Category Archives: Around India

उबरले संसारका थुप्रै शहरहरूमा ट्याक्सी व्यवसायको अनुहारदै बदल्देको छ । उबर र भारतमा उसको प्रतिस्पर्धी अोलाले टेम्पुहरूलाई समेत अाफ्नो एप्पमा ल्याउन खोजिरहेका छन् ।

उबर दिल्ली

त्यो वेलुकी म खान मार्केटको फकिर-चन्द एन्ड सन्सबाट वाकिेङ् द हिमालयज  च्यापेर निस्केको थिएँ । झोलामा द अोसन अफ चर्न  थियो र थिए द टु-इयर माउन्टेन, हाफ लायन  अनि कोर्मा खीर एन्ड किस्मत । अलि ठूलो पसलमा गएपछि अाफ्नो छनोटका किताव मात्रै किनेर पुग्छ र? त्यही दिन त्यो पसलमा टुपुल्किएको ग्यारिसन्ड माइन्ड्स्  लगायतका अरू केही मगाइएका पुस्तक पनि थिए मसँग । सानोतिनो व्यंग्य नै मान्नुपर्छ खातको सबैभन्दा माथि अघि साँझ नेहरू प्लेसमा किनेको पेपरह्वाईटको कालो खोल थियो । अर्थात झोला गह्रौं थियो । पसिना तर्तरी चुहिने त्यो गर्मीमा लगभग दुइसय मिटर पर्तिरको भूमिगत शहरी रेल स्टेशनसम्म पनि हिड्ने मेरो इच्छा थिएन । अाखिर मेट्रो रेलले पनि मलाई मेरो गन्तव्यसम्म पुर्याउदैनथ्यो क्यारे ।

[यो लेखको अघिल्लो भाग अर्थात गुनासो संस्करण यहाँ छ “उबरमान्डू” ]

बाबु र म ।

बाबु र म । फोटोभित्रको फुच्चे फोटोमा हामी अघिल्तिरको सडक । ग्यालेक्सी एस सेभेनको दोहोरो क्यामेरा अवतारमा खिचिएको फोटो ।

यो लेख बाकसपछि निरन्तर छ । तपाईँलाई इमेलमै पछिल्लो ब्लग, लेख र तस्बिर पठाउँदा म खुसी हुनेछु । बाकसमा आफ्नो इमेल ठेगाना हाल्नु होला । यो लेख इमेल इन्बक्समै पढिरहुन भएको छ भने केही गर्न पर्दैन । धन्यवाद🙂

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पाँच बर्षअघि म दिल्लीको अस्थायी बासिन्दा हुँदा त्यस्तो अवस्थामा मैले सडकमा निस्केर हात हल्लाउदै टेम्पु रोक्नुपर्थ्यो । नभए ट्याक्सी खोज्नु पर्थ्यो । अटोमा तातो हावा खादै सात किलोमिटर कुद्न मलाई मन भएन । ट्याक्सी खोज्ने जाँगर पनि लागेन । फेरि वेपत्ताको महंगो ट्याक्सी किन चढ्थ्यें? दिल्ली अोर्लेको पहिलो दिनै मुस्किलले चार किलोमिटर यात्रा गर्दा ट्याक्सीलाई अाठसय रूपैयाँ तिरेकै थिएँ । उसको मिटरमा मलाई विश्वास थिएन तर के झगडा गरिरहनु त्यो गर्मीमा ।

त्यसैले मैले खल्तीबाट मोवाइल फोन निकालें जसमा भोडाफोनको फोरजी सेवा उपलब्ध थियो । फोनमा मैले उबर एप्प खोलें । अनि ‘देखि’मा खान मार्केट र ‘सम्म’मा अाइटीसी मौर्य लेखें । छिनमै मैले जानकारी पाएँ, स्विफ्ट डिजायर चलाउने अरविन्द म भन्दा तीन मिनेट टाढा छन् । हेर्दाहेर्दै उनी एकै मिनेट टाढा भए । जरूरी त थिएन तर उनले मलाई फोन गरे । मैले अाफू उभिएकै विन्दु उल्लेख गरें । केही बेरमै उनको गाडी सडकको अर्कोपट्टी मेरै सामुन्ने उभियो ।

त्यसरी ११ अगस्टको राती नौ बज्नै लाग्दा म अरविन्दको डिजायरमा छिरेको थिएँ । पढ्नेक्रम जारी राख्नुहोस्

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And the Monkey Stole My Glasses in Shimla

A fearless and agressive monkey ready to fight with a humanShimla’s monkeys are agressive and audacious. They don’t seem to miss an opportunity to intimidate, attack and assault humans. A huge Hanuman statue standing atop the Jakhu hill (of whose base the town Shimla is located, sort of) could be the source of their arrogance. That’s my assumption. Hanuman’s statue, way bigger than the Gandhi’s at the base of the hill, must have made them feel that they are superior to humans. Again, assumption. I noticed several ‘be aware of monkeys’ notices in the town.

I have seen monkeys in many places- in the village where I was born and grew up, in many other villages of Nepal that I have visited, and in jungles where my trail passed through. Have seen them in cities as well- many places of Kathmandu and Delhi (Have written an entire column about the unfriendly monkeys of Delhi that sneaked into my apartment to steal things- Humans and monkeys struggle for space in the Indian capital). But I’ll put the monkeys of Shimla at the top of the list of the most agressive monkeys that I have ever seen. पढ्नेक्रम जारी राख्नुहोस्

A Quick trip to Shimla

Dinesh Wagle in Shimla

No prize for spotting me. Pic by Gokul Dahal

Shimla is a town of Monkeys who behave like Monkeys. But I will keep this album free of monkeys. I present here the atmosphere of the town- crowds and buildings- as I saw it.

During my two-year stay in Delhi as a reporter I traveled to most of the famous ‘hill stations’ in north India. Here’s the list: Darjeeling, Shillong, Mussoorie, Manali and Gangtok. Somehow I hadn’t found time to go to Shimla. I had imagined the place to be not drastically different from other hilly Indian towns. But some descriptions that I had come across (can’t remember the exact one at the moment) had put this place slightly ahead of others in the beauty contest of ‘queens of hills’. May be some political events (like the Shimla Agreement) provided some importance (and glamour) to the place. I also wanted to experience the toy train of Shimla (and wanted to compared it with similar one in Darjeeling). पढ्नेक्रम जारी राख्नुहोस्

Dinesh Wagle

मार्च 17, 2013

Back in the city where I lived for two years as a correspondent. Fortunately it’s not that hot today (29c). It’s not expected to be so for the rest of the week except for Wednesday (35c), according to the Weather Channel. The heat of Delhi terrifies me. That’s the reason  why I have written a couple of articles on the Delhi heat (and cold). Expecting to be in a cooler place this weekend.

(This trip interrupts my UK entries though I will post one this evening (about revised impression of the Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park) and the rest after I am back in Kathmandu next week.)

1.Heat and Dust of Delhi (talks about the curfew)
2. Delhi is getting hotter (around this time 3 years ago)
3. Dinesh Wagle Has Moved to New Delhi, India (announcement)
4. Reasons to Come Home (announcement and impression of India)
5. दिल्लीबाट काठमान्डु (for Kantipur)

And on Cold
6. Winter Flagbearers: Delhi Cold and JNU Food Festival (winter cold gets as bad as the summer heat)

Reasons to Come Home

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
I came back to Kathmandu last week after completing my two year tenure in Delhi. “Welcome back to darkness,” some of my friends said.

Load shedding is not a new phenomenon in Kathmandu. But the continued and unacceptably long hours of power cuts have fueled further frustration. Not to mention the ‘deadlocked’ politics and lack of developmental activities. I was mildly surprised to learn that some of my friends preferred to see me in Delhi (meaning anywhere out of Nepal) than in Kathmandu.

kathmandu post sunday 13 feb 2011

Kathmandu Post 13.02.11

This familiar love-hate relationship with the homeland—can’t live with it, can’t live without it. You may run away from home to escape problems but you cannot live away from it for long. You may want to earn a degree or work abroad for a few years but you do not want to die there. The desire to return becomes so strong that at one point it overwhelms you. You will start feeling uncomfortable even with the relatively comfortable life there.

People want to share their happiness with their own. In a foreign land, however many good friends they may have, they can’t communicate their excitement with foreigners as easily as they can with their friends, relatives and neighbours back home. Even if they do, foreigners won’t understand them. They also want to show off their progress—not to their newly acquired foreign friends but to their folks back home. “A Nepali won’t feel validated without showing off his colour television set to his neighbour in Nepal despite earning millions of rupees in Japan,” a senior journalist colleague once told me.

That’s true because there are many other millionaires in developed societies where personal achievements aren’t taken as the significant step they would be considered in Nepal. This is true with any other nationality too. For some it could be the other way around. I have come across many Westerners who have decided to spend their life in third world countries like Nepal and India because they get ‘royal treatment’ and ‘attention’ here. They can’t get the same level of importance in their native society because there are so many other people just like them.

Another very important reason for people to return to their homelands is their desire to do something for their society. After gaining knowledge or amassing wealth, they want to come back to serve their motherland.

My case is slightly different. I do have a strong desire to serve my society and uplift the quality of my profession, but I didn’t go out of Nepal to study or seek employment. And I didn’t come back to show off or share my happiness and progress with my family. In fact, my significant other is still in Delhi studying, among others, econometrics. While in Delhi I was working for a Kathmandu-based company, this newspaper and its Nepali-language sister publication, as fulltime staff. Very few Nepalis work for Nepali companies from outside of Nepal because of the nation’s frail economy.

But Delhi is no New York or Tokyo. This is the capital city of a country where tens of thousands of unfortunate Nepalis toil day and night for meagre earnings. During my stay in the city and trips to other parts of India, I didn’t meet a single Nepali who was very happy or proud to be where he was. And Nepalis are everywhere. From Jammu to Kanyakumari, Mumbai to Shillong, Lucknow to Hyderabad. In all these places I saw Nepalis working at dhabas and shops. Not a good sight. I overheard them talking loudly in Nepali about their difficult life. Not a good sound. All of my attempts to track a Nepali who has done a great deal of ‘progress’ (apart from Udit Narayan and Manisha Koirala) resulted in encounters with momo sellers or small-time liquor sellers in Delhi. I have realised that Nepalis do not go to India to seek success. They go there to sustain their lives. India is not a land of opportunity for us, but a temporary escape from our reality.

But India is not to be blamed for our misfortune. The problem lies with us, not with them. If you are poor and divided, others will look down upon you.

Instead, I feel, India is doing us a favour by allowing us to enter its boundaries without asking. Of course, it does so because of its own compulsions and to safeguard its own strategic interests.

Despite all the hype and hoopla about India being a constitutionally secular country, in my understanding, this is not the case. India can’t become a secular country because it is not just a country. It’s a continent in itself and, more than that, it’s a civilisation. This civilisation is different from that of, say, the Chinese or the West or Muslims. It’s the Hindu civilisation. You don’t have to be a Huntington to understand why a nation that has the second largest Muslim population in the world fought twice with Pakistan and is fencing its frontiers with Bangladesh with barbed wires but is so keen on keeping the border with Nepal open. Jawaharlal Nehru once said something about the Himalayas being India’s final frontier and Hindu nationalists in India continue to believe even today that Nepal is part of what they call the Bharat Barsha.

My understanding is that India has no problem with Nepal as long as it remains a predominantly Hindu society. All the rhetoric that comes out of Delhi that Nepal is ‘tilting’ towards China or becoming ‘a hotbed for anti-India activities’ is lame. This happens despite knowing that Nepal can never be as close to China as it is with India because of civilisational differences with its northern neighbour.

This article was first published in today’s Kathmandu Post. Nepali version of the same was published in the Saturday (12 Feb) edition of Kantipur.

Indian Level Crossing

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I am always fascinated by anything related to railways. Traveling on trains is one of my favorite things in India. Sometime I do write about my fascination with Indian railways. One scene that particularly attracts my attention while traveling on a train is that of people waiting for the rail to pass by so that they can cross the railroad. They have proper level crossing at many places but they are not enough, perhaps. People just cross from anywhere they feel like crossing. Whenever I have to go to Lajpat Nagar, I go via one of those unofficial level crossing near block B of Jangpura. (Chorbato, I was told by my colleague who first showed me that path.) It’s like crossing the road, you have to be careful and watch on the both sides. You have to be quick too. I can see many people crossing from here. Recently I took photos with my iPhone.

Meghalaya, India: Marriage is Not a Private Affair

I am working on photos from my Manali trip that I hope to post tomorrow. Meanwhile, I share with you a page (or two?) from my Meghalaya diary. A version of this article, in Nepali, first appeared in Kantipur daily (मेघालयका “घरज्वाइँ’हरु). First, second and last paragraphs of this article have also been used in a piece that I wrote for July 2010 issue of Himal Southasian magazine (Dakhar still)

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

Patriarchal and Hindu Nepali migrant coalminers marry matriarchal and Christian Khasi indigenous women in India’s Meghalaya state. Read on to find out what happens

family
Kul Bahadur Magar, his wife Deng and their children.

Marriages, history shows us, are often tactical arrangements between rulers to expand empires, strengthen political alliances, establish peace between warring nations, avoid wars or create harmony in a conflict-ridden society. The Romans did it, the Mughals followed suit, and Nepal’s rulers were no different, in the seventh century marrying off Princess Bhrikuti to powerful emperor Songtsan Gampo of Tibet. Similarly, in the eighth century, King Jayadev II of Nepal brought home Rajyamati, daughter of Harshavardan, the king of Kamrup, Assam.

man

Kul Bahadur

In contrast, when Kul Bahadur Magar, a Nepali coalmine worker in an area of Meghalaya that borders Kamrup, married Deng, a local ethnic Khasi woman, he did not have lofty goals of alliance building or peace-making. “Who thinks like that?” asked 45-year-old Magar. “I liked her, she liked me. We were both young and one day we married.” That was 13 years ago. Since then, the couple has been living peacefully in a shack with their four children, near the coalmine where Magar works. But their peace has now been shattered. The simmering mistrust between Nepali-speakers and the local Khasi community erupted into full-scale conflict during the course of May. Several Gorkhas (Nepali-speaking Indians) and migrants from Nepal were killed, the tragedies highlighting the constant vulnerability of both categories of Nepali-speaking residents of the Northeast. (Khasi Nepali Ethnic Conflict in Meghalaya, India)

Two years ago an ethnic conflict arose in a small town called Barsora in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, a north-eastern Indian state. The Khasis who are majority in the state that has other indigenous communities like Garos and Jaintias, started evicting Nepali migrant labourers who toiled in the coal mines there. A group of leading Nepali migrants from Ladrampai, the commercial hub of neighbouring Jaintai Hills district, went there to hold talks with the locals. Locals had four complaints against migrants: 1. You steal our jobs. 2. You consume alcohol and crate nuisance at public places. 3. You are involved in terrorist activities. 4. You marry our women and help destroy our culture. पढ्नेक्रम जारी राख्नुहोस्

The Great Indian Railway Bazaar

This article first appeared on Saturday’s (11 July 2009) Kathmandu Post

By Dinesh Wagle

The moment of shock came soon after I was awakened. At the time of leaving Kanya Kumari, the southern tip of India where land ends and water begins, on a cloudy day last week, the train was virtually empty as it originated from there. So my travel mates and I thought the whole thing belonged to us. We started wandering around, one compartment after another, looking for the best seat available. The man who issued the ticket at the Kanyakumari counter had told us that we could seat ourselves anywhere in the Sleeper Class as we had unnumbered seats reserved for us.

After three hours of journey (six more to go) and eating biryani in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, I climbed up to the upper berth to be awakened midway. The travel ticket inspector (popularly called TT) was checking the tickets and we realized that we were not in the ‘right’ seat. Other passengers had by then come to claim their reserved seats. One of my travel mates was already trapped between the passengers who were claiming the seat with valid tickets.

We quickly moved away only to be told by the TT that we could go and take any seats in compartment numbers 10, 11 or 12. There, we were like new refugees with no seat to sit, not even a proper place to stand. Finally we managed to jump up to three upper berths of a compartment. Phew!

Indian trains are a diverse society on the move that speaks several languages that are not understood by all people traveling in the same compartment of a train which might appear as a crawling, huge reptile if seen from a hot air balloon. This society eats food that is vastly different from that available in one station to the next. On my first journey on the Indian railways last October that lasted for three straight days and two nights I found myself interpreting on the third day to an Indian yatri what the railway staff, another Indian, was saying. The Tamil passenger who spoke his mother tongue Tamil and English but didn’t understand Hindi wanted to order some food and the Hindi-speaking Railway attendant from north India didn’t understand English or Tamil. The service of a Nepali came handy and the Tamil heartily thanked me for breaking the language barrier.

Writers had aptly described, I felt after traveling on Indian trains, Indian Railways as the lifeline of India that is like a traveling theater festival that stages contrasting dramas every hour or so with even more and diverse characters who have their own unique story to tell via their different body languages and other forms of communication. A friend of mine from Jharkhand didn’t believe me when I recently told her that there are no trains in Nepal (apart from a relic that runs between Janakpur-Jayanagar (India)) covering only a few kilometers on the Nepali side. She replied: “I can’t imagine a life without trains. How do you live without them yar?”

Unlike America or Europe, India will cease to exist if its railway system that carries a sea of humanity everyday becomes dysfunctional. My feeling is that effectively disrupting and completely damaging the Indian railway network will have the same impact that the fall of a nuclear bomb in Delhi or Madras might create.

I experienced a “wow” moment last week when I entered a crowded general compartment of a train that was going to Madhurai, Tamilnadu via Alleppey, Kerala. That 11-hour journey turned out to be partly adventurous, partly torturous. The train arrived on time in Alleppey, famous for backwater boating, but with all general dibbas filled to their capacity and far beyond. It was impossible to board the train from the last compartment (general dibbas are either at the front or the rear end of the train and one need not reserve a seat to travel in those). Then we ran towards the front one. We reached the door only to see a massive crowd inside. It was a do or die situation because missing the train meant you would be stranded for the whole night there. I jumped over a man’s leg and forced myself inside like a hammer. It worked. I paved a small but crucial way for my travel mates. Once inside the dibba, the struggle to find place for our legs began.

There were all sorts of people. A couple with their infant child quietly sleeping in the seat. Migrant workers heading to Trivandrum. Families getting back home apparently after not getting a sleeper class ticket. It was a collage of people of many colors, backgrounds, purposes and destinations. Most of them got off at Trivandrum from where we got seats to sit. It was indeed a huge relief to our knees as we were badly feeling them.

Even though I lived so near to India and grew up hearing so many things about its cultural, social and political aspects, it was a kind of shock to me when I saw an Indian railway platform last October in Gorakhpur. Thousands of people were simply lying down, just like that, on the concrete floor inside the platform and outside, below the open sky. I had never seen such a scene before. They were waiting for the next train to come. Apart from the sea the only thing I missed about India after returning to Nepal were the trains. Railways are, I feel, the best thing to have happened to India under the British raj. From the toy train of Darjeeling to the faster one like Rajdhani Express, the trains awed me.

The way people travel in them, the chaotic, pathetic, and at the same time entertaining and lively atmosphere inside a general dibba, the manner in which the passengers eat food inside, fill in their bottles from drinking water from public taps at the platforms so hurriedly fearing that the train might leave them behind, the way they talk with each other and with fellow (and strangers) passengers, behave, even sleep and freshen themselves, and the way sellers literally somersault to penetrate the crowd inside the dibba to sell eatables to the passengers. It’s all amazing! A real cultural shock that is not comparable even to the one that I got in a Washington DC strip bar a few years ago.

Then there is Delhi Metro, another form of rail transportation in the city of Delhi, the multi-billion dollar project that is still in the making which is arguably better than what they have in DC and New York. Traveling in the Metro makes me believe, even though the Delhi metro is not a piece of Indian innovation, what Thomas Friedman argues in his book The World Is Flat in the context of competitive advantage that India has in engineering and technical education thanks to the famed IITs: that the days of America in terms of innovation are going to be over soon. Of course, it will be a long time before we see that happen in real life.

This article first appeared on Saturday’s (11 July 2009) Kathmandu Post