A helicopter ride is not an everyday event. Rarer is when you fly several times in a matter of days in different whirlybirds. Add hill-hopping to that. And these details: walk in a national park looking for tigers in the afternoon and wake up in the morning atop a hill to find the mighty Manaslu staring at you. Hike in the Himalayan foothills, sort of, with an international celebrity who is being followed by the TV cameras. What could be more exotic, right? But this view behind me, of an MI 17 parked in the middle of a corn field surrounded by massive hills and not far from mud and stone houses partially damaged by the quakes, is what I find to be the most stunning of all drishyas that I have seen in the past few months. It will remain with me for some time to come.
त्यो दिउसो म त्यहाँ पुग्दा सोह्रखुट्टे पाटी ढलिसकेको थिएन । तर त्यसको छानो उडिसकेको थियो । काठमान्डू सहरका सर्वाधिक ख्यातिप्राप्त ल्यान्डमार्करूमध्येको त्यो सत्तल छिट्टै नजिकै स्थानान्तरण हुनेवाला थियो । सडकलाई फराकिलो हुनबाट रोकेको हुनाले तुलनात्मकरुपमा एेतिहासिक त्यो संरचनालाई सार्न लागिएको थियो । त्यो प्रकृया निर्विवाद थिएन । तर मेरो ध्यान त्यसलाई खोतल्नु थिएन । म त यत्तिकै, बरालिँदै, त्यहाँ पुगेको थिएँ ।
सोह्रखुट्टे पाटीको नाङ्गो छानोमुनी केही मानिसहरू केही गर्दैथिए । एउटी महिला केही कपडाहरू अोल्टाईपल्टाई गर्दैथिइन् । शायद त्यो उनको बिछ्यौना थियो । दुइ पुरुषहरू एउटा भाँडोबाट अर्कोमा केही खन्याईरहेका थिए । शायद त्यो कुनै पेय पदार्थ थियो । अनि एकजना अधवैंशे सज्जन पाटीको एउटा कुनामा बसेर घडी मर्मत गरिरहेका थिए । उनी अगाडीको बाकसमा झुन्डेको पातोमा लेखिएको थियो-
“घडी, लाईटर मर्मत सेन्टर ।
यहाँ घडीको ब्याट्री, फित्ता पाईन्छ । साथै लाईटरमा ग्यास भरिन्छ ।”
उनी एउटा घडीमा व्यस्त हुँदा उनी अघिल्तिर दुइ महिलाहरू बडो चासोपूर्वक उनको काम नियालिरहेका थिए । ती दुइ मध्ये अलि कम उमेरकी जस्ती देखिनेले अाफ्नो देब्रे कुहिनो सोकेसमा अड्याएर हत्केलामा मुन्टो अड्याएकी थिइन् । यो सबै दृश्य केहीबेर अवलोकन गरिसकेपछि मलाई ती घडी मर्मतगर्ने मान्छे नजिककै जान मन लाग्यो । विना कुनै कारण । खोटाङतिरका ती दुबै महिला त्यहाँ अा-अाफ्ना घडीहरू मर्मत गराउन पुगेका रहेछन् ।
“यहाँ यो पसल खोल्नुअघि मैले खुबै सोचे,” वरीपरीका ग्राहकहरू गएपछि फुर्सदिला बनेका घडी मर्मत गर्ने भलाद्मीले मेरो एक प्रश्नमा भने, “एक मनले सोचेको थियो, अब म बाँच्न सक्दिन । मरौं जस्तो लाग्यो । साच्चै । मरौं नै जस्तो लाग्यो मलाई । तर फेरी अर्को मनले भन्यो, म त झन्डै मरेको मान्छे । अब झन बाच्नु पर्छ । हरेस चैं खानु हुन्न । अनि मैले यो पसल थापे । अब यहाँ त ग्राहक मकहाँ अाउछन् । मैले उनीहरूकहाँ जान पर्दैन ।”
[This post details my recent encounter with an ear cleaner in Koteshor, Kathmandu which reminded me of an incident that involved an ear cleaner in Old Delhi a few years ago.]
झन्डै पाँच वर्षअघि पुरानो दिल्लीको जामा मस्जिदका सिंढीमा बसेर भव्य लाल किला हेरिरहँदा मैले एउटा अनपेक्षित दृश्य देखेको थिएँ । एउटा अपरिचित ठिटोले मसँगै त्यहाँ पुगेका मेरा एकजना साथीको दाईने कान तान्न खोजिरहेको थियो । केटोको हातमा सियो जस्तो लाग्ने बस्तु थियो । तर्सिएकै त नभनौं तर अचम्मित मेरा मित्र अाफ्नो कान र अाफैलाई पनि जोगाउन प्रयासरत थिए । मलाई एक मन त लाग्यो हन के हुदैछ यहाँ । त्यही अन्योलको क्षण केटोले मेरा साथिलाई भन्यो- “अापके कान बहुत गन्धा है भैया । मै साफ करूँगा ।”
कान सफा गर्ने उसको पेसा रैछ । (त्यो दिनको घट्नानाबारे मैले यहाँ लेखेको छु ।)
केही साताअघि कोटेश्वरबाट दक्षिणपूर्व लम्किदैगर्दा मैले अर्को अनपेक्षित तर चाखलाग्लो दृश्य देखें जसले मलाई जामा मस्जिदको त्यो घट्नाना झलझली सम्झायो । ट्राफिक कार्यलय अगाडी अरनिको राजमार्गको पैदलपथमा टुसुक्क बसेका एकजना व्यक्ति मुन्टो बंग्याएर दाह्रा किटिरहेका थिए । अर्का व्यक्ति निहुरिएर उनको कान खोतलीरहेका थिए । त्यहाँ के भइरहेको थियो भनि खुट्याउन मलाई कत्तिपनि सोच्न परेन । केहीबेर त्यहीँ उभिएर घट्नाना नियाँलें ।
दाहिने कान खोतलिदै गर्दा ती दाजुको हातमा रहेको फोन बज्यो । शायद महत्वपूर्ण कल थियो त्यो त्यसैले उनले कुरा गर्न चाहे फोनलाई देव्रेकानमा टासेर । उनले त्यसो गरिरहदाको त्यो क्षण कान सफा गर्ने दाजु फुर्सदिला बने । त्यही मौका छोपेर मैले उनीसँग केही बात मारे । शुरूमा त मलाई उनको बोलीको लवज सुन्दा जुम्ला या मुगुतिरका हुन् कि जस्तो लाग्यो तर हैन रहेछ । Continue reading
[This post was written on 21st March.]
The Nepali word jatra means a festive atmosphere. Ghode Jatra is the festive atmosphere that involves ghodas (horses) and men, of course. Don’t know if horses too enjoy the moment but that’s a topic for another entry.
The word jatra also means a mess. Things are not in order. Out of control, sort of. Like the traffic of Kathmandu. Continue reading
A day after the #NepalEarthQuake, I went to Kathmandu’s Darbar Square. The scale of devastation was massive. Many of its attractive buildings, former palaces and temples, had either completely collapsed or were heavily damaged. The landmark Kastamandap building had been reduced to rubble. Two other beautiful temples nearby were not where they once stood. The “nau talle” darbar [the Basantapur tower, above] was still standing but it had lost its gajur. Several heritage buildings had their walls cracked. For a regular visitor of the Darbar Square, it was difficult to comprehend the sudden change brought about by the quake. A crowd had gathered at the Basantapur chowk. Most of them were lying on the ground, some facing the sky; others chatting with each other. They looked tired. Somewhat scared too. But they were generally calm. There was uncertainty on their faces. These people were very different from the ones that Basantapur used to see in normal times. Like many open spaces in Kathmandu, Basantapur too was crowded with people who wanted to escape the aftershocks.
A top tourist destination in town, Kathmandu Darbar Square in normal times is a bustling place. People from all over Nepal and and the rest of the world can be spotted here on a typical day. Here, vendors annoyingly follow tourists to sale souvenirs and curios. Dope dealers loiter around looking for customers. Tea sellers serve thousands of cups of tea. Singers come to perform. Artists stage street dramas. Politicians and activists gather to lecture and shout. Temples and palaces fight with each-other for a visitor’s attention. Rickshaw pullers jostle with taxi drivers to get passengers.
Once a place for kings and queens, Kathmandu Durbar Square today houses Gods and criminals, in close proximity and with no discrimination. Perhaps a slight one. Convicted and suspected ones live in police custody in the notorious Hanumandhoka lockup, of course, while the Gods and Goddesses, both living and those immortalized in statues, live free. Not only inside the temples and houses but also out in the open. This is the place where rituals and ancient traditions of many kinds are performed with great enthusiasm and participation of both public and the state. This is a place of utter paradox. An oasis of calm in most days, this place also witnesses some of the most violent cultural activities. That includes slaughtering of thousands of goats and buffaloes on certain days of the year. All in all, this is the cultural heart of Kathmandu. To be precise, this is the most prominent and visible cultural centre of one among many Kathmandus that exist in Kathmandu. But today, a day after the 25th April earthquake, this world heritage site is deeply shaken. Continue reading
Collapse of the Dharahara tower symbolized all quake-related devastations. But did the Bhimsen Stambha embody our pride and morale?
The #NepalEarthquake claimed thousands of lives. A million houses have been destroyed, most of them in rural villages. If there was a symbol of this destruction, it was the fall of the Dharahara tower. The tower’s collapse resulted in the death of more than one hundred fifty people. A few survived. This included some who were at the eighth floor circular balcony, enjoying the view of the city, when the quake hit.
Judging by the way people have reacted to the destruction of the eleven-story minaret with Shiva’s statue at the top, I feel that its collapse symbolized all quake-related devastations. It was as if Dharahara was somehow indestructible (though quakes had damaged it in the past too). “Even the Dharahara fell, can you imagine?,” was a typical reaction.
A man from Sikkim who had come to quake-hit Sindhupalchok with relief materials told journalist Kiran Bhandari, “We heard in the news that even the Dharahara had collapsed. We could only imagine what might have happened to Kathmandu. We were shocked.”
In most post-quake writings and social media comments, the Dharahara has been implicitly or explicitly portrayed as the pride and morale of the Nepali people. Images of the destroyed tower along with the words “we will rise” have been circulated widely. This show of affection to Dharahara greatly surprised me because the monument had largely been ignored.
After much reflection, I have reached the conclusion that the Dharahara did not represent the pride and morale of the Nepali people. Certainly not mine. My pride and morale didn’t fall along with the tower to the extent of saying ‘we will rise’ on the social media along with the image of the undamaged Dharahara.
It was made for and by the rulers. The commoners had no say in the way it was built and in the way it was used. The tower was not built for the general public to use it though it was opened to the commoners for climbing in 2005.
Having said that, the monument was the postcard representative of the city of Kathmandu. Indeed, in the hills where I was born and raised, Dharahara symbolized the city of Kathmandu.
“So what will you see in Kathmandu?” That was the question grown-ups asked kids who were about to leave for the capital.
“Dharahara!”, excited kids would scream back.
“So what did you see in Kathmandu?” Adults would ask kids who had just returned from the Valley.
“Dharahara!”, the kids would reply. Continue reading
Like everyone else, I knew it was coming. But I didn’t know when. I had no idea about its magnitude. It’s devastating impact. That’s because, like a generation before me, I had not experienced a strong earthquake. Like most Nepalis, I wasn’t prepared for it. Also, no one can predict an earthquake. So why think about it when you never know when it will strike.
My go-bag (given to me) was gathering dust somewhere in a corner of my house. I wasn’t sure that I would find time to grab the bag before running out in the event of a quake. Would I be even at home? As it turned out, I was several kilometers away from my house when the earth shook violently on 25th April (12 Baishak 2072). Instead of a go-bag, I had in my hands a bundle of investigative newspaper articles that were to be judged for a competition. I was in a teashop that was fortunately only a meter away from an empty road.
What I remember of those 40 seconds is a strange noise. The sound of structures colliding or something to that effect. I was struggling to stand upright in the middle of a blacktopped road. It was as if I had suddenly found myself in a small boat in rough seas. A woman nearby started to cry. Her husband held her. She continued to scream. A group of people gathered on the road. A few of us tried to console her. By the time the earth had stopped shaking, the people around me had been thoroughly shaken.
One of the first things that came to my mind during the first few seconds into the quake was to be aware of the buildings around me. The building that housed the teashop looked particularly threatening. At one point I thought it would collapse. But it didn’t, like many concrete buildings in Kathmandu. A pleasant surprise. There are many explanations floating around for this. The epicenter was too far. The earthquake wasn’t shallow enough. Houses were built strongly. My own observation is that we were just too lucky this time around.
Immediately after the quake I rode across the city. Except for some old houses with load bearing walls and heritage buildings I saw that most residential concrete houses had survived. The perimeter walls of several landmark buildings had crumbled over hundreds of motorcycles that had been parked by the walls. The collapse of the compound walls of the Nepal Police headquarters, the Prime Minister’s official residence and the Narayanhitti Palace Museum looked particularly astounding. But, by and large, Kathmandu had remained intact at the first glance. Later in the day, reports of substantial damage to recently built high-rise apartment buildings started to come in. As people regained composure, they also noticed cracks, small and big, in their still standing concrete houses. Continue reading
[Remembering the day 10 years ago when king Gyanendra staged a bloodless coup. Newspapers reacted very strangely. Follow the link at the end.]
तत्कालीन राजा ज्ञानेन्द्रले कू गरेको १० वर्ष पुगेको अवसरमा आज माघ १९ मा कतिले त्यो दिन अनि त्यो बेलाको सम्झना गरेको देखें । कान्तिपुरका समाचार सम्पादक हरिबहादुर थापा अनि सोहि पत्रिकामा माघ १९ ताकाका समाचार सम्पादक गुणराज लुइटेलका दुइ संस्मरणात्मक लेखहरू क्रमसः कान्तिपुर र सेतोपाटीमा पढें । उल्लेखित दुवैजना माघ १९ को दिन र त्यसताकाका मेरा अग्रज सहकर्मी हुन्, कान्तिपुर दैनिकमा । अनि मलाई पनि त्यसैगरी माघ १९ सम्झिन मनलाग्यो । र, तत्कालै केही ट्वीटहरू लेखें । तव पो झल्यास्य सम्झिएँ, २०६१ माघ १९ (१ फेब्रुअरी २००५) को दिन अनि त्यसपछिका घटनाहरूलाई लिएर मैले उतिबेलै अर्थात् १२ फेब्रुअरी २००५ मै लेख्न भ्याईसकेको रहेछु, “न्यू काइन्ड अफ् जर्नालिज्म इन नेपाल” (भाग १ र २) शिर्षकमा। त्यो लेखमा मैले कसरी माघ २० को कान्तिपुरको सम्पादकीय लेख्ने जिम्मा आइलागेको लगायतका कुरा उल्लेख गरेको थिएँ । कूको भोलिपल्ट चारुमती नृत्यमाथि सामान्य दिनको भन्दा दोब्बर लामो सम्पादकीय सार्है अनपेक्षित थियो। उसो त त्यो दिन सामान्य कहाँ थियो !
=+=Happy to have written that Chaarumati editorial for 20 Magh edition of Kantipur. Was based on my report on same issue published on Magh 19 [Feb 1, 2005]
=+=To be honest, I hadn’t expected to write an editorial that day– let alone on Charumati, that too double the length of the usual piece
=+=Soon after I reached office on Magh 19 knowing King had taken over, the then editor @narayanwagle asked me to write editorial on Charumati.
=+=It wasn’t difficult at all to write the Chaarumati editorial on Magh 19 BUT maintaining the extended length to fill the space was challenging
=+=About those ‘strange’ editorials (this entry was written a week after Magh 19 royal takeover) http://t.co/1vLz8GJJDl
Nice to see some Bakery Cafe New Baneshwor waiters (hearing impaired) taking orders in their Galaxy tabs with customized menu software. Orders entered in the tablets at the tables instantly reach to computers in the kitchen & billing counter via wireless connection. #HitechBC
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मैले अाफू घुम्न अाएको भन्दा सुन्नेले पत्याउन सजिलो थिएन । त्यो अनकन्टार गाउँमा काम नपरी वा कतैबाट सरूवामा नपरी किन पुग्ने । कुरा ठिकै हो । धेरै ठाउँमा त्यसरी नपत्याइएको स्थिति मैले सामना गरेको छु । तै पनि म “हो, घुम्नै अाएको हुँ” भन्न छाड्दिन । एकछिनपछि मान्छेहरू पत्याएजस्तो गर्न थाल्छन् । अनि मलाई वेवास्ता गर्दै उनीहरू अाफ्नै तालमा गफिन थाल्छन् ।
होअोअो… त्यो क्षण । उनीहरूको बीचमै रहेर पनि उनीहरूले मलाई ध्यान नदिएको त्यो क्षण म उनीहरूका अनुहार हेर्दै ध्यानपुर्वक उनीहरूका गफ सुन्न र मनमनै कुराकानीको लवज अठ्याउन रूचाउछु ।
तर अाजको यो साँझ साहुनी अामै (माथि तस्वीरमा नातीनीका जुम्रा हेर्दै) ले मलाई वेवास्ता गर्न छाडेकी रहिन छिन् । म त्यो हुटेलका बेन्चीमा जम्मा भएर बात मारिरहेका पुरूषहरूको गफ सुनिरहेको बेला उनले मेरो अनुहारमा हेर्दै अनि मलाई छक्क पार्दै भनिनन्- “मैले चिने तपैलाईं ! तपै पत्रकार बनेर अाउनुभएको थियो हैन ?” त्यसो भन्दा उनी अाखिभौं उचाल्दै मुस्काईरहेकी थिइन् । सौर्य बत्तीको मधुरो प्रकाशमा उनले मलाई घोरिएर हेरीरहेकी थिइन् ।
म लगभग पक्राउ परेको अवस्थामा पुगेको थिएँ । त्यो किन भने मैले उनीसँगको अलि अघिको कुराकानीमा अाफ्नो परिचय दिएको थिइन ।