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.
“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.
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.
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.
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, 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 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.
एकाबिहानै धरहरा निर्माण सम्बन्धमा लेखिएको एउटा पोस्ट इन्स्टाग्राममा देखियो:
नेपाङ्ग्रेजीमा लेखिएको पोस्टले भन्छ– सरकारले ४.५ अर्बको लगानीमा २२ तले धरहरा बनाउने योजना बनाइरहेको छ ।
यो विषयमा आएका टिप्पणीहरू रोचक छन् । जस्तै:
सारांश: “धरहरा बनाउनुको औचित्य के हो ? त्यसमा लगानी हुने रकम कुनै दीर्घकालीन पार्ने काममा लगाउनु पर्छ ।”
सारांश: “एउटा कलाहीन खाँबोप्रति यति आशक्ती किन ? किन धरहरालाई सांस्कृतिक महत्त्व भएजसरी प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ ।”
“धरहरालाई जस्ताको त्यस्तै राखेर संग्राहलय बनाउन किन नहुने ?”
यस प्रकारका टिप्पणीहरू टन्नै देखेपछि खुसी हुने कि दु:खी हुने द्विविधामा परेँ । र आश्चर्य पनि लाग्यो–हाम्रो बुद्धि किन ढिलो पलाउँछ ?
धरहरा पुनर्निर्माणको कुरा आजको होइन । यो २०७२ वैशाख १२ मा धरहरा ढलेदेखि नै आएको हो । त्यही बेलादेखि धरहराको चित्र बनाएर “हामी फेरि जाग्नेछौँ” (“We will rise again”) भन्ने युवाहरूको जमात ठूलै थियो । तिनै युवा भन्थे, “धरहराको पुनर्निर्माण प्राथमिकतामा पर्नुपर्छ ।”
धरहरा पुनर्निर्माणको प्राथमिकतामा पर्नुपर्छ भन्ने कुराको विरोध मैले पहिले नै गरेको थिएँ ।
“धरहरा फेरि नबनाेस् भनेर सायद कमैले साेचे हाेलान् । म तिनमा पर्छु जाे धरहराको ठाउँमा स्मारक बनाेस् भन्ने चाहन्छन् । म त अझ भन्छु- धरहराको अवशेषलाई संरक्षण गरियाेस् । नजिकै एउटा ग्यालरीमा धरहराका पुराना फाेटा राखिउन् । त्याे ग्यालरीले सन्देश दिओस्- हामी प्रकृतिलाई जित्न सक्दैनाैं तर प्रकृति सुहाउँदाे परिवर्तन गर्न सक्छाैं ।
मेराे परिकल्पना साकार नहाेला, धरहरा नै बन्ला तर जुन देशका जनता कठ्याङ्ग्रिदाे जाडाेमा भाेकै नाङ्गै मरिरहेका छन्, त्यस्ताे देशमा धरहराजस्ता संरचनाको कुनै अर्थ छ र ? के त्यस्ता संरचनाले ती आहत जनतालाई मलम लगाउन सक्छ ? सक्दैन भने अहिले धरहरा बनाइहाल्नु पर्ने केका लागि ?
माथिका प्रश्नहरू बाँकी रहुन्जेल धरहरा फेरि बन्नु सायद हाम्राे लागि अभिशाप नै हुनेछ । सभ्यता र संस्कार खाेक्रा अाडम्बर हुनेछन् । हामी इतिहासमा मानवीय संवेदना नभएका मानिसका रूपमा चिनिने छाैँ । हाम्राे संस्कृतिको धरहरा भत्किने छ, जति नै अग्लाे संरचना बने पनि ।”
Corruption prevails and we watch. Someone among us cheats us and we let it go. We lose common sense while giving priority to emotions over artificial structures. More than twenty lakh rupees have been raised on the fund for reconstruction of Dharahara. A new tower will be built that will resemble nothing with the past. It will fall some day. We will fall some day. Our descendants will cry looking at it. They too will lose their common sense as we have done. Another structure would rise. The cycle would go on.
सारांश: “नयाँ धरहरा नयाँ स्वरूपमा बन्नेछ । यसको निर्माणमा हुने भ्रष्टाचार आँखा चिम्लेर स्वीकार्नेछौँ । त्यो ढल्नेछ अनि हाम्रा सन्तती रुनेछन् । फेरि बनाउनेछन् त्यस्तै संरचना । फेरि ढल्नेछ ।”
नयाँ स्वरूपमा धरहरा बन्छ भनेर सरकारले पहिले नै भनेको हो । अर्थात्, यो पुनर्निर्माण होइन, नवनिर्माण हो । सर्वसाधारणले धरहराप्रति जुन लगाव देखाए, सरकारले त्यसैलाई क्यास गर्न खोजेको होला । तर सरकार असंवेदनशील किन ? नाफामुखी किन ? धनीमनीको मात्रै किन ?
सोचौँ त, २२ तले टावर बनाउने साढे ४ अर्ब रूपैयाँले कति भुकम्प, बाढी र पहिरोले पीडितलाई राहत दिन सकिन्छ ? कति विद्युत् र सिँचाइ परियोजना बन्छ्न् ? कति स्तरीय बाटाघाटा बन्छन् ?
हुन त हामी जस्तो, नेतृत्व पनि त्यस्तै हुने हो । अनि भ्रष्टाचारी कर्मचारी प्रशासन र फटाहा (लुटाहा) व्यापारी भएपछि जनतालाई नचाहिने कुरामा खर्च हुन्छ नै । पहिले नै “धरहरालाई म्युजियम बना सरकार, अर्को चाहिँदैन” भन्या भए तिनलाई पोस्नै पर्ने थिएन ।
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 ।
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 ।
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 ।
आफैँले मारेँ भनेका सपनाहरू
“लाग्यो होला तँलाई हामी मर्यौँ
तर हामी त तँ भित्रै छौँ
हामी तेरै अंश त हौँ !
जबसम्म तँ जिउँदो छ्स्,
हाम्रो अन्त्य हुनेछैन ।
“तेरो मनले बनाएको पिँजडामा
हामी बसेका छौँ
तैले वास्तै नगरे पनि
ब्युँता फेरि हामीलाई
खुसी हुन्छस्, सुखी हुन्छस् ।
कति रोक्छस् अन्तरात्माको आवाज ?
तोड पिँजडा, मुक्त गर,
अनि हुर्का हामीलाई ।”
डरको झ्यालखाना तोडेर
बचेखुचेका रहर जोडेर
सपनाको लिलाम गर्नेहरूसँग जोगिएर
आजकल मैले फेरि सपना देख्न थालेको छु !
नीदमा र जागामा
आशाका मसिना धागामा
सपनाको माला उन्न थालेको छु !