Tag Archives: nepal

Watching a Nepali Movie: An Experience

And the experience was horrible.

arunima lamsal with mom n dad

Actress Arunima Lamsal in a premiere show of her sixth movie Abhimanyu in a Kathmandu theater on Friday, 5 Jan. Pics by Bikas Rauniar

Two days ago, I watched a Nepali movie called Abhimanyu (name of a character in ancient epic Mahabharat who falls into a spiral and is killed by enemies). It was kind of compulsion to go to the theater and see the ‘action and comedy drama’. As a reporter you have to face such situations. People in film fraternity always lament: Why Kantipur is not covering Nepali films? As the coordinator of the arts and style section of the paper, I have to handle such complains. After I got invitation to attend the premiere show of the movie in Kathmandu, I decided to watch the film and, if possible, write something about it.

If you compare Nepali films with Hollywood and Bollywood movies, you will find the former completely avoidable. Produced with comparatively low budget, Nepali films are poor in quality and other benchmarks. An average Nepali film’s standard budget is around Rs. 4.5 million (slightly more than US $ 55 thousands). Don’t compare our films with Hollywood and Bollywood flicks, Nepali film makers constantly warn reporters and other critics. Keep in mind, they say, Nepali film industry and its market is limited. “We are a very small industry and only lower class people watch our films,” said a Nepali film director recently.

Whatever they say, you can’t stop yourself from comparing. First, the theater (Shiv Darshan in New Baneshwor) was a mess. It was a disaster. How can you enjoy a cinema in such a dirty theater? Chairs were filthy and broken. Somehow I managed to get seated in one of those. They were kept in such a congested manner that I had to remain either straight or leaning forward all the time. If I leaned back, my knees wouldn’t get enough space and push the seat in front of me. Walls are dirty and torn out.

There are only three or four good cinema halls in Kathmandu where you find relatively good environment to watch cinemas. For example, Kumari and Jai Nepal are the most sophisticated and clean theaters in Kathmandu. Rests are like this one.

As soon as the movie Abhimanyu ran on the screen people started hooting sarcastically. Credit lines were displayed in reverse. “Oh saala negative po dekhayo,” someone screamed from behind. Then the screen went blank for a few minutes.

naresh poudyal director of abhimanyu Naresh Paudyal is the director of Abhimanyu Just in front of me was a lady with, I guessed, her daughter on her left and her husband on the right. It took me no time to realize that the ‘daughter’ was the actress of the movie: Arunima Lamsal. As the film got rolled, the family started talking. I was more interested in overhearing their chats and whispers than seeing the movie. Father and mother kept asking “where is this?” almost every time the location changed on the screen. Sometime they laughed on the comedy scenes. My impression is that father wanted to encourage his daughter who was playing in her sixth movie. Father, Bikarm Sharma is an auditor, I would learn later and mother Radha Lamsal was a TV actress.

The crowd in the theater was a disaster too. Folks were talking loud and every time the hero came to rescue his girl or kicked the villain, they would scream ‘ho, ho, ho’ and ‘ha, ha, ha’ and clap. Mobile phones were constantly ringing and chaps were talking in loud voice: hall ma chhu ma, film heri ra ko chhu. [I am in the theater watching a movie.] Oh… the conversation wouldn’t end on that note. It would be extended; the caller would laugh loudly responding to the person on the other side. You can’t hear the dialogue of the film properly.

The film sounds so unnatural, at least to me. It’s a paradox that people love to relate a work of fiction with reality they live in. I could easily see the research part of the movie was super flop. Do people use full and formal sentences all the time in their daily and casual conversation? I don’t and no one in my house or office does so.

Documentaries and non fiction films are gaining popularity in urban Nepal market recently compared to feature films. But the director of Abhimanyu, Naresh Paudyal, had a different argument. “We make films for mainstream audience,” he said, “not for the pseudo-intellectuals of Kathmandu city.” So that was his answer for the rising popularity of non fiction films in Kathmandu. He said the audience of such creations was very limited.

The show was over and oh boy it was a big relief. Why did I stay in the theater for the whole show? Because I saw story for my newspaper in the family conversation! I wanted to take their photo and talk to the parent of the actress Arunima Lamsal. That’s what I did and made a story.

[Here is the story that was published in yesterday’s Kantipur daily]

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Web 2.0 in Nepal and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year

time magazine person of the year cover“Congratulations,” says my Kantipur daily colleague Sudeep Shrestha. “YOU have been named Person of the Year by Time Magazine.”

“Congratulations to you as well,” I respond. After all, YOU are also included in that you. “But you really deserve the accolade,” he says. “Because you were one of those who posted content on the web. I rarely did that.” Still, I said, accept the congratulations yar. “After all, you are also an Internet user.”

As I get down from the office building, another note of congratulation comes from Shohan Shrestha, news chief at Kantipur TV. “Congratulations,” he said, firmly shaking hands as I was heading towards Jai Nepal to watch the movie Kabul Express. [The movie wasn’t really as per my expectation. You can see same old Pakistan bashing that you can find in any other Indian movies. The movie spends most of the time in proving that Taliban members are from Pakistani army. This is exactly why, I think, Indians can’t make any movie of international class. Because of load shedding in Kathmandu, we faced technical hitch in the theater but the sound of constant chit chat coming from behind our seat was enjoyable. The girls, apparently from a college in Kathmandu, were hilarious.]

So that was our way of receiving the announcement of Time Magazine’s person of the year award. That was three days ago. As soon as I saw the news of Time POY in the wire, I was excited and translated the item for my newspaper. I like the idea of declaring persons or things as person of the year but sometime get disappointed that majority of POY are Americans (an editorial, posted below, from Hindustan Times points out the fact). I enjoyed reading the article on the web when about Time Magazine’s choice of computer as the person of year in 1980 (I think). After the news about Time’s Person of the Year got published on the last page of Kantipur, waves of congratulations started coming in.

But the celebration and those congratulations might be exaggeration version of our reality. Interactive Internet services (Web 2.0) have gained popularity among net users in Nepal as well. There are quite a few blogs and interactive web sites where user generated content plays vital role. But we are still far behind in posting contents in the web as compared to many developed countries. We can say we are in progress but our economy is the main challenge for that. We have an economy that is growing in a very slow pace and many people, I am talking about the educated ones, are deprived of access to computer and internet. Still we are hoping that the internet will be cheaper in coming days and more and more people will be connected in the World Wide Web. The challenge for now is to increase Nepali or Nepal related content on the web as Internet has already become a starting point for almost every thing.

Here are two editorials about Time POY in two Indian newspapers:

Hindustan Times: It sounds highly flattering, but when Time magazine puts you on the cover, do consider the possibility of journalistic laziness as a reason for the news magazine bestowing you the honour. For you to beat the likes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and former American Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld could lead to a skewed understanding of how important you have been in the global scheme of things over the last one year. But then, making a character from the Axis of Evil-Plus get the coveted spot sends out even more dangerous signals these days.

But there could be another reason why you get to be on this year’s cover. Since 1995, all of Time’s Persons of the Year have been Americans, starting from former US Speaker Newt Gingrich right down to last year’s trinity of Bono (he’s as Irish as M Night Shyamalan is Indian) and Bill and Melinda Gates.

Making an easily recognisable (for the American subscriber, that is) non-American the Person of the Year can be devilishly difficult. This is usually worked around by putting Aishwarya Rai et al on the cover of the Asian edition of the magazine. While this gives every Time reader in India the idea that an Indian has finally become the global toast, that Ms Rai’s photograph doesn’t adorn a tabletop in Houston or in Zurich tells the real, smart picture. But you don’t, you can’t localise a Person of the Year. So it had to be you, anonymous blogger or user of sites like YouTube. But you don’t feel that feted, do you?

Times of India: You don’t get only 15 minutes of fame anymore; You get an entire year. Time magazine has hailed You as the person and phenomenon that defined 2006. The millions of people behind all the user-generated content on the World Wide Web, with its blogs, file-sharing portals, social networking sites and collaborative encyclopaedias, have taken the wheel of the world and the place of traditional great men.

According to Time magazine, there were certainly ‘People Who Mattered’, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, Pope Benedict XVI, Hu Jintao, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, but none of these quite compared with the average Joes, the citizens and architects of the new digital democracy.

The shift began at least two years ago, with the emergence of Web 2.0, the second generation of Internet services that emphasised collaboration and sharing between users. Whether it is reporting news, sharing camcorder footage of wars or terrorist attacks, reviewing products on Amazon or simply telling your own story on video blogs, a million voices are creating new dissonant and fluid realities.

History is no longer about what those in power choose to do and, more importantly, choose to reveal. History is now about what You have to say. So over to You.

Traffic Chaos in Kathmandu

So the winter has arrived in Kathmandu. People have started putting on thick clothes like jackets and sweaters. I got well, as of now, and back to the daily business of news, blogs and talks. The effects of Protest Politics in Kathmandu are still visible and they are causing problems to Kathmanduits. The other day it was a strike in Satdobato area and hundreds of school kids couldn’t return home until late evening because of traffic blockade. Yesterday, it was a strike in Pepsi Cola and people in Gothataar area (including me) faced difficulties in reaching their destinations in other parts of the city. The strike in Pepsi Cola (this is actually a place if you didn’t know, on way to Sano Thimi from Koteshwor, where the factory of Pepsi is located!) was extended to Jadibuti and the traffic in Araniko Highway is blocked today. People residing near the Airport say that they haven’t been compensated by the airport for their land. I see they have a reason to protest but they don’t need to block the road and create havoc. There are other means of voicing their demands.

I reached my office via a long and bumpy route that went through Guheshwori, Gaushala and Tinkune. “Oh… this is a chance to get darshan of Pashupatinath,” commented one of the passengers in the bus. “Oh..bie, a chance for darshan,” responded the girl sitting next to me. And she moved her hand from chest to head. “Tapaile ta dhognu bhayena ta. Bhagwan mannu hunna ki kya ho?” I smiled and defended, “No, no. It’s not like that. I do respect the god.” I always wonder why people do the long distance darshan bhet with the by waving their hands between their head and chest.

So it was a long journey from home to office today. In Koteshwor, the traffic is a mess. A disappoint trend has started in Nepal these days: Road has become the most convenient place to vent anger. If you want to protest, just go to the road and lie down there. Traveling in the city has become difficult because of these kind of small scale protests, I don’t know how many. The good news of the week is that the ruling alliance of seven parties and the Maoists has agreed on the contents of the Interim Constitution. That’s encouraging but the problem it seems is with our psyche. Ke bhayeko yo? Joi Poi ko jhagada pani aba ta sadak ma aaula ra traffic jam hola bhanne pir! [What’s happening? I am worrying that hubbies and wives of the town might bring their “bilateral disputes” on the road to block the traffic!]

For the record: I was busy, very busy, with retrieving achieves of UWB from the Archives.org Way Back Machine. It’s quite tiresome process but I am taking it as fun. My principle is: enjoy whatever work you do. Sad that we lost all the contents of UWB in February last year. Hum, now I should start retrieving the data. See you later!

Internet Connection in Nepal and Web Sites Problem

Internet connection in Nepal is slow, expensive and limited. It is advanced and improved compared to how it was a few years ago. But, it seems, we are taking yet another leap in terms of increasing speed and reducing price! Nepal Telecom is at the last phase of striking deals with two Indian companies that, I hope, will ‘revolutionize’ the Internet habit in Nepal. Fast connection in fewer prices! No need to wait for minutes to download a small file or upload a few KBs. No frustrations!

I started writing this blog three days ago and today I read very pleasant news in the Kathmandu Post. (I know you don’t need faster Inernet connection to write on MS Word but I will explain what kept me busy in the past few days in later paragraphs.) The Post report by Rupak D. Sharma says that Nepal Telecom will soon reduce the price of ISDN and leased line internet connection soon. I hope that also applies with dial up connection. NT will buy bandwidth from Indian companies BSNL and Bharati via the fiber optic lines and that will be cheaper by 75 percent. I am also eagerly waiting to have a Sky Phone card from Nepal Telecom which will let me use Internet on my laptop and make me mobile. Then, I hope, I can browse web sites from anywhere in Kathmandu! It seems NT will take couple of weeks to distribute such cards.

Currently, monthly tariff of 64 kbps leased line connectivity is fixed at Rs 18,000, while monthly tariff rate of unlimited and dedicated Internet access of 128 kbps through ISDN dialup is fixed at Rs 13,600. Once the decision is implemented, the monthly tariff of leased line connectivity will go down to as low as Rs 6,000 and monthly tariff of ISDN dialup will go down to around Rs 4,500. “The price reduction is expected to benefit companies engaged in development of IT applications and software for foreign companies, firms providing other IT related services at international level, Internet service providers and individuals, professional organizations, agencies and other business houses that require high speed data connection,” Bhattarai said.

The announcement to revise Internet tariff rates was made soon after BSNL, an Indian telecom company, gave its consent to provide bandwidth at a cost 75 percent less than that being provided by other international vendors. “The state owned Indian telecom company, has agreed to supply per mbps of symmetric bandwidth at a cost of US$ 1,800 using the East-West optical fiber link, compared to US$ 7,400 being charged by international vendors that use satellite to make the transfer,” Bhattarai said.

According to Bhattarai, NT will procure symmetric bandwidth of 8 mbps, each, in the initial phase using optical fiber links at Biratnagar and Birgunj, which will later be increased to 155 mbps. “An agreement to this extent would be signed between the two companies within a week,” he said. Bhattarai also informed that NT was in process of reaching an understanding with another Indian telecom company, Bharati Airtel, through which it plans to obtain 34 mbps of bandwidth. “We are waiting for the Indian government’s approval. As soon as the Indian government grants the permission to start inter-country data transfer service, NT will sign another agreement with the company,” he said. read in detail

Now, the original subject. Past few days were both interesting and not so interesting and I was busy, most of the time, and was super busy once. Trial and error is one phrase that could best describe the day of Thursday Nov 30. Learning by experience, doing foolish mistake and trying to correct that. As I was trying to set up Blogmandu (nepali.blog.com.np), at around 9 AM, I realized I had messed up with United We Blog! and, guess what, without eating for hours we were involved in fixing the site. We? International? Other partner in the noble effort of brining back UWB into life was Mahesh Poudyal in the United Kingdom. Actually, he was the one who did everything where as I was mostly sitting in front of my computer crossing fingers. Gmail’s chat service was useful for international typing conversation. The timing was superb, I had just downed the site and he had just woken up his body from the bed. Coincidently, he had paid for setting up the two sub domains (other will remain undisclosed for the time being) a day before. I was supposed to install Word Press on the new one but threw out the existing one from UWB. (I would also like to thank Sakar Bhusal in Texas for his generous offer to fix the problem. Also thanks to Prabesh Subedi for his initial suggestions.)

It was indeed a great learning experience for me as I realized the importance of a username inside the database system! I had deleted one of the usernames to make the site unusable. And while trying to reinstall Word Press, the site briefly went out of my control. I would also like to thank Rajib Dahal for giving me back the username and password of the newly installed WordPress minutes before Mahesh nullified that from Admin panel. I was pissed off to see a blog post on UWB filled with question marks (what happened?????????? or something like that) from Rajib who appeared to be confused about the site’s status. It took me for about 15 minutes to realize that Rajib possessed the control of the site unintentionally. Some people thought the site was downed again. As soon as Rajib knew the site was being fixed, he gave me back the username etc. (It was disturbed twice before. I still remember that day, or that moment, when I discovered the site was downed as a camera was capturing me trying to log in to the site. Japanese TV NHK camera crew was following my blogging and reporting activities and I was trying to post a blog in front of the camera. When I entered my username and password, an error message was displayed. What I told to the reporter? “Well, this site came into service only a few days ago and it seems I have forgotten the new user name and password. The reality was different and it was black!)

Then there was a challenge to upload the huge backup file but Mahesh managed to do that. Thank You! Also thanks to his 2 MBPS Internet connection 🙂 I think that would be almost impossible to upload if I were to do the same from my computer in Kathmandu. It’s a terrible connection here. When will Nepal Telecom bring the fiber optic cables that have already been put under the East West highway? Yes, that’s what we discussed about as I was struggling with the connection in Kathmandu. And you already know the latest if you have started reading this post from the beginning. So days ahead are bright, folks!

स्याब्रुका डाक्टर काठमाडौंका राजदूत

Andrew Hall, the British Ambassador to Nepal

दिनेश वाग्ले

हाईस्कुल पास गरेपछि सन् १९६९ मा हजुरबाका साथीको उक्साहटमा यात्रामा निस्केका अंग्रेज काठमाडौं ओर्लिए । ककनीस्थित बेलायती राजदूतको बंगलामा थकाई मारेपछि ती १८ वर्षे ‘व्याकप्याकर’ अन्नपूर्ण पदयात्रामा हानिए । एन्ड्रयु हल नामका तीनै यात्री दुई साता अगाडि नेपाल आएका छन्- बेलायती राजदूतका रूपमा ।

‘आफ्नो दोस्रो घर आएको छु,’ पहिलो प्रेस अन्तर्वार्तामा ५६ वर्षे एन्ड्रयुले कान्तिपुरसँग भने- ‘मौका मिल्नासाथ मेरो गाउँ पनि गइहाल्ने छु ।’ त्यो गाउँ रसुवाको ठूलो स्याब्रु हो जहाँ एन्ड्रयुले कूटनीतिमा लाग्नुपूर्व १९७७ मा त्यस क्षेत्रका तामाङहरूमा तिब्बती बुद्धवादको प्रभाव’bout पीएचडी अध्ययन गरेका थिए । ‘गाउँमा साथी छन्,’ अवकाश प्राप्त एकजना गोर्खा सैनिकको घरमा बसेको सम्भिmने मानवशास्त्री डाक्टरले भने- ‘समाचार सुनाइरहन्छन् ।’

समाचारहरू सकारात्मक छन् । नेपाली समाज, उनले भने- खुला र चलायमान भएको छ । ‘पहिले उनीहरू एक ठाउँबाट अर्कोमा पुग्ने कुरा कठिन थियो,’ मानवशास्त्रीले थपे- ‘पूर्वाधारको फैलावटले जीवनलाई सहज पार्दै नेपालीहरूलाई बढी नजिक तुल्याएको छ । नेपाली समाज समावेशीकृत भइरहेको छ ।’ बितेका दशकमा प्रजातन्त्रले अधिकारसम्पन्न तुल्याएका नेपालीहरू आफ्नो हकप्रति पहिलेभन्दा बढी सजग भएको उनले अनुभव गरेका छन् ।

‘(प्रजातन्त्र आउनुपूर्व) जनसंगठन भन्नु नै नेपाली काङ्ग्रेसलगायतका एकाध पार्टी थिए,’ कूटनीतिज्ञले भने- ‘अहिले हेर्नुस् कति दबाब समूहहरू छन् । सबै अबको संविधानसभा चुनावमा आफ्नो हितको प्रतिनिधित्व गराउन प्रतिबद्ध छन् । वास्तवमा यस्तै समूहहरूले हो प्रजातन्त्रलाई दरिलो तुल्याउने ।’ नेपालको यो ऐतिहासिक क्ष्ाणमा बेलायती राजदूत हुनुका चुनौती बुझेको बताउने मानवशास्त्रीले द्वन्द्वलाई पछाडि राखेर विकासको मार्गमा अगाडि बढ्न नेपाललाई सघाउनु आफ्नो कार्यकालको प्राथमिकता हुने उल्लेख गरे । ‘पूर्ण प्रजातान्त्रिक प्रणालीको पुनःस्थापना गर्नु आवश्यक छ,’ उनले थपे ।

नेपाललाई दोस्रो घर भन्नु पछाडि स्याब्रु बसाइ र केही भ्रमणमात्रै छैनन् । सन् ८० को दशकमा बारम्बार नेपाल आएका एन्ड्रयु १९९१ देखि तीन वर्षसम्म काठमाडौं दूतावासमा डिपुटी हेड अफ मिसन थिए । त्यतिबेलाको कार्य प्रगतिका कारण उनलाई महारानीबाट अफिसर अफ द अर्डर अफ बि्रटीस इम्पायर (ओबिई) सम्मान मिल्यो । उनकी कान्छी छोरीले यहीँको लिङ्कन स्कुलमा पढेकी थिइन्, जेठी तीन वर्षमै आमासँग स्याबु्रमा बसेकी थिइन् । ‘नेपाली भाषा यहाँ बस्दा सुधि्रएजस्तो हुन्छ,’ राजदूतले अंग्रेजीमा भने- ‘उता गएपछि बिर्सिएजस्तो भइहाल्छ । स्याब्रुमा तामाङ भाषा सिकेको थिएँ तर पुस्तक र शिक्षक अभावले पढ्न सकिन ।’ (जेठी छोरी बेलायतमा पढाउँछिन् भने कान्छी स्पेनमा पर्यटन कम्पनीमा काम गर्छिन् ।)

Andrew Hall, the British Ambassador to Nepal

पहिलो नेपाल भ्रमण एन्ड्रयुका लागि असरदार सावित भयो । फर्केर स्नातकको पढाइ थाल्दा उनले मानवशास्त्र मुख्य विषय बनाउने निधो गरे । कलेजका धेरैजसो शिक्षक मानवशास्त्री भएकाले उत्साह मिल्यो । सन् ५० को दशकमा नेपाल आएर ‘शेर्पाज अफ नेपाल’ पुस्तकका लेख्ने मानवशास्त्री क्रिस्टोफ भोन फ्युरेर-हाइमेन्डोर्फ’bout थाहा पाएपछि एन्ड्रयु उनले पढाउने युनिभर्सिटी अफ लन्डनको ‘स्कुल अफ आरियन्टल एन्ड अपि|mकन स्टडिज’ मा एमएमा भर्ना भएका थिए । ‘मानवशास्त्र छान्ने र नेपालमा अध्ययन गर्ने निर्णय एकैसाथ भएको थियो,’ उनले भने- ‘पहिलो भ्रमणमै मैले नेपाल आएर अनुसन्धान गर्ने सोचेको थिए ।’

त्यही सोचअनुसार पीएचडी अनुसन्धानका लागि उनी १९७७ मा सपरिवार काठमाडौं आए । काठमाडौं नजिकैको गाउँ छान्नुपर्ने बाध्यता थियो भने अरूले अध्ययन नगरेको विषय छान्नुपर्ने चुनौती । ‘छोरीलाई केही भइहालेमा तत्कालै अस्पताल ल्याउन सक्ने ठाउँमा जानुपर्ने थियो,’ दुई छोरीका बाबुले सम्भिmए- ‘हरेक मानवशास्त्री अरूले नछोएको विषयमा अध्ययन गर्न चाहन्छ । शेर्पा’bout क्रिस्टोफरले किताब लेखिसकेका थिए, गुरुङ र थकाली’bout पनि कसैले काम थालिसकेको थियो । तामाङहरू’bout कसैले अध्ययन गरेको छैन भन्ने थाहा पाउनासाथ मैले नक्सा हेरंे नेपालको ।’ उनीहरू नुवाकोट र रसुवा नजिकै बस्ने जानकारी बटुलेपछि उनी श्रीमती र छोरीलाई लिएर सम्भाव्यता अध्ययनका लागि निस्के । ‘त्रिशूलीबाट उकालो लाग्यौं,’ उनले भने- ‘दुई/तीनवटा गाउँमा केही दिन बितायौं । गाउँलेहरू सहयोगी थिए या शत्रुवत्, थाहा पाउनु थियो । ठूलो स्याब्रु आएपछि चाहिँ सबै कुरा ठीकठाक लाग्यो । दोस्रो विश्वयुद्धमा लिविया र इटालीमा लडेका एकजना गोर्खा सैनिक रहेछन् । उनलाई वाइन पिउने र स्पागेटी खाने कुराको ज्ञान थियो । पश्चिमी कुरा बुझ्ने कम्तीमा एकजना भएकाले सजिलो भयो ।’

पीएचडी अध्ययन गरेर फर्केपछि एन्ड्रयु विश्वविद्यालयमा पढाउने कामको आशामा थिए । तर आर्थिक समस्या आउन थालेपछि शैक्षिक संस्थाहरूमा भर्ती रोकिएको थियो । ‘छोरी र पत्नी थिए, म पनि २८ वर्षको भइसकेको थिएँ, जागिर आवश्यक थियो,’ डाक्टरले भने- ‘त्यसैबेला मनपर्ने पत्रिका ‘गार्जियन’ मा विज्ञापन देखें । विदेश मन्त्रालयलाई दक्षिण एसिया विशेषज्ञ चाहिएछ । नेपाली गाउँमा बसेको तथा भारतसमेत घुमेको हुनाले आवेदन दिएँ । तर आस थिएन । अचम्मै भयो, जागिर पाएँ ।’

यसपालि पनि अचम्मै लागेको थियो, एन्ड्रयुलाई नेपालमा राजदूतका लागि छनोट हुँदा । ‘यहाँ राजदूत खाली भएको थाहा पाएपछि मैले आवेदन दिएँ,’ यहाँ आउनु अगाडि भारतको कोलकातास्थित कन्सुलरमा उपउच्चायुक्त एन्ड्रयुले भने- ‘पाउँछु भन्ने लागेकै थिएन । मेरोभन्दा धेरै तगडा सीभी भएका सहकर्मीहरू प्रतिस्पर्धामा थिए ।’ अन्तर्वार्ता दिइरहेको आफ्नो कार्यकक्षतिर एकसरो नियालेपछि राजदूतले थपे- ‘अचम्मै भयो । यो त मेरा लागि सपना साकार भए बराबर हो । नेपालमा राजदूत हुनु ठूलो जिम्मेवारी हो । म गौरवान्वित र उत्साहित छु, ।’

राजदूत हुन पाएकामा गौरवान्वित बेलायतीलाई मानवशास्त्र पढेर कूटनीतिमा करिअर बनाउनुपरेकोमा पछुतो छैन । ‘दुवै उस्तै विषय हुन्,’ उनले भने- ‘समाजको अध्ययन गर्ने र बुझ्ने । कूटनीतिज्ञले पनि विदेशी समाजमा बसेर त्यहाँका मानिसलाई बुझ्ने प्रयास गर्छ । बुझेका कुरालाई मानवशास्त्रीले विश्वविद्यालयमा पठाउँछ, कूटनीतिज्ञले आफ्नो देशको विदेश मन्त्रालयमा ।’

त्यो त एन्ड्रयुले गर्ने नै छन्, एकपटक फेरि त्यो पहिलो नेपाल भ्रमण उल्लेख गरौं । ‘हजुरबाका साथी’ सर क्रिस्टोफर समरह्याएस सन् ५० को दशकमा नेपालमा राजदूत थिए जसले काठमाडौं दूतावासका एकजना कर्मचारीलाई लेखेको पत्र बोकेर तन्नेरी आएका थिए । नेपाल घुमेपछि मोरक्को पुगेका १९ वर्षे त्यहाँ बिदा मनाउन गएकी बेलायती युवती क्याथीसँग ‘एकै नजरमा प्रेममा’ परे । लगत्तै प्रेमी जोडी नेपाल फक्र्यो । ‘उनको बिदा कम थियो,’ प्रस्टै लजाएका एन्ड्रयुले ती रोमाञ्चकारी दिन सम्भिmए- ‘त्यसैले हतारमै म अघिल्लो वर्ष पुगेका ठाउँहरूमा पुग्यौं ।’ त्यो भ्रमणमा नेपालबाट प्रभावित क्याथीले बिहे गरेपछि एन्ड्रयुको पीएचडीका लागि त्रिशूलीबाट ठूलो स्याब्रुसम्मको थुप्रै पदयात्राहरूलाई स्वभाविक रूपमा लिएकी थिइन् । ‘अब त बूढो भइयो,’ राजदूतले फेरि लजाएजस्तो गरेर भने- ‘बूढो भएको सोच्दा डर लाग्छ । पहिलेकै जस्तो जोसले हिँड्न त नसकिए पनि अवश्य पुग्नेछु ।’

>> Click here for the English version of this article.

Week Review: Animal Nepal & Judith Miller

I am wondering how my week passed away. I didn’t actually realize it. Only two things I remember is that I worked a lot and I wasn’t feeling very well throughout the week. Did that sound contradictory? Okay, then that’s what is the truth. It’s an old tradition for me that I suffer from cold on a regular basis. Winter has arrived in Kathmandu with a big bang. So, it is not unusual for me to get caught up by the Hurricane Winter. I am trying to defy this. Yes, because I feel I should defy. And I am feeling like being successful in this crusade.

I always wanted to be damn busy- busy with my works. That’s what I am having now- busy days. Sometime I feel too tired but then I feel I wanted this. Sometime I want more hours to work but that is beyond my control.

While doing a story about pet keeping in Kathmandu I met a couple of interesting people this week. They are people associated with AnimalNepal.org, an NGO that has made its mission of creating awareness in Nepal about respectable pet keeping. We have too many problems in our society. Political problem is the biggest. Some people might question the work of AnimalNepal saying that we have much bigger problem than that. But I think we should not bear such cynical attitude while commenting on such people. What I think is that at least they are doing something in a country where very few positive works are being done.

Resignation of Judith Miller from New York Times came as big news for me. Going through Washington Post and the Times about her ’scandal’ was quite an experience. The Post’s analysis about Miller was superb. I tried to translate parts of that report and news published in the Times for my paper. I also recommended the Post article to some of my colleagues. That is a must read because that gives the inside knowledge about how American journalism works. By the way, I liked Judy’s web site as well. I knew about that from her letter to the Times.

Nepal’s Polyandry Tradition: Young Men Don’t Want to Share Their Wife With Brothers in Kimathanka

LIFE IS a Journey. I have been to the far east and the far west regions of Nepal but have not crossed more than a kilometer of its international boundaries yet. Reporting is my profession. I get some opportunities to travel on assignment.

I still remember my October 2001 Kimathanka trip that also included visit to some easily accessible parts of eastern Nepal. It took me 6 days (of walking) to reach Kimathanka from Khadbaari, the district headquarter of Sankhuwasawa. This is one of the toughest trails and remotest destinations I have ever walked and reached. Shyam Prasad Niraula, a Khadbaari-based reporter with Kantipur, and a local guy named Chandra, who helped me by carrying my baggage, accompanied me in all those ‘difficult’ 10 days.
On our way to the village that borders China, we saw amazing landscapes and  hardships of Nepali rural life. We experienced local lifestyle and talked with members of a unique polyandry family. Read about that journey here along with the story of a polyandry family of Kimathanka.

Neighbors and nearby villagers have started making fun of men who share their wife.

Polyandry family of Kimathanka

Polyandry family of Kimathanka, Nepal.

By Dinesh WAGLE

KIMATHANKA: It was beyond their imagination. The fathers could not have  imagined doing what their son did. The oldest son of two fathers and a mother married two girls. The first marriage was already fixed as per the Nawa (a Sherpa cast) tradition of Kimathanka when both prospective bride and groom were kids. After a few years bride entered the groom’s house and gave birth to a daughter.

But Dawa, son of two brothers Chhindum Nawa, 38, and Rinjin Nawa, 35, and their shared wife Rishe Chyawa, fell in love with another girl. Dawa surely didn’t want to live like his fathers by sharing his wife with his brothers. Therefore, at the age of 20, Dawa fled to Kathmandu with his beloved. It takes 6 days of walk and a-day-long bus ride to reach the capital city from Kimathanka.

According to the information provided by his shocked fathers and mother who live in Kimathanka village of Sankhuwasabha district, Dawa “now works for a trekking agency in Kathmandu.” After her husband left her, the co-wife (first wife of Dawa) left the house as well. Now she lives in her natal home in the same village with their her 3-year-old daughter, the token of her relationship with Dawa that didn’t last long. (But Dawa’s first wife is still very loved in by his parents. They said: “We love her very much but what could the poor girl possibly do when her husband abandons her for another woman?”)

The polyandry tradition in Kimathanka and Ridak, the northern remote villages bordering China, is gradually vanishing. Dawa is not the first person from the same family to go against the age old tradition. Chhiring, 50, Dawa’s uncle (eldest brother his fathers) has married two wives. Chhiring has two sons and a daughter from his first wife, and two sons and two daughters from the second. According to Chhindum and Rinjin, their brother was “separated from the family when we were around 7 years old.” The trios themselves had two fathers.

nepalese sheep boy

Because there is no school in his village Hatia, near Kimathanka, this boy’s daily duty is to ‘study’ sheep. In this picture taken in the evening, he is seen leading his subjects back into the farmhouse.

It’s not unusual in Nepali society to see a man marrying two or even three wives. The infighting between/among sautas (multiple wives of a man) is pervasive in the society. Brothers too fight while dividing their parental property during separation. But, look at Chhindum and Rinjin- the two brothers who have been sharing a wife in Rishe Chyawa. You could feel that they are not just sharing a wife but also sharing their bodies, their hearts. They even share a pipe while drink Tongwa (home made alcohol). When I was in their home to have a cup of Yak milk on October 18th, both brothers were drinking Tongwa from the same pipe as their wife sat nearby. On her lap was an infant. Other five children were around their mother. Between them was the hearth.

They were speaking the local Tibetan language. The older brother told the younger: “Brother, drink some Tongwa.” The younger replied: “I am drinking brother, you also drink.” The 41-year-old Sherpeni (wife of a Sherpa, or rather two Sherpas!) who had been getting affection from two husbands was busy feeding her kids. She was giving them Tibetan tea- mixture of salt, ghee and yak milk.

(This family’s 18-year-old second son is a 5th grader in a nearby primary school. His further education is uncertain as there is no high school nearby. The nearest one is 6-days walk away, in Khandbari, the district headquarter. Fourth child Uchhen is 6 years old, a first grader. 13-year-old daughter Chippa doesn’t go to school. “There is no one in the house to work,” told one of her fathers. The 5-year-old Yunchhuk is the 5th child and Pema, the 6th is 3 years old.)

Chhindum hardly understands Nepali language. Rinjin speaks the national language fluently. After cleaning a glass very carefully and putting fresh Yak milk on fire, Rinjin said: “We two brothers are living with the same wife.” Finally he came to the topic I was trying to talk about!

This family has 22 hybrid yaks. The environment of Kimathanka, where snow falls only 3 months a year, is not suitable for the cattles. That is why the brothers take their yaks up on the hills- in the vast terrain of high snowy hills that could be reached from their home after walking for two days. Turn by turn, these brothers take care of the yaks in the shed. It’s time of snow fall in Kimathanka. After bringing down the yaks, both brothers were relaxing by sitting together on the leather of yak and drinking Tongwa in front of their wife.

If you give attentive ear to these brothers you will know that there are certain reasons behind the polyandry tradition in this village. The farming land is precious little, and production is very much less compared to the efforts for cultivating. If all brothers marry different women that will lead to separation of the family. That, in turn, will results in the division of land. That means less food production.

While one brother goes to the hilltop to rear yaks, another lives in home with wife. By that division of labor both yaks and home are taken care of. This makes life somewhat easier also. “You can even be rich living with a shared wife,” Rinjin told as he poured the hot milk in a glass. “Property has to be divided if you live with separate wife. This makes you poor and you cant have enough food to eat.”

Among the total 48 houses of Kimathanka, 15 are polyandry families. But in at least 5 families, men have multiple wives. Kimathanka Village Development Commeete (VDC) Chairman Rijjeen Sherpas’ house could offer a glimpse into the conflicting situation. Chairman’s first son, Kin Sang, and the third, Dawa, are sharing a wife where as second Pasang is happily living with his two wives.

“This is a tradition we have followed for ages,” said Mrs. Rihse in Tibetan. How does she feel about being loved by two husbands. “Who do you love the most?” I asked her. The answer could have been different if I had asked that in the absence of both or one of her husbands. My question made her shy.

“I love both of them equally. And, they also love me very much and equally,” she said.

As she said that both her husbands who were eagerly watching her as if they were kids smiled together. I sipped the yak milk and threw another question to her. “Who do you like more?” There was a quick response from Rishe that made her husbands’ faces shine. “Both men look similar, their faces look similar to me, their habits are similar. I like both of them equally.”

The appearance could be same only if looked from Rishe’s eyes of love. What I saw is the older brother had somewhat whitish complexion, he sported a ponytail that was tied by a red thread. Younger brother looked a bit overweight, sported mustache and had dark complexion.

Thanks to the polyandry tradition the population of Kimathanka has increased by only 10 person in last 10 years. According to the 1992 National Census, the population of Kimathanka was 303. This year’s census reveals the new number as 313. On the basis of population, Kimathanka is the smallest among 4 thousand VDCs of Nepal.

Polyandry is no more a fashionable thing especially outside the village. Residents of neighboring Nepali villages like Chepuwa, Chyamtang and Hatiya laugh at the polyandry husbands. Youths who have seen the world outside Kimathanka village think its shameful to share a wife with brothers. I asked a young boy of polyandry parents about the tradition. “No, I will never do what my parents have been doing. Sharing your wife is a shameful thing.”

In the polyandry culture the older brother is the head of the family. He is also the official father of the kids even if their biological father is his brother. For example, in the citizenship, the ‘father’ of the shared wife’s children is the older brother. House and land are registered in his name. Kami Nawa, Chairman, Ward No. 6., of the VDC said: “The mother decides which children belongs to which husbands if the brothers wanted to separate.”

A question related to this made the otherwise cool Sherpeni, Rishe who was had decorated her hair with a jasmine flower, somewhat agitated. “We are living now in harmony, there is no necessity of separation,” she said curtly.

“Why do you want to know about this? Who do you think you are to ask such question?”

Probably, she was right. The milk in my glass was already finished.

This article, translated from Nepali, was first published in Nepal Magazine.

Here are photos from my Kimathanka trip