In The Heart of Nepal
“We found peace in travel; love in walking around mountains. There while reaching the mountaintop and to look down and see the earth below, I saw the secret of contentment. True happiness is only ever possible if you have been unhappy. And there, at that moment, I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so peaceful. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to take in any more happiness."
I was mere 5 years old when my parents told me that they were going to take me on the flight for the first time and when I asked them where I remember they said a weird name; the name was Kathmandu. They said it was a very beautiful country and that it has a lot of temples and also has the tallest mountain in the whole wide world. I was pretty excited to know I’m going to be on a flight for the first time.
It’s been 26 years since that first flight and here I am waiting with Nithya to show her what I saw back then as a little child out of the big window of that little A319 Indian Airlines in 1988. Nepal still excited me so much just as it did back then. May be because its special since it was my first. And to have landed in that little city holding my mothers hands and to have taken a picture in front of the plane with the magnificent Himalayas at the backdrop, it was indeed very special for me.
We landed in Kathmandu on a cloudy monsoon morning and I true excitement was rushing in my veins with nostalgia filled with every breath. The airport hasn’t changed at all and the I tried to recall as much as I remembered from back then. After picking up our luggage we spotted our hotel driver and headed to our lovely hotel that was pliantly tucked in the Thamel area within the heart of Kathmandu’s shopping districts. After finishing a great breakfast of toast, omelets and fruits we had a deep nap trying to charge ourselves from the long journey and were up again in a few hours to get ready to rule the evening on the streets of Kathmandu.
That evening we wandered around the famous Darbar square astonished by the old architecture and sat there watching the locals do their daily chores. That evening we tasted our first authentic momos, which turned out to be splendid on the streets. Well talking about street food, there’s just one thing I like to tell you all “If you’ve not been there and If you’ve not tasted it, you just don’t have it”. And for real the moment we had those momos their tastes brought even the trendiest of food shops to its knees. The taste, the flavor and the place just adds to the glory of what street food is all about. So when your there, be there and go for it.
We finished our little shopping and the next day we were off to Bhaktapur where we fell to the glory of the red brick district where everything is red and make with red bricks including the roads. We ate the famous Jhu-Jhu which is a yogurt cuddled with honey and very special to this place and got nowhere else. After having a spending evening wandering around Bhakhtapur and its beautiful backdrops, we rushed back to Kathmandu to take our next day bus to Chitwan National Park.
The ride to Chitwan wasn’t easy for a human, with a back breaking 7 hours rolling and winding over the hills we reached Chitwan in a little tin can bus which can only hold 10, but around 15 were cramped into it until it could hold no more. The poor tin broke its wheels and while it was being fixed, we took a stroll enjoying the few moments of freedom our backs could garner. Finally when we did reach Chitwan it looked no less than a sleepy laid back green town with a few white tourist hopelessly searching for drinking water bottles in the street shops.
We checked in to our not so cozy hotel where they just had a fan and two beds facing to an never ending view of green valleys dotted with a million trees overlooking the mountain in the valley end. The monsoon clouds were looming from the corner ready to drench the town to its knees and we made sure everything was ready for us to tackle the upcoming rains. The evening slowly drained down and we soon found ourselves in a pitch-black hotel with no power for the rest of the 3 hours. Folks from the village were roaming the towns with hand held torchlights for their needs. We took a positive look at the situation and went around for a stroll with torchlights of our own. With a the pitch-black backdrop and a forest right at our doorstep we took petite walks into the silent streets and when we reached the end of the road, I switched off the torches and looked up to see what I would call the most beautiful sky I have ever seen in this whole wide world.
To have stood there watching the dark sky with a zillion stars looking down upon you is a sight I have no words to explain. To live amongst the smallest of happiness, to seek elegance rather than luxury and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not expect richness and grandeur, to learn to listen to the birds and the stars. Top open your heart to the unknown, grow up through the common and to live life with the rhythm of the symphony is where all of our living earns its goodness. We both stood there holding hands and gazing the million stars with wonder and amaze. I saw seven shooting stars but never wished even for one. I just didn’t know what to wish for, I guess may be I was overcome with nature’s marvel such that I didn’t know that wishing was part of a shooting star gaze. I left it to be. I just stood there and loved the moment, may be that’s all what I wished for.
The next day, we ventured deeper into the forest on the elephants back and it was truly magical to be there amidst that beautiful forest of Chitwan. The forest was filled with sounds and smell of almost nature’s entire offering. After a 2 hours trek inside the wildlife park we finally made our way out into the village crossing our way through the river back into the village. That noon we packed our bags for the final trip to Pokhara the most beautiful city of Nepal. I was pretty excited to be there, because that’s where I was to meet Harka, my beloved friend; my heart was beating with so much excitement, I could hardly hold myself still.
At around 6pm we reached the heart of Pokhara city and finally on the other side of the road I saw my friend Harka standing waiting to welcome Nithya and myself into his beautiful city. We both hugged and warmly got together to talk about how much I looked forward to being here with him. In a while he took us to his house. A few years ago Harka worked in my office as an office clerk helping us with the post and the general clerical work. In 2012 he lost his job and he told me that he was going back to his hometown. I told him things will be well and that he’d be much better off being there with his family. I remember I held his hand and promised him that I will one day come to see his family with mine wherever in Nepal he was. I guess this was that time. In the next few minutes, we met Harka’s wife, daughter Sushma, brother Rajendar and his wife and son.
Harka requested me to stay the first day in his house because he felt it was great honor for him to have us as part of his family. But he always kept mentioning that his house was very small and that we shouldn’t feel bad that we were subjected t staying in such a small and congested space. In fact he lived in a very small house adjacent to a church. It was a one bedroom measuring 6x7 and a small wooden bed with few household were tucked neatly into that small room. At first he was hesitant to show me the room, asking me gently if I was okay to stay here, or if I needed something big. Sometimes the best of love comes from the poor, and in their hearts that I saw the depth of happiness and genuine love, which I haven’t seen in the richest of men. After a lot of thought, I told him that Nithya and me will sleep on the side of the church. Smiling along, he and his wife in a matter of half hour converted the church hall into a beautiful cozy bedroom filled barriers outlining the bed. For a few moments I refused to believe if this was the same church hall we saw a few minutes ago.
We settled down for the night sleeping cozy on a bed, which was right in the middle of church and giving thanks to God Almighty we cuddled to sleep in the safety of our guardian angels.
The next morning we woke up to the sweet smell of brewing coffee and bread toast, after a fun filled chat, we picked up ourselves to check in to a hotel which was a stone throw from the famous Phewa Tal lake which is one of the most prized spot in the whole of Pokhara. From the hotel we could spot the majestic Annapurna peaks covered in cloudy haze. That evening we strolled the lovely lakeside streets shopping and sinking in the beauty of the city and even went around having authentic Newari Thali the staple Nepali food that Nithya kept bragging about. Early the next morning Harka brought a spare bike with which we zoomed across to a place called Sarangkot, it took an hour to get to the top, but once we reached the top, the view was worth it. It was like the heavens were opening to our views. We stood there gazing all of nature’s glory while the clouds and winds streamed across us like a mist of harmony.
That afternoon, Harka had arranged for a small lunch gathering at his house, and once we reached we found the ladies of the house were busy preparing food for all of us. With my favorite chicken curry, rice, potato fries and vegetable masala we had quite a filling lunch to be happy about. We gave our final goodbyes to the ladies that day since we were to fly the next morning. Harka held my hand and promised to be there at the airport the next day.
Early morning I woke up to the most amazing view the whole of Nepal could offer; a clear blue sky with the stunning views of the Annapurna peaks glazing through the windowsills. The last day seemed to be the best I’d say. We took a cab and hurried off to the airport and we met Harka and his brother at the airport. We hugged each other and I told him to soon start off with his tourism business where I wanted him to become a full fledged agent who can deal with tourists, their itineraries, travel and all kind of bookings. So that he can learn to pick himself up and earn a living.
There is so much potential for him to do better in Nepal and I asked him to work around ways to get himself successful in becoming an tourist agent soon.
Harka, right now is out of job and the only breadwinner for his family is his wife with a mere NPR5000, out of which 1000 goes as rent and the rest goes for his daughters education. Since English education costs more than NPR8000 (USD 80) per month, the hapless girl has been going to government school so far with no good education. The family has been going through a lot of turmoil and getting a decent job has been really hard for Harka who really wants to support his family. I promised him that I would do something about it and make sure his situation changes. We hugged each other and bid farewell for all the love and happiness he shared with us for the last 3 days. He and brother both bid us with the Nepali shawl wrapped around our neck, which symbolizes a safe trip back home. We waved and bid our byes. Our plane awaited us.
|Sushma, Harka's daughter|
Harka is a true Nepali gentleman. I have seen his potential and I've sensed his willingness to help. May be if you going to Nepal for the first time, you can take his help. He will help you with everything you may need. His English is a little haywire but he can certainly understand and get things done for you. If you want to help his daughter with her schooling you can contact me and I can help you do something about it. Together as you read, we can change someone’s life for the better.