Tag Archives: chitwan

Final Day and Visit to Elephant Breeding Center

I had an opportunity to have Tharu food in a stall on the ground. The food, Chicheri was similar to rice and was tasty. “What’s your name?” I asked the girl on my left for this caption. “Lina,” she said. And surname? “Come on,” she replied. “You are in a Tharu food stall.” Lina Chaudhari is a student of BA in a college in Chitwan and she was volunteering in the stall. Pic by Pawan Neupane

28 Dec: The final day of the elephant race. I slept till 3 PM. I read a few pages of The Story of Nobody. I wasn’t feeling well. Subrat Acharya SMSed me saying that the program was about to get over. I was planning to interview the winning elephant rider so I went slowly to the ground. I found an oxen cart on way and jumped over it for the bumpy ride. One guy came after a while and started conversation in broken English thinking that I was a foreigner. Many people have mistaken before. How can a bearded man carrying camera and wearing North Face jacket and trekking trouser be Nepali? I didn’t speak because I knew he was form a hotel or something and wanted me to book room there. When I responded in Nepali to Santosh Acharya, another friend of mine in Nepal Magazine, who was returning from the ground, the boy instantly realized that I wasn’t exactly the one he was looking for. He quickly left the cart but thankfully paid the fare.

I reached at the ground and interviewed (pic, above by Subrat Acharya) the man of the moment: Nasir Ali seated at the back of the elephant of the moment (Janga Bahadur). Here is what I wrote for Kantipur based on the interview:

यति कुरा गरिसकेपछि नासिरको दिमागमा हात्तीको कानमा हुने रहस्य फुत्त आएजस्तो भयो । ‘मान्नुस हात्तीको कान भनेको गाडीको एक्सिलेटर जस्तै हो,’ क्लोजअप मञ्जनको विज्ञापनमा देखिनेजस्ता सेता दात देखाउदै नासिर अलिले भने- ‘जति दबायो उति दौडिन्छ ।’

तर कुनै हात्ती कम र कुनै छिटो किन – निश्चिय नै, त्यो हात्तीको शरीर र बलमा भर पर्ने कुरा हो तर नासिरले फट्ट जवाफ दिए- ‘हजुर उसो त (मोटरसाइकलहरू) स्प्लेन्डर र आरएक्समा पनि फरक हुन्छ । स्प्लेन्डर अलि छिटो दौडिन्छ ।’ लौ, कुरैकुरामा जंगबहादुरको रेकर्ड उल्लेख गर्न बिर्सको । उसलाई तीनसय मिटर जान र सोही बाटो फर्किन फाइनलमा एक मिनेट ३७ दशमलव ३३ सेकेन्ड लागेको थियो । उसलाई दोस्रो हुने पवनकली (एक मिनेट ३७ दशमलव ९७ सेकेन्ड) बाट चर्को दबाब परेको थियो ।

Here is the complete article.

Then we went to Elephant Breeding Center, a few kilometers from the ground. I had been there several years ago which I have already mentioned: with Roberto in 1998. That was quite nostalgic crossing over the muddy river in a boat packed with people. I took a video of the center. Here is the video from the elephant breeding center:

While returning, I bough a bottle of honey. “Hone from tori,” the man said. “How can honey be made from tori?” I asked. Never heard of honey from flower. “Well sir,” the honey is definitely from bees. But bees collected juices from tori. So its tori honey.” I was like wow and instantly paid Rs. 150.

No evening walk for dinner this evening. In the Unique resort folks started singing and dancing as Pawan and I stayed inside reading and sleeping. He was sleeping and I was turning the pages in the dim light of the hotel room. Subrat Acharya came to invite us to join the entertainment and I reluctantly went outside with him. Wasn’t really feeling well but couldn’t really reject his request as well. We outside and ate a piece of roasted chicken. That was warm and tasty.

Elephants of Nepal: Available in All Sizes and Shapes

Wagle Street Journal Photo and Video Blog
Images and video from International Elephant Race in Chitwan, Nepal.

elephants of all size on dispaly in Chitwan, Nepal

Pick up your favorite. Elephants of all sizes were on display just before the International Elephant Race kicked off in Sauraha, Chitwan (Nepal).

elephant with mother

Protected by his mom, a Chhawa (phuchhe elephant) enjoys the sun and human crowd.

elephant with mother

Small is beautiful: Even among Elephants

elephant with mother

He was constantly interacting with curious humans who surrounded him as if he was a monkey.

A video of Elephant Race

In this video taken on the first day of the International Elephant Race in Chitwan, Nepal I have captured the performance of an elephant called Janga Bahadur. Janga Bahadur becomes first in the preliminary round. He also happens to be the winner of the competition covering the distance of 600 meters (two way distance with 300 each) in 1.37.33 minute. There was a tough challenge from Pawan Kali that became second finishing the race in 1.37.97 minute. Here is more in Nepali.

Elephants, Singers and Mahute

old elephant rider chitwan nepal

This Mahute, an employee of Hattisar in Chitwan, shred his experience of riding elephants for forty years. His would carry kings of Nepal in the jungle on his elephants.

27 Dec: I wasn’t feeling well from morning. Pawan Neupane and I went to interview an old man who had ridden elephants of Chitwan National Park for more than 40 years. He shared his experience of riding elephants that were carrying king Mahendra and Birendra. After checking emails in a cyber cafe (Rs. 35 for 30 minutes) at the chowk, I came back to hotel and stayed inside the room reading book and, what else, sleeping. I loved sleeping that day.

In the evening, Pawan and I visited the Hattisar owned by Chitwan National Park and talked to employees there about their life with elephants and how it was taking care of elephants. Conversations couldn’t be in detail as it was getting dark and time for them, the people, to eat.

With a glass of whisky (Royal Stag) in his hand, Milan Lama (middle) sings as Madal and guitar give him company.

We returned to the hotel and headed towards Bagar where we were scheduled to have dinner in a river side restaurant. We met a local folk singer (Keshav Pande’s friend, of course) who had made it big nationally recently with his melody “Majhi dai Pokhara Phewa taal…” and guess what, Keshav Pandey started the duet with him. Milan Lama, the singer, was in another table, about 20 meters far, but that didn’t stop Pande from starting the musical conversation. Milan Lama, who had gone to Sauraha to sing in the cultural program organized on the sidelines of the elephant race, responded. After a while, not being able to deny countless requests from Pande and company, Lama came to our place and the duet got intensified. The singer realized that he that he was now surrounded by journalists and he was excited to sing more and more songs. Every dialogue was delivered in rhythm.

I was too tired to talk to people (I wasn’t feeling well) and I headed to the hotel without waiting for others after we had dinner. I started reading Chekhov after comfortably resting on the bed covered by the blanket.

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.

On Way to Chitwan. Singing and Clapping

After reaching in Shora Khutte in a cab from Tinkune, we boarded a packed micro bus from Sohra Khutte. Pawan Neupane of the Kathmandu Post, Nabaraj Wagle, part time photographer of Kantipur Publications, Santosh Acharya of Nepal Magazine and myself (Dinesh Wagle of Kantipur daily) were in the initial group. We met a few other reporters, including Subrat Acharya of Saptahik who was coordinating the arrival of journalists, there in Shora Khutte and left for Chitwan at about 3 PM.

Keshav Pande, as Sharada of Radio Sagarmatha would declare later, was indeed “the Man of the Series.” He sang countless folk and duet songs and danced in bus and dinner tables.

Soon guys started singing duets and antaksharis and it took me no time to conclude that Keshav Pande, the man responsible for taking the group of journalists to Chitwan, was a folk master. Someone must have done a unforgivable crime by making Kehsav Pande a hotel entrepreneur. He is born to be a lok gayak. He possessed this capacity of turning anything into a song. Elephants screamed from his cell phone as he had set the sound of the animal as the ring tone. Huarrrrrrrr… Sorry, forget the exact sound. Anyway, I tried reading the Chekhov book (The Story Of A Nobody) but it was difficult to concentrate in front of Keshav Pande’s continuous entertainment. His folk songs using English words were hilarious. I liked his spirit and frankness though I later I sensed that he was singing more and doing his duty of providing us information about the event less. I reluctantly took part in antakshari and clapping and suggested a few songs to my group. (In antakshari, you sing songs starting from the last letter of the sentence of the song sang by your opponents.)

a gaine, traditional Nepali singer, in Malekhu of Dhading district

A gaine, traditional Nepali singer, trying to earn his living by entertaining customers of a fish shop in Malekhu

We stopped for machha in Malekhu, the town famous for fish, and enjoyed the music of a gandarva while chewing fish and potato chops. Jokes cracked by Narayan Bhandari of HBC FM made us burst into laughter. “Aru kehi palna sakiyena, yeti ta palnai paryo ni,” was his reply when someone asked about his beards. [I could raise nothing so putting these beards.] That’s my favorite dialogue in the whole trip. I am sporting thick beards these days and I will fire the same line to anyone who talks about my beards. Later, when he saw me he said, “Good to meet you who have beards.” He was one of the most interesting characters I encountered in the trip though he didn’t spend time with us as he was staying in different hotel with separate group.

The musical tour ended as we reached Sauraha and stayed in Unique Wild Resort. Keshav Pande is the sales director of the resort, if I remember correctly what was printed in his visiting card, and he almost demonstrated his salesmanship by offering one room to four reporters! There were two beds (one double and one single) and he said that he would manage another bed on the floor for the fourth member. “You guys want to enjoy the trip, don’t you?” was his argument! Pissed off by his idea I instantly clarified that we were not there to share bed and sleep on the floor. Pawan and I shared the room as Nabaraj and Santosh shared another.