Bara-Parsa Tornado: Reconstruction and Lessons

On September 16, my friends and I attended the third lecture series organized by Nepalese Society of Engineering Geologists (NSEG) at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). The first lecture of the series included a presentation titled, “Bara-Parsa Post Tornado Reconstruction—An Overview”. Lt. Col. Shrijan Bahadur Malla, the leader of the Parsa Karyadal (“Karyadal” translates to “task force/group”), showed through a series of slides the effects of tornado, the government’s response and the Nepal Army’s effort in accomplishing a near-impossible task within the given time-frame.

What had happened at Bara and Parsa? 

Between 7: 45 to 8: 15 PM, March 31, 2019 (Jestha 17, 2076), a storm swept through several villages of Parsa and Bara districts of Nepal. The reports that came since puzzled the scientists as such a wide range of destruction had never been reported before. The winds had travelled 90 km (30 km of which was observed from the satellite images) within 30 minutes, uprooted trees, overturned trucks and completely damaged some masonry buildings. The winds were stronger than what was usually observed. They had to dig deeper into what had actually happened.

Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) had observed the possibility of rainfall in the area, but due to lack of resources, had not been able to predict the nature of the storm. On the other side of the border, India Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued a warning against “chakravaat”. However, there was no official information exchange between the DHM and IDM. So, we were completely unaware of what was about to come.  

A week later, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) confirmed it was a tornado, with intensity up to F2 and F3 (180-332 km/hr) on the Fujita Scale. The actual speed could not be determined. The tornado had generated at the Chitwan National Park and had travelled eastwards, reaching a maximum width of 200 m and destroying everything that came in its way. Bharbalia, Parwanipur, and Pheta villages of Bara suffered the worst. 28 people died (according to the official report), about 1200 people sustained injuries, and around 1450 houses were destroyed. Farmers also suffered the loss of crops and livestock.

Was it the first ever tornado that occurred in Nepal?

Most media and even among the scientists, the event was discussed as the first ever tornado occurring in the Nepali territory. However, as someone with roots in the Terai, and having heard accounts of hard-hitting storms from the past, I don’t believe it was the first ever tornado. Still, it is the first time, a tornado event has been recorded and studied scientifically. To confirm this further, I would like to quote from Kiran Nepal from his article in the Nepali Times:

“The tornado was not the first of its kind in Nepal. In fact, literature and folklore speak of twisters ravaging Tarai villages. But because these are localised disasters, they did not make it to the news.”

(Ground zero in Pheta)

Response to the crisis

Government of Nepal made a quick response. Rescue teams were immediately employed. On April 1, the Government declared a state of emergency in the affected area. Nepalese Army then got involved in the rescue and relief operation. All three levels of Government—the Federal, Province No. 2 and Local Governments—worked together to manage the relief works, and to rehabilitate the affected people before the Monsoon hit them hard again.

So, the Local Government brought up all the data necessary for the reconstruction process, the Provincial Government facilitated the smooth operation, and the Federal Government asked the Nepalese Army to complete the task as soon as possible. On April 26, it was declared that the Nepalese Army would be involved in the construction of new houses under the Janata Aawas Kaaryakram (People’s Housing Programme).

Challenges to the Nepalese army

Lt. Col. Malla provided his first-hand experience on the challenges the Nepalese Army had to face.

1. Timeframe. The task had to be completed within 3 months. The Local Governments had enlisted a total of 884 houses to be constructed. All the construction had to be parallel. They needed a lot of construction materials, required large areas to heap them until the construction. The need for human resources was also paramount.

2. Weather Condition. The summer was in its peak. The temperatures reached more than 40 degrees Celsius during the day time. Winds blew from time to time, destroying the temporary shelters, and floods delayed the construction.

3. Health Issues and Snake Bites. Heatstroke is among the common health issue in the summer. Flu is another illness that can occur because of the cold sweat drenching your clothes and skin. There is also high risk of malaria and Kala-Azar. Snake bites are also frequent occurrences. Lt. Col. Malla reported incidents of flu and snake bites.

4. Socio-poilitical issues. When huge reconstruction work is at hand, most families separate so that they can enjoy the compensation provided. The number of victims fluctuated frequently and even at the end, there were issues related to citizenship and land-ownership.

How did the army complete the task?

Nepalese Army was provided with the design of houses by the Department of Urban Housing. The design had two rooms, the frame and trusses were to be made from bamboo. The Army changed it slightly. They added a verandah and a toilet. And instead of bamboo, they would use steel.

With the design in hand, they had to look for huge amounts of construction material. The government had eased the process by letting the Army buy directly from the market (instead of the usual bidding process). The contractors for construction materials were chosen such that they could supply the materials required without any corruption and commission.

Since the task was labour intensive, they required to hire a huge labour force. It was convenient to use the troops themselves. The Army personnel were divided into the highly-skilled, skilled and semi-skilled and the work division was done accordingly. They worked in shifts from 6 to 10 o’clock in the morning and 4 to 8 o’clock in the evening.

There were some hurdles, as state in the section above. Nepalese Army went through and helped themselves and the victims. They worked as smoothly as they could. Finally, 869 of 884 houses were completed by the end of August. The remaining 15 houses were not built due to the issues such as citizenship and land ownership. These houses were handed over to their respective owners officially on 4th September.

Lessons Learnt

At the end of the presentation Lt. Col. Malla presented a list of lessons learnt from the Bara-Parsa Tornado event. I have added some by myself.

1. Improvement in Weather Forecasts. The DHM and IMD are now working together to identify such disasters. The weather forecasts are also becoming increasingly reliable.

2. Where there is will, there are ways. The government’s response was quick. The Army was given the rights to final decision on the construction. The buying of essential construction materials was made easier. All there levels of government came together. The tiff between the Federal Government and the Province-2 Government did not affect the victims.

3. Enhancement of the capacity of the Nepalese Army. From all sort of labour-intensive work to planning and design, the Army has grown stronger, Lt. Col. Malla stated with pride.

4. Goodwill among the people. All the government bodies, and especially the Nepalese Army won the hearts of the people affected by the tornado.

5. Civil authorities need to play important roles in future disasters. As he concluded, Lt. Col. Malla said that Nepalese Army cannot do all the reconstruction work by themselves in the future. Though he was proud of what the Army had been able to do, it is the task of civil authorities to actually involve in the disaster prevention, risk reduction and reconstruction. Thus, they must be prepared to provide relief, and for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the aftermath.

Conclusion

The presentation brought out a sense of joy and pride in everyone present in the seminar hall. It helped us understand what actually happens during the reconstruction. It’s one thing to read and say, one should do this and that. But listening it from someone who has had first-hand experience in the act, we knew how difficult the task is. And how it feels to see smiling faces as the hard work comes to fruition.

Many thanks to the Government! Salute to the Nepalese Army!!

References

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01159-w

https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nepal-army-constructs-869-houses-for-tornado-victims-of-bara-parsa/

https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/na-hand-over-houses-to-tornado-hit-bara-and-parsa-people/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_2019_southern_Nepal_tornado

Advertisements

भेडा (भाग-२)

डेढ वर्षअघि भेडा शब्दलाई चुनावी सन्दर्भमा मात्रै बुझेको थिएँ । हिजो साँझ बल्ल यो शब्दको वास्तविक अर्थ बुझेँ ।

कुनै व्यक्ति वा दलले आफ्ना कुरा मान्नेलाई वा (मनाउनु पर्‍यो भने) जनताजनार्दन भन्दा रहेछन् । जब जनताजनार्दनले अरू कसैको पक्ष लिन्छ, उसलाई दुत्कार्दै भन्दा रहेछन्, “भेडो कहीँको!!

जतिसुकै आशावादी भए पनि नेपालको राजनीतिले आशालाग्दो बाटो कहिल्यै देखाएन । कुनै राजनीतिक पार्टी एनजीओ (NGO) शैलीमा काम गर्छन् त कुनै अधिनायकवादी सोच राखेर । पदको कुन हदसम्म लोभ छ भने पूर्वपार्टीप्रमुख र पूर्वप्रधानमन्त्री भएर देश हाँकिसकेकाहरू, जसले पार्टी बाहिर रहेर बृहत्तर हितका लागि लाग्नुपर्ने हो, पार्टीभित्र मर्यादाक्रमका लागि जोरी खोज्छन् । अनि तिनै तप्काका “व्यक्तित्वहरू” विदेशी मन्त्री/सचिवलाई हतारिँदै होटलमै ढोगभेट गर्न जान्छन् । तिनलाई चुनावमा जिताउनेले प्रश्न गर्‍यो भने जवाफ दिन्छन् (तिनीहरूभन्दा पनि उपबुज्रुक तिनका कार्यकर्ताहरू), “किन जान्ने हुन्छौ, भेडा हो ?”

जनताका झिनामसिना कुरा सुन्ने फुर्सद छैन उनीहरूलाई । ठूला सपना देख्दा आँखा यसरी टट्टिएका छन् कि नजिकको समस्या देख्दैनन् । आफू अघिको समस्या समाधान गरौँ अनि ठूला सपना साँचेको सुहाउँछ, मज्जा पनि आउँछ । तब कोही बुर्लुक्क उफ्रिन्छ, “सपना देखेको पनि देखी सहँदैनन् भेडाहरू ।”

साधारण नागरिक पलपल मरिरहेको छ । देशभित्र ऊ काम गरेर खान सक्दैन । यसका केही कारण छन्:

१. उसलाई विदेशमा पारिजातको फूल झरेझैँ पैसा झर्छ भन्ने सुनाइएको छ ।

२. नेपालमा काम गर्न उसलाई लाज लाग्छ । समाज नै त्यस्तै छ । काम गर्नेलाई खिसी गर्छ अनि काम नगरी फूर्ती देखाउँदै हिँड्नेलाई खुट्टामा ढोग्छ ।

३. कुनै उद्योगमा राजनीती घुस्यो भने धराशायी बनाएरै छोड्छ ।

४. जसरी पनि कमाउनुपर्छ भनेर लागिपरेका छन् मानिसहरू । भ्रष्टाचार नभएको ठाउँ छैन ।

५. भुइँमान्छेका बीचबाट नेता बनेकाहरू तिनको टाउको टेक्दै अघि बढेर आकाशमा पुगे । भुइँमान्छेहरू पातालमा भासिँदैछन् ।

मान्छेसँग जब विकल्प बाँकी हुँदैन, कि ऊ नयाँ कुराको खोजी गर्छ, कि भएका सर्जामलाई अलि भिन्न प्रकारले चलाउन खोज्छ । विदेशिनु नयाँ कुराको खोजी हो (किनकी नयाँ भनिएका पार्टीहरू जनतामाझ पुगेकै छैनन्) । त्यस्तै, दुईतीनवटा पार्टीलाई पालैपालो जिताउनु पुरानाप्रतिको नयाँ आशा हो । यो चलन नेपालको मात्रै होइन । अमेरिकामा प्रायः डेमोक्र्याट्स र रिपब्लिकन पार्टीहरू पालैपालो सत्तामा जान्छन् । त्यस्तै बेलायतमा लेबर र कन्जर्भेटिभले पालैपालो बर्चस्व बनाइरहन्छन् । हुन त ती पार्टीकै समर्थक बीच पनि दह्रो रस्साकस्सी चल्छ । तर जनतालाई “भेडा” भन्ने नेताको बारेमा चैँ आजसम्म सुनेको छैन ।

चेतनाको स्तर पनि एउटा मापक हुँदो हो । नेपालका सबै मानिस पढेलेखेका छैनन् । पढेलेखेका सबै विवेकी र नीतिवान छैनन् । यसर्थ पढेलेखेका चेतनशील र अनपढहरू अचेतनशील भन्ने छुट मलाई छैन । किनकी “भेडा” उपमा जन्माउने र फैलाउनेहरू शिक्षित भनाउँदा नै हुन् ।

हालसालै पत्रकार रवि लामिछाने जेल पर्दा उनको समर्थनमा जनसागर उर्लियो । ती जनतालाई फेरि पनि भनियो, “भेडा”; भन्नेहरू थिए जसले उनको कार्याक्रम हेरेका थिएनन्, कार्यक्रम मनपराउँदैनथे वा चिढिएका थिए । कार्यक्रम नहेरी मूल्यांकन गर्ने अन्तर्यामीहरूलाई त के भनूँ ? उनको शैलीमाथि बहस हुनुपर्छ भन्ने कुरामा म पनि विश्वास राख्छु र उनलाई देउता मानेर पुज्नु हुन्न भन्ने कुरामा म अडिग छु । तर उनलाई देउता मान्नेहरूप्रति दुराग्रह छैन । कुन परिस्थितिमा उनी कसका लागि उनी देउतातुल्य भए, म बुझ्छु । अनि उनले त्यत्रो वर्ष कार्याक्रम चलाउँदा चुइँक्क नगर्नेहरू उनी तल पर्दा कुर्लिएको देख्दा लाग्यो, “ओरालो लागेको मृगलाई बाच्छाले पनि खेद्छ ।”

आफूलाई अनुकूल हुँदा जनतालाई “भगवान” भन्ने अनि आफूलाई प्रतिकूल हुँदा “भेडा” भन्ने मानिसहरू विवेकका दुश्मन हुन् । जनताको शक्तिको आडमा सर्वोच्च सत्तामा पुगेकाहरूले जनतालाई यो हदसम्म गिराउन कसरी सक्छन् ? ताजुब लाग्छ !

टीयू गन्थन

बिहान ६-७ बजेबाट नै टियूतिर हिँड्छु । घरबाट कीर्तिपुर पुग्न दुईवटा गाडी चढ्नुपर्छ । २६ वा २७ नम्बरका गाडी शहीदगेट/सुन्धारा पुग्छ्न् । पुरानो बसपार्क (जुन नयाँ बन्ने तर्खरमा छ र खुलामञ्चमा सरेको छ) बाट कीर्तिपुर जाने २१ नम्बरको गाडी चल्छन् । ती गाडी शहीदगेटमा रोकिन्छन् केहीबेर । अहिले त्यहीँबाट २१ नम्बरे गाडी चढ्छु । पोहोर खुला मञ्चबाट चढ्थेँ । भाग्यले साथ दियो भने घरबाट हिँडेको ४५ मिनेटमा नै भूगर्भशास्त्र केन्द्रीय विभाग पुग्छु । नत्र बिहानको समयमा प्राय: एक घन्टा लाग्छ । दिउँसो र साँझ भने डेढदुई घन्टा सामान्य हो । किनकी अध्ययन गर्न चाहनेलाई सहज होस् भनेर छात्रावासमा वास दिन सक्दैन मेरो विश्वविद्यालय ।

टियू गेटले पहिले सबैलाई स्वागत गर्थ्यो । अचेल आफ्नै गाडी र बाइक भएका वा तिनीसँग आउनेलाई मात्र गर्छ । सार्वजनिक यातायात चढ्नेलाई ल्याब स्कुल देखि उता नयाँ बाटो बनेको छ । टियूले पुरानो बाटो बिग्रेको भनी नयाँ बाटोबाट चलाउन लगायो भनी गाडी चलाउनेहरू भन्थे । तर कीर्तिपुरबाट आउँदा थोरै भए पनि गाडी चलेकै हुन्छ्न् । पुरानो बाटो पनि बनेको छैन । त्रिविले वर्गभेद त गरेको होइन ? कहिलेकाहीँ सोच्छु । होइन होला जस्तो लाग्छ । तर हो कि ? … (आ.. जेसुकै होस् !)

बिस्तारै बगिरहेको प्रमाण देखिने, धुँजाधुँजा परेका बाटाहरू अनि तरहतरहका संरचनाले टियूमा स्वागत गर्छन् । नयाँ बाटोबाट ओर्लिँदा सबैभन्दा पहिले देखिन्छ आँखा अस्पताल जुन विश्वविद्यालय अन्तर्गतको भएपनी उपचार सोचेजस्तो सस्तो छैन । अर्को छेउमा देखिन्छन् पुरुष छात्रावास । सबै अटाउँदैनन् यी छात्रावासमा । एक वर्ष पढिसकेपछि बल्ल “सिट” पाइन्छ । त्यसमा पनि होडबाजी र राजनीति चल्छ ।

अलि पर आउँछ जनबोलीको तीनकुने । रङ उडिसकेको बोर्डमा लेखिएको छ “TU Coronation Ground” (अङ्ग्रेजीमै) । त्यहाँ कसैको मूर्ति छ, जुन देख्न मलाई एक वर्षै लाग्यो होला । त्यो मूर्ति पहिलो उपकुलपति सुवर्ण समशेरको हो कि जस्तो लाग्छ । ठ्याक्कै याद छैन । किनकी त्यो “चौर” घेरिएको छ पर्खालले अनि भित्र ढाकेका छन् अग्ला घाँसहरूले ।

पिच उप्केको छ ठाउँठाउँमा, पानी पर्दा खोला बग्छ । यस्तो गर्नुपर्थ्यो, उस्तो गर्नुपर्थ्यो भन्ने प्रशस्त मानिस भेला हुने यो विश्वविद्यालयका संरचना पनि छक्क पर्दा हुन् । भन्दा हुन्, “गफ हाँक्न छोडेर एउटा मात्रै काम ठीकसँग गरेर देखाओ त !”

असार २५ गते त्रिभुवन विश्वविद्यालयले साठीऔं त्रिवि दिवस मनायो । उपकुलपतिको नयाँ भवन उद्घाटन गर्न कुलपति (प्रधानमन्त्री) जाँदा जुन कन्तविजोग त्रिविले देखायो, त्यसले लज्जाबोध भयो । त्योभन्दा लाजमर्दा काण्डहरू– गोल्ड मेडलको किनबेच, परीक्षाफलमा गरिएका अनियमितता, आर्थिक अनियमितता, जग्गा बाँडफाँड आदिले कहिलेकाहीँ त सोच्न बाध्य बनाउँछ, ‘उच्च शिक्षाको लागि त्रिवि रोजेर गलत त गरिनँ ।’

२०१३ सालतिर देशभित्रै विश्वविद्यालयको खाँचो महसुस गरेर तत्कालीन शिक्षामन्त्री लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटाको भिजनलाई तत्कालीन राजा महेन्द्रले साथ दिएका थिए । विश्वविद्यालयका लागि ठूलो ठाउँ लिएर अध्ययन अनुसन्धान गर्ने उद्देश्यले कीर्तिपुरमा जग्गा अधिग्रहण गरी त्रिविको स्थापना गरिएको थियो । त्यस यता कीर्तिपुर क्षेत्र शिक्षाको पर्याय बनेको छ । यद्यपि यो जग्गा विवाद बेलाबेलामा आइरहन्छ, जातीयताको रङ्ग घोलेर ।

पाइलापाइलामा गरिने राजनीति, दम्भी अजासुहरू अनि मनपरी गर्न उद्दत कर्मचारीतन्त्रले त्रिभुवन विश्वविद्यालय कति थेग्ला ? शिक्षा क्षेत्रको आमूल परिवर्तनका लागि टीयूको संरचना र कार्यपद्दती नै परिवर्तन गर्नुपर्ने देखिन्छ ।

Bliss at Sathimure

October 31, 2018.

You have been climbing for three hours. Every pore of your skin is sweating. Your legs are tired. Your head is spinning. You are still conscious of not slipping down the narrow foot trail. There are small round seeds that have fallen off the tress beside the trail. They threaten your existence. The peak is just “there” but you can’t seem to reach it. The peak is just at an elevation of thousand metres, and it takes your breath away. “What if it was Mount Everest?” you ask.

One of your friends, Anish, climbed a five-thousand metre peak last year, above the Everest Base Camp. “It was cold. I felt my fingers would fall off. But once I reached the peak, I forgot all the pain.”

‘This is not even a tenth of the harshness of close to the Everest’, you think. Your spirit lifts up a little. Legs drag you up better than they had a couple of minutes back. But your lungs are not helping. Your low stamina hampers your movement.Luckily, your friends are in your support. They themselves are tired, but they do not lose the hope of reaching the peak. The hope of finding the target village-Sathimure.

***

Your climb began from Mugling—an old hub connecting Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan with three of your friends: Anil, Anish and Ishwor. The town is at the altitude of about 180 m from the mean sea level,well-developed, full of life. Your twenty-eight years old topographic map shows a foot-trail leading to the village in question. The policemen show you a road. It looks easy, but it’s long. ‘How long will you have to walk?’ you discuss with your friends. You and your friends decide to take a foot trail if possible.

You are not hiking. It’s a geological exploration. You measure the rock orientation, wonder at the folds you see and imagine the amount of stress the region might have undergone. You know these rocks tell the history of the evolution of the Himalayas over a million years. These mountains are not as tall as the mighty mountain peaks that are popular as the Himalayas or Great Himalayas. You call them Lesser Himalaya, but reaching its peak is tough. More so, when you realize you have to climb up another two hundred metres and climb down to Kalikhola if you are to make an accurate geological map. But you lack time, and you make a rush.

You realize your stamina has lowered because of eating and sleeping for the last couple of months. You are panting. You take long breaths. Nothing helps. You have not walked a mile and you have felt the heat. You strip off your jacket. Your body balances heat by sweating. You reach a shade. The sweat cools you. After a rest, you don’t want to move. Yet you carry your legs forward. “Return back if you can’t,” your friends suggest. It’s a good advice. One person should not slow the group. Yet your ego gets hurt. You can’t give up before it has begun.

You ask help from the locals. Most of them are girls. Some help, some don’t. It’s a cultural thing. Villagers don’t trust city men. Girls are told to shy away from men in most of the occasions. Male-female interaction is still spied in the cities. Anyway, you find help and catch a foot-trail, width decreasing with each footstep.

You don’t find villages along the trail. One house at an interval of about one-hundred metres climb. They have farms and gardens. You and your friends express desire to reach Kalikhola. The locals say it’s a dangerous path. Three people died some months back. You and your friends are scared. Safety comes before the map. Your teachers did not expect you to go all the way. You give up the thought of completing the track. Had you been allowed to stay for a day at Sathimure, you could have hit the target. But you have restrictions. You decide to reach the village, at least.

A garden somewhere in the route

***

“Look out for the real trail,” Anish calls. Foot-trail has forked. Each time you saw a fork, you made a unanimous decision: “Take the route that goes up.” This time, the up-going trail looks dangerous. Ishwor says the other path goes nowhere. “Are we stuck?” you fear. Anil goes up the dangerous route, reaches the peak and calls out. You follow. The ground is slippery and covered with grass. You don’t know where you are stepping. “Goats would not climb this,” your friends behind you tell. You are attacked by ants.One last step. And you reach the top. You lose yourself for a moment. At that moment, you have become victorious over the mountain. You feel blessed.

A little farther, you see what you had been longing for. Sathimure. A small village. A place where you have found solace in it even from the distance. Bamboos, oranges, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables. A farming village. That’s what you wanted all day.

The village has less than twenty houses—small, all of them painted in blue and red. The people are amicable. Your group wants to buy some oranges. They don’t fix a price. “Give whatever amount you want to give.” These people have hardships. There is some help from the NGOs but the nearest town, Mugling, is miles downhill. There is no good road. They have to buy everything.Yet, they are generous. They don’t take our offer for granted. They believe in emotional relationship, not commercial. They give you noodles. You longed for it but can’t help wonder that noodles have made way into even in a village that small.You eat anyway. The taste reminds you of home.

***

You begin to descent. There was an error in the map. You have decided to correct it. Sitting upon a ground facing north, you look at the Great Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas, and the miniature town of Mugling. You can’t see a human from that height. You feel lost. “Humans might have built civilizations and have dreamt of exploring other planets but we are microscopic in the universe. If a portion of the Earth is this big, how big the Earth is! And it is not even the largest planet.” The extent of universe amazes you. It’s not for the first time, though. The universe has always fascinated you. Geology was one way you thought that would help you understand the universe.

Mugling viewed from Sathimure

The walk downhill takes two hours. The villagers at Sathimure had told it would take about forty-five minutes. “Time is relative,” you begin to understand. They have lived their whole lives going up and down the hill. Their legs have strengths your legs do not. They are faster because they have lived with the mountain. You see school children going up and get a stronger proof.

When the journey ends, you are satisfied. You might not have met all your goals but you made memories. You have learnt something. You have something to tell others. You have stories for your children and grandchildren.

Fifteen Months Later at Manakamana

Fatigue of the fieldwork

The fieldwork was going on in its rapid pace. We barely had time to rest. On Wednesday, October 31, fieldwork had been set for “individual” areas. Each of six groups were in separate routes looking for the geology of the area around Mugling, Chitwan. We (Anil, Anish, Ishwor and I) were walking up to a small village called Sathimure. On top of the hill in the north east, we could see a bazaar. “Is it Manakamana?” we had discussed. “It is Manakamana, indeed,” the villagers had later confirmed.

“If we get to go Manakamana tomorrow, can we walk all the way up?”

It would have been difficult. The way to Sathimure had proven to be tiring. We were bathed in sweat the whole climb.

May be fatigue, may be disinterest, we didn’t actually want to go Manakamana. There were other friends, who were absolutely excited about the climb. My experience fifteen months earlier had made me sad. But I had seen a photo of my sister-in-law in front of the newly made temple. Aha! The temple has changed! I had thought but still I didn’t have the desire.

The Lottery

In the evening, our teachers announced the six routes to be taken the other day. Two groups were to take the routes that included Manakamana. The first route was: Aanbu Khaireni-Manakamana-Arubot-Tinkilo. The second route was: Aanbu Khaireni-Manakamana-Kurintar. To avoid dissatisfaction, our teachers suggested a lottery. Anil picked up a cheat and we got the first route. Despite having no desire to go, the Mother had called us.

The Journey

Selfie at Marsyangdi Bridge / Photo from Nirjal Pokharel’s Facebook

As soon as you cross the Marsyangi Bridge at Aanbu Khaireni, you step into the Gorkha district. Then taking a dusty road to the north, you head towards the famous Manakamana Temple. After we separated with other groups at the bridge, eight of us took the road to Manakamana.

Geological study began as soon as we reached near the confluence of Marsyangdi and Daraudi. We took some data and set off again. As per the instruction from our teacher, we took shorter routes asking the villagers. Some of the foot-trails are not being used due to the bigger road.

Short roads were not so short though. We climbed up and up. As we went higher, the mist thinned and we were up above the clouds. On the north were the mighty white Himalayas. “People must have been to a place like this and called it a Paradise,” we wondered.

At Dhadbari (?), we left the motor road and climbed up the stairs to the temple. On the way, we bought flowers and Prasad. The climb took more than half an hour. We were all fatigued.

The New Temple

The new structure of the temple was enough for me to forget my tiredness. The two storied pagoda now had new brick walls and two golden roofs. On the top, is a golden pinnacle. I am mesmerized. I can’t believe the change that had occurred.

Fifteen months ago

Fifteen months ago, I had seen a broken temple. It was distressing. I had written an account showing my pain. Now fifteen months later, I was standing before the temple praising the grandeur of the Mother.

The New Structure
Worshipping still continues in the small temple. The floor is still being tiled.

The new structure has not been a temple yet. The Mother still stays in the small temple built after the Gorkha earthquake. “Isn’t she established in it yet?” my parents ask on Saturday after I am home. “It was supposed to happen during Dashain.”

“Maybe they did not find an auspicious date,” I say.

***

Fifteen months ago, I had been so sad that I had asked for the reconstruction of the temple as soon as possible. I had also doubted on the powers of the Mother. I had asked, “If the Goddess cannot make Her own home, how do I believe asked?”

This time, I believe the Mother called me to show that She has a new home. I believe She made me write this so that I could tell to the world the change I had seen. I don’t see any other reason why my group was selected despite having no desire at all to visit Her abode.

***

Time was tight. We had miles to go. Taking several snaps, our groups took our respective routes.

A group photo / Left to Right: Ishwor, Nirjal, Me, Angela, Sujata, Suman, Anish, Anil / From Nirjal Pokharel’s Facebook

पन्ध्र महिनापछि फेरि मनकामना पुग्दा

फिल्डवर्कको थकान

शनिबार, कार्तिक १० बाट सुरु भएको फिल्डवर्क रफ्तारका साथ चल्दै थियो । बुधबार दिउँसो मुग्लिङबाट दक्षिणमा रहेको साठीमुरे गाउँ पुगेका थियौँ अनिल, अनिश, ईश्वर र म । झन्डै चार घण्टा ठाडो उकालो चढ्दै गर्दा ठीक पारी पट्टीको डाँडोमा ठूलो बजार देखिएको थियो । मनकामना बजार हो त ? हामी एकअर्कालाई सोध्दै हिँडेका थियौँ । साठीमुरेका बासिन्दाले त्यो मनकामना बजार नै हो भनेका थिए ।

त्यहाँबाट मनकामना बजार झन्डै उस्तै उचाईमा छ भन्ने लागेको थियो । “भोलि मनकामनातिर पर्‍यो भने त हिँड्न गाह्रो हुन्छ,” सल्लाह गरेका थियौँ । यसपालि एम. एस्सी. पहिलो सेमेस्टरको फिल्ड आँबुखैरेनी परेको थियो । मनकामनाको “रुट” दुई टोलीलाई पर्ने कुरा थियो ।

थकानले गर्दा हो वा पहिल्यै गएकाले हो या अघिल्लो साल देखेको दुरावस्थाले हो, मनकामना जाने इच्छा खासै थिएन हाम्रो ग्रुपको कसैलाई । इच्छुक ती साथीहरू थिए जो पहिले गएका थिएनन् । अघिल्लो साँझ फेसबुक चलाउँदै गर्दा देखेको एउटा तस्वीरले मन केहीबेर तरङ्गित भने बनाएको थियो । “ओहो, मन्दिरको रूप त बदलिएछ” भन्दै खुसी भएको थिएँ । जाने लालसा भने पलाएको थिएन ।

चिट्ठा

बेलुका गुरुहरूले भोलिपल्टको रुटको जानकारी दिनुभयो । मनकामना पुग्ने दुई टोलीका लागि दुई रुट छुट्याइएको थियो । पहिलो रुट थियो । आँबुखैरेनीबाट मनकामना पुग्ने अनि त्यहाँबाट गोर्खा जिल्लाको आरुबोट, ज्यामिरे हुँदै तीनकिलो झर्ने । अर्को थियो, मनकामना पुगेर कुरिनटार झर्ने । मनकामनासम्म दुई टोली सँगै हुने थिए ।

मनकामना जाने रहर प्रायः सबै ग्रुपले गरेकाले चिट्ठा गर्ने सहमति भयो । अनिलले हाम्रोतर्फबाट चिट्ठा थुत्यो । मनकामनाको पहिलो रुट परेछ । अरू ग्रुपलाई पनि उनीहरूको इच्छा र क्षमता अनुसारको रुट परेछ । “माताको इच्छा होला,” मैले भनेको थिएँ ।

यात्रा

मर्स्याङ्दी पुल सेल्फी / निर्जल पोखरेलको फेसबुकबाट / बायाँबाट दायाँ: पहिलो हार – अनिल,एन्जिला, अनिश, अशोक – दोस्रो हार – निर्जल, दीपक,अस्मी, म, ईश्वर, सुजाता -पर- सुमन

आँबुखैरेनीको मर्स्याङ्दी पुल तरेपछि गोर्खा जिल्ला टेकिन्छ । त्यहाँबाट अरू साथीहरूसँग बिदा भएपछि हाम्रो टोली र निर्जल दाइको टोली दरौँदी तरेर उकालो लाग्यौँ । चट्टान देखिएको सडाक किनारमा काम सुरु भयो । केही डाटा लिएत अघि बढ्यौँ, सरहरूको निर्देशनअनुसार स्थानीयसँग छोटो बाटो सोध्दै ।

छोटो बाटो पनि छोटो कहाँ थियो र ? स्याँस्याँ फ्याँफ्याँ गर्दै उकालो चढ्यौँ । बाटोमा चट्टान धेरै भेटिएनन् । जति भेटिए ती तलका भन्दा खासै फरक थिएनन् । बरू धुलोको रङ्ग हेरेर तलको माटो कस्तो होला भनेर अनुमान गर्‍यौँ । डाटा लिने परिस्थिति भने थिएन ।

डाँडा चढ्दै गर्दा तल नदीले बनएको कुहिरो हट्दै गयो । सात-आठ सय मिटर माथी पुगेपछि बादल हामीभन्दा तल तैरिएको देखियो । उत्तरमा देखिए, सेता हिमाल । बाटा छेउमा सुन्तलाका बोट । केही दिनअघि बन्दीपुर जाँदा पनि यस्तो दृश्य देखिएको थियो । त्यही पनि “यस्तै ठाउँलाई स्वर्ग भनिँदो हो,” हामी कल्पित भयौँ ।

मनकामना पुग्नै लाग्दा हामीले मोटर बाटो छोड्यौँ अनि सिँडी चढ्यौँ । सुन्तला खाँदै माथि चढ्यौँ । फूलप्रसाद लिएर फेरि चढ्यौँ । सिँढी चढेर माथी पुग्न झन्डै आधा घन्टा लाग्यो ।

मन्दिरको बदलिएको स्वरूप

अगस्ट २, २०१७ तिर गोर्खा मनकामना शीर्षकको यात्रा संस्मरण लेख्दा साह्रै पीडा भएको थियो । त्यसबेला मन्दिरको अवस्था देखेर विचलित भएको थिएँ । भाग्यले भनौँ या माताको प्रभावले, मौका जुर्‍यो । साथीहरूसँग म पनि मनकामना पुगेँ, ठीक पन्ध्र महिनापछि ।

पन्ध्र महिना पहिले

पहिले जस्ता बेरेर, खट बाँधेर जीर्णाव्स्थामा देखेको “मन्दिर”को ठाउँमा अहिले लोभलाग्दो संरचना छ । ईँटको भित्तामाथि सुनको छाना छन् । अनि दोस्रो तलाको छानामाथि सुनकै गजुर । दिउँसो घाममा मन्दिर झन् टल्केको छ । मन्दिरको संरचना पुरानो छ तर सामग्री सबै नयाँ । पुरानै प्रकारका सामग्री राखेको भए पुरानै जस्तो देखिन्थ्यो भन्ने बिचार पछि मनमा आउँछ । त्यहाँ भने म निस्तब्ध हुन्छु; मन्दिरको सुन्दरताले मोहित ।

IMG_1841

मनकामनाको नयाँ मन्दिर

नयाँ संरचनाभित्र देवीको स्थापना भइसकेको छैन । गोर्खा भुकम्प (२०७२) पछि बनाइएको अस्थायी मन्दिरमा नै क्षमापूजा गरेर देवी बसाइएको छ । शनिबार (कार्तिक १७) मा घर आएपछि मामूबाबा भन्नुहुन्छ, “यही दशैँमा स्थापना गर्ने कुरा थियो त ।”

“जुरेन होला,” म भन्छु । मैले देखेको दृश्यका आधारमा निस्किएको निष्कर्ष त्यही हो ।

IMG_1843
भूकम्प यता पूजाका लागि बनाइएको सानो मन्दिर / भुइँमा टाइल छाप्ने काम भइरहेको छ

***
अघिल्लो साल मनकामना मन्दिरको दुरावस्था देखेर विचलित भएको मैले मन्दिरको पुनर्निर्माण छिट्टै होस् भनेर कामना गरेको थिएँ । उहाँको शक्तिमाथि प्रश्न र गुनासो पनि पोखेको थिएँ । यसपालि माताको बोलावट भयो । सायद उहाँले मलाई आफ्नो सामर्थ्य देखाउन बोलाउनु भयो । अनि यो लेख लेखाउन पनि नत्र त्यति धेरै उत्सुक साथीहरूको बीचबाट मेरो ग्रुप किन छानियो ?

मनकामना माताको नयाँ मन्दिर हेरिरहने मन थियो तर समयको पावन्दी पनि थियो । तीनकिलोसम्म पुग्न कति हिँड्नुपर्ने हो ? थाहा थिएन । तैपनि दुई ग्रुपका अनगिन्ती फोटो खिचेर हामी आआफ्नो रुटतर्फ लाग्यौँ

45282636_1884530991631097_4034300817363173376_n
धेरै मध्येको एक ग्रुप फोटो / बायाँबाट दायाँ: ईश्वर, निर्जल, म, एन्जिला, सुजाता, सुमन, अनिश, अनिल / निर्जल पोखरेलको फेसबुकबाट

पुस्तक समीक्षा : सेतो धरती

“भगवान् छ्न् नि !”

उपन्यासको अन्तिम संवादले मन उथलपुथल भयो । यसपछिका वाक्यहरूतिर मन जानै मानेन । आँखाले पढेँ, मनमा आएनन् । यही संवादमा उपन्यास सकिएको भए हुन्थ्यो जस्तो लाग्यो । चलचित्र भएको भए त्यो संवादको अन्त्यमा बुढेसकालमा भेटिएका दुई बालसखा देवघाटको एउटा कुटीमा गएको दृश्य “टप शट” बाट देखाइन्थ्यो होला । किन हो मेरो मनमा यस्तै दृश्य कैद भइदियो ।

Photo obtained from: Twitter.com/ageingnepal. No copyright infringement intended.

यो संवाद चानचुने होइन । उपन्यासकार अमर न्यौपानेको मन भेदेर उनलाई बालविधवाका विषयमा कलम चलाउन उत्प्रेरित गर्ने वाणी हुन् यी । त्यसैले पनि यही संवादमा “सेतो धरती”को अन्त्य भए हुन्थ्यो भन्ने लाग्यो ।

“भगवान् छ्न्” भन्दा वृद्ध ताराले आफूभित्रको भगवान् चिनेकी हुन् भनेर लेखकले प्रष्ट नलेखिदिएका भए वैचारिक बहस र विश्लेषण हुन्थ्यो होला यी तीन अक्षरलाई आधार बनाएर । उपन्यासकारले भने आफूलाई त्यो वाणी सुनाउने वृद्ध आमामै भगवान् देखे सायद ।

***

तारा, यमुना, पवित्रा र गोविन्द

यी चार पात्र एकै ठाउँबाट छुट्टिन्छ्न् अनि भेटिनछ्न् एकै ठाउँमा । भिन्नभिन्न शैलीबाट जीवन बाँचेका यी पात्रहरू अन्तिम क्षणमा भगवान् समीप पुगेका छन् । उपन्यासमा भनिएझैँ यी पात्रहरू नदी हुन् जो देवघाटरूपी तलाउमा बग्दै आइपुगेका छन् । अब त्यहाँबाट एउटा मात्रै बाटो छ । माथी । अर्थात्, मृत्युु । यमुना, पवित्र र गोविन्दसँग ताराको बिछोड र संगमले उपन्यास “फुल सर्कल” (Full circle) बनेको छ ।

***

वैवाहिक प्रचलन: केही अकल्पनीय परिदृश्य

“सेतो धरती” बालविधवाका विषयमा लेखिएकाले यसमा बालविवाहको प्रसङ्ग स्वतः आउने नै भयो । पाँच वर्षकी बालिकाको (ताराकी बहिनी) समेत विवाह हुने कुरा मनै चिर्ने खालको छ । तारा आफैँ सात वर्षकी भएकाले उसका लागि विवाह पूजा, खेल र सपनाजस्तो भयो । तर खेलजस्तो विवाहले उसको जीवन नै वर्वाद भयो ।

आफ्नो जेठो छोराको उमेरकी केटीसँग जब ताराको “बा”ले बिहे गर्छ, चकित हुन्छु । तारालाई समाजले अर्को बिहे गर्न रोक्छ । तर ताराभन्दा कान्छी केटी बिहे गर्न समाजले उसका बालाई उकास्छ । उसका बा पनि राजी हुन्छन् ।

यस्तो अनमेल विवाहले ल्याउँछ अनौठो परिदृश्य । एकै उमेरका ताराका जेठो भाइ र “सौतेनी आमा” खेल्छन् बिहेको खेल । उमेर बढेसँगै उनीहरूको जिस्काई र हिमचिम देखेर तारा गर्छे शंका । सौतेनी आमाको पहिलो छोरामा देख्छे आफ्नो भाइको रूप !

बहुविवाहका प्रसङ्ग पनि उपन्यासमा आएका छ्न् । एउटीलाई पाउन पहिले अर्कीलाई बिहे गर्ने यमुनाको पति अनि गाउँकी दुलहीलाई अनपढ भनेर “आधुनिक” शहरीया बिहे गर्ने गोविन्द दुवै विकृत मानसिकताका उपज हुन् ।

***

यौनिकता र मातृत्व

“कपडा नलगाउँदा सधुवा र ममा के फरक छ र ?” ताराले गरेको यो प्रश्न उनीमाथि समाजले लगाएको बन्देजको उपज हो । कुण्ठित उसको मनले सधैँ उसलाई पिरोलेको छ । उनमा सन्तान जन्माउने क्षमता हुँदाहुँदै समाजले बनाएको दायराले गर्दा ऊ सन्तान जन्माउन पाउँदिन । उनको मातृत्व समाजलाई अपाच्री हुन्छ । समाजले उनलाई बाँधेर राखेको छ ।

तारा को ठीक विपरीत छे पवित्रा । ऊ समाजको जञ्जीर तोडेर नर्तकी, वेश्या, र एकल आमा पनि बन्छे । जीवनको उत्तरार्धमा ऊ कुण्ठारहित जीवन बाँच्दछे । पवित्राका भोगाई र यमुनाको वैवाहिक जीवनको प्रसङ्गहरूले ताराका कुण्ठित मनको वेदना छ्ताछुल्ल पारिदिएका छ्न् ।

***

अन्त्यमा,

उपन्यासमा केही कुराहरू दोहोरिएका जस्ता लाग्छन् भने केही कुरा अधुरा । जस्तै, यमुनाको यौन जीवनका कुराहरू दोहोरिएर आएका छन् । त्यस्तै, एकपटक आफ्नी बहिनी भेट्न भनी गएकी तारा बहिनीको घरै पुग्दिन । उता, वर्षौँदेखी हराएको ताराको कान्छो भाइ देवघाटमा आइपुग्छ तर उसको कहानी थाहा नपाउँदा त्यो कुरा नै नभनिएको भए हुन्थ्यो जस्तो लाग्छ ।

सामान्य कथा बोकेको सामान्य शब्दहरूमा लेखिएको “सेतो धरती” सामान्य उपन्यास भने होइन । लेखक न्यौपानेले भनेझैँ यो अनुभूतिमुलक आख्यान भएकाले नै यो सशक्त बन्न सकेको हो ।

***

“सेतो धरती”

विधा: उपन्यास

लेखक: अमर न्यौपाने

पृष्ठ: ३७३