, the whole atmosphere didn’t really click me.

elephants ready for race

There, as I was unwillingly listening to the songs, I felt that I don’t enjoy being in the crowd of people but cherish the company of a computer. I regret that I didn’t carry my laptop there. That would have proved really handy and I could have written more about the tour and the program. Without computer it’s like you don’t have pen and paper to write. I have been reading this kind of report in New York Times and other publications that people are increasingly loosing their interest in real people and enjoying themselves with machines and the virtual world of the Internet. Am I becoming another such character?

The news of curfew in Nepaljung was particularly shocking because I wasn’t in Kathmandu to grasp all the dynamics of the serious development. “Why all the important things happen when I am not in Kathmandu?” I kept asking myself. That day, I wanted to be in Kathmandu, in the news room. I though of returning to the capital next day but abandoned the idea as nothing worst happened in the city. I hate communal division but my reportorial instinct was that the Nepaljung incident would spread around the country. Fortunately, it didn’t happen and I stayed in Chitwan.