Unlike many other Nepali districts Rolpa has a distinct image of its own. Unfortunately that ‘distinctiveness’ is not necessarily positive and/or based on positive vibe. Think about Iraq and Afghanistan of the past decade. Rolpa once was Nepal’s ‘ground zero’. During the height of the Maoist insurgency that began in Rolpa’s Thawang village in 1996 (and ended in 2006 in Kathmandu) the district headquarter Libang had shrunken inside a 3-km radius ‘Green Zone’. The GZ was surrounded by barbed wire and protected/guarded 24-hours a day by the armed soldiers. It was dangerous to venture out of the Green Zone for government officials and anyone who wasn’t friendly to the rebels. The area outside the GZ belonged to them. That was way back in 2000-2001.
I had never come to Rolpa before. Like many other Nepalis who have never seen Rolpa I also had a certain image of this place in my mind: war-ravaged hills and settlements where people loved to fight, shanties half burned and torn apart. Killing is what the people of Rolpa enjoyed, I thought. That’s definitely a misplaced and misinformed notion about Rolpa and Rolpalis. I realized that till this evening I knew only one Rolpali- my Rolpa-based colleague. He too isn’t a janajati (or Magar to be specific) who are majority in the district.
Chakchake hill at 2032 mt was cold. I felt like I had just arrived at a place close to the Himalaya. I also thought the hill to be actually where the administrative center of the district was located. I like such place to live. The road from Dang to Libang has just been blacktopped, the last laborer left the work-site only a couple of weeks back, I am told. The work, like in many other road projects, is far from satisfactory. But the point is the road is no more bumpy. It’s blacktopped. That’s a big deal in Nepal where people have been furiously digging roads all over and God only knows when this new ‘agricultural’ road network gets blacktopped.
I had left Tulsipur early in the morning to reach Ghorahi where a Dang-based colleague of mine was waiting for me. He took me to the nearby bus stand where I learned that seats for the bus that was about to leave for Rolpa (at 7 am) were sold out. But I was determined to make it to Rolpa. So I entered inside the bus and made myself at ease on a mudha, on of those makeshift stools that the buswallahs keep inside for people like me. Extra income for them. Two hours into the journey I got a seat that, strangely, hadn’t been sold by the ticket counter. A lanky teenaged boy and his younger sister had occupied that. The boy offered me the seat by his side.
The 5-km long curved road from Chakchake to Libang bazar is challenging for drivers of long-body Tata buses. These buses are too long to have enough space to negotiate the turning points. Drivers have to press breaks a lot and they have to use back gear a lot too. Passengers could feel pungent smell coming out of tires as the heavy usage of breaks and the load of bus had created a lot of stress and fissures on them and on the road.
As we were about to reach Libang (may be at a point some two kilometers away) a male passenger vomited right on the back of a female passenger who was seated infront of him. She was wearing a red kurta. The vomit not only landed on the outer side of kurta or her back but it went inside. I was at the back of the bus and the incident happend at the front. But it wasn’t hard to comprehend the situation the lady was in. What could she do? Throw away the kurta? Not possible. There was no water. Somebody helped her clean a bit but it was impossible to clean that fully. She stood up and waited for about eight minutes as the bus crawled on the road and reached Libang to finally get off the bus.
I asked a shopkeeper for a hotel to stay. The man pointed to the one nearby. It was surprisingly clean hotel with nice rooms. Some of them offered a view of Libang bazaar and the hills. But those with the view had no attached bathroom. I went for the view. I really wanted to see THE Rolpa.