The Spirit of the Karnali Highway!

Super Tired. Nearly Depleted. Almost Finished.

There are some moments when you are tired and almost finished with whatever energy that you have got in your body. But the fact that there is still some work to do makes you go crazy. I was in that state when these photos were taken by David Geoffrion, a French TV cameraman inside the compound of Kalikot District Hospital in late February. We were waiting for some people at MSF, an international humanitarian medical agency that operates in Kalikot, that’s located inside the District Hospital compound.

I was working as a fixer and translator for a French TV crew that was making a documentary out of the Karnali Highway. My primary job was to make sure everything went the way we wanted them to be, interview the characters in tune with the camera (which was really a new experience for a man of pen and a diary like me) and also make sure that whatever was filmed was good enough to be included in the documentary. The French guy who was actually directing the film- Manolo oh Manolo- couldn’t understand a single word that the characters were speaking. He just knew what he had to do with the camera: find the fcking good story line and stick to it. I appreciate the passion and haughtiness that he had for the storyline. I knew your pressure tactic Manolo, and I knew that very well. Oh… that poor editor of the weekly Abhibhara, he must also have understood that by now!

So I was talking about my tiredness, my depletion. That fcking dusty and bumpy road, those fcking Rautes and our own driver the great! The four by four Mahendra, the DUST, the fcking night in a place called, I forget that, near Ramghat. That fcking bed, that fckng food, that fcking hotelier couple. I get sick even at the remembrance of that all. And how about that risky bus drive, David? I am happy that you didn’t fall from the top while the bus was bumping through that dusty and curvy road. Those folks traveling at the top of the bus, that too on the front, thinking about that moment now makes me take off my spectacle, close the eye and rub the forehead, the eyes and the nose.

So those four weeks of the month of February were primarily defined by the absence of many things: No proper food, no proper sleep, no proper work schedule. Actually I loved them all in a way.

There were two notable exceptions: one when Manolo and I reached Surkhet from Jumla. Second when our team arrived in Kalikot- on way back to Jumla- from Surkhet.

In Surkeht we stayed in a good hotel (nicest in the town actually) with AC which didn’t work for at least one night and TV inside the room with cable channels (though BBC World was the only channel that really interested me out of combination dominated by the freaking Hindi channels.) And there was red wine too. We drank! After all that crazy drive from Jumla to Surkhet, we really needed some thing like that. I am not a beer or rum or vodka guy. Occasionally I try to try beer but can’t take more than a glass. [Bu there is a an exception!]

I was reluctant about wine too but what the heck I needed that. So I started gulping. After that relaxing hot shower for almost an hour, I was drinking wine and Manolo the French was there to have some talks about wine and all.

So I was drunk that evening. You know it all don’t you? I was screaming at the phone!

And Kalikot. The beer night! There was no wine. Leaving behind the nice life of Surkhet we had done about a week of bumpy riding- again- in that fcking road. This time were a big team. Narayan the 25-year-old editor of Manma-based weekly newspaper. The drivers of two cars and their respective helpers. And there was Geoffrion the David!

I had never planned to drink beer like that. But that evening I wanted to drink. So that was a conscious and planned decision. I knew David was quietly putting more liquor, perhaps some vodka or something, in the beer. Narayan soon went out of sync, according to David! He told me I behaved “very well and brilliantly”. I was basically lecturing about almost everything. The only thing was that I knew very well what I was talking about. There were some words of appreciation for David and he thought that was because I was under the influence of beer. No I wasn’t David, the question that you wanted to ask me when the bus driver almost collided out bus with the mini-truck was very very impressive.

So I was talking about these photos posted along with this post. Though these photos were taken a day after our drink extravaganza in Kalikot’s White House Hotel, I was still tired. But the worst day of the whole trip was yet to come: the next day, which was also the final day in Kalikot. I actually wanted to punch on right on the face of Manolo (sorry man!) when he was pressuring me to make those poor folks who were carrying their sick mother walk back and forth in front of the hostile crowd in Kalikot. People were commenting what the FUCK these guys are doing with this injured lady and crazy Manolo wouldn’t listen to my interpretations and translations. Finally he listened and that was great!

This photo, also by David Geoffrion, was taken on way to Jumla after leaving Kalikot.

One thing that I learned (among many regarding the making of a documentary) was this: if you want to work on something, just do that without a second thought and do that will full vigor and energy and everything that you have in your disposal. Give your two hundred percent. Don’t hesitate to sleep on the dust if you can get a good angle. Work like an ass. And I loved all that. I myself am an ass when it comes to working for a journalistic mission.

But then I must say I was super tired, nearly depleted and almost finished when these pictures were taken by David. I was.

I wasn’t aware about David playing with his camera until seconds before he pointed the camera at me and started clicking. I was looking above the sky, some bird were flying. The weather was nice, the sky was clear and I could see the CDMA phone tower at the top of a far away hill on the other side of Tila River. So when I knew he was clicking me, I made sure he caught my original posture and even the mental stage. It was hard but I tried. So I think these photos-except the second last one which was taken in a different location in a different day- portray me in the almost natural form. I want to give a name to this SERIES: The Spirit of the Karnali Highway!