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.

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गोर्खा मनकामना …

“उठ्, हामीसँग मनकामना हिँड् ।” ठुल्ममीको आवाज आयो ।

“जानू दादा, फुर्सद पनि छ ।” बहिनीले भनी ।

साउन १० गते मङ्गलबार मेरा कानमा परेका पहिला शब्दहरू यिनै थिए । म भने निद्राबाट राम्रोसँग ब्युँझिएकै थिइन । के भइरहेको छ भनेर बुझ्नै सकिन निकै बेर त । सपना पो हो कि ? एकछिन रनभुल्लमा परेपछि सपना होइन भन्ने लाग्यो अनि नुहाउनु पो पर्छ भन्दै जुरुक्क उठेँ ।

शरीर भित्र र बाहिर सफा भएपछि चियाको चुस्की लिँदै बिस्कुट चप्लक्क चोब्दै चपाएँ । मन्दिर जानु थियोे तर भोक असाध्यै लागेको थियो । पेटको जलन शान्त भयो । साँच्चै भैरव अर्यालले भनेझैँ भुँडी पूजा नभएसम्म केही गर्न मन नलाग्दो रहेछ ।

सवा ६ बजेतिर ठुल्ममी र ठुल्बाबासँग घरबाट निस्किएँ । कालो बादल बर्सिन थाल्यो । घरबाट धुम्बाराही चोक नपुग्दै मसिनो भए पनि भिज्ने गरि पानी परिसकेको थियो । ठुल्बाबा त लमकलमक अघि लागिहाल्नु भो । ठुल्ममीलाई चैँ हिँड्न गाह्रो हुन थालेको रैछ । त्यसमाथि मामूको सानो चप्पल लगाउनु भएको थियो । उहाँको गतिमा हिँडेँ म पनि, छाता ओढ्दै ।

धुम्बाराही चोकमा पुग्नेबित्तिकै महानगर यातायात चढियो । हुन त चक्रपथ परिक्रमा गर्ने गाडी पाउन गाह्राे छैन तर जुन पहिला आयो त्यही नै चढियो । पहिले महानगर यातायातको गाडी चढ्दा बस्न अफ्ठ्यारो भएको थिएन । त्यो गाडीमा बस्दा चैँ अगाडिको सिटमा घुँडा ठोकियो । ‘घुँडा नठोक्किने सिट स्पेस भएको गाडी पाउन पनि अति मुस्किल !’ मेरो सोच ।

सात बजे कलंकी पुग्यौँ । एकैछिनमा नारायणगढ जाने गाडी (माइक्रोबस) मा मनकामना (कुरिनटार) ओर्लिने भन्दै चढ्यौँ । सुरुमा प्रती व्यक्ति ३७० रुपैयाँ भन्दैथिए तर ३०० मै माने । सुरुमा त सोचिनँ तर एक जनालाई ५० रुपैयाँ जती महङ्गो पर्न गयो कि जस्तो चैँ लाग्यो ।

कलंकीमा सातै बजेदेखि जाम ! एक लेन बाटो खनेको छ अनि मास्तिर चोकमा पहिले बनेको आकाशे पुल भत्काएर बिजोग ! आधा घण्टापछि जाम खुल्यो । काठमाडौँ जिल्लाका नगरहरूको बिजोग पनि देखियो । बाटोभरी पानी परिरह्यो । हिलोले छ्पक्कै छोपेको छ काठमाडौँको सडकलाई । गाडीहरूले जोतेका छन् तिनलाई । कमी छ त रोपार र धानका बीउको ! काठमाडौँ महानगरपालिका, नागार्जुन र चन्द्रागिरि नगरपालिकाका मुल बाटाहरू नै खेतजस्ता भएका छन् । कीर्तिपुरमा सडक निर्माणमा घोटाला भयो रे भन्ने सुनिएको थियो अघिल्लो दिन । स्मार्ट नगर बनाउँछौँ भन्ने निर्वाचित पदाधिकारीलाई सम्झेर हाँसो उठ्छ । माया पनि लागेर आउँछ । कम्तीमा सिटी त पहिला बनाउनुस् भन्ने सुझाव पनि दिन मन लाग्छ ।

धुवाँधुलोको शहर छुटेर गाडी नागढुङ्गाको ओरालो झर्यो । हिलो कम भएको थियो तर कुहिरोले डाँडो पुरै छेकेको थियो । पानीमा रुझ्दै गाडीले कुहिरो छिचोल्यो । नौबिसे आइपुग्दा त आकाश अलि खुलेको थियो, पानी पर्न पनि रोकिएको थियो ।

सिम्लेमा गाडी एकछिन रोकियो । पर पानीले डुबाइएका खेतमा खनजोत गर्दै रोपाइँ चल्दै थियो । मलाई रमाइलो लाग्दै थियो । ती किसानहरू चाहिँ रमाइ रहेका थिए वा सधैँ गर्नुपर्ने कामको बोझले थिचिएका थिए, थाहा नै भएन । अझ पर पर पहाडको टाकुरीमा सेतो-कालो बादल मडारिइ रहेका थिए । ती बादलले किसानलाई खुसीको सन्देश दिन्छन् सायद । तर कल्पना नै गर्न नसक्ने त्रास पो दिन्छन् कि सँगै बाढी पहिरो ल्याएर ।

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सिम्लेमा हाईवेबाट देखिएको दृश्य

 

त्यसपछि गाडी फेरि हुइँकियो । निकैबेर हावाले मुखमा हानिरह्यो । मुख अलिकति कुच्चियो कि जस्तो पनि लाग्थ्यो घरीघरी । तर मीठा गीत सुन्दै बाहिर हेर्दै हावा खानुको मज्जा शब्दमा वर्णन गर्नै सकिँदैन ! बैरेनी बजारमा बाटो बन्दै रहेछ । त्यहाँ पनि हिलो र धुलो देख्न पाइयो । काठमाडौंं झैँ निर्माणाधीन बजार रहेछ भन्ने मेरो मनमा पर्‍यो । तर अलि पर मोडमा पुग्दा खनिएको पहाड अस्थिर भएर अहिले नै ढुङ्गा खस्छन् कि जस्तो पनि देखियो । त्यो बजार कटे पछि फेरि रफ्तार पकड्यो माइक्रोले ।

साढे नौ बजेतिर मलेखु बजारमा गाडी गुड्दै थियो । मेरो मन पनि उड्दै थियो । परार साल हिउँदमा दुई साता बसेपछि त्यो ठाउँमा प्राणको अंश नै छोडे झैँ लाग्छ । त्यहाँ हिँडेका बाटा-गोरेटा, पहाड र खोलाहरूको सम्झना मस्तिष्कमा ताजा नै छ । गाडी त्यो क्षेत्रबाट जाँदै गर्दा सोच्छु–ओहो, धेरै नै पो हिँडिएछ त्यो बेला !

हामीले परार साल “इन्डिभिजुअल फिल्ड” का क्रममा सुन्तला किनेर खाएको ठाउँ शितलबजारमा गाडी रोकियो । ड्राइभर दाइले धेरै समय लगाए खाना खान । कुरिनटार अब बीस मिनेटमा पुगिन्छ पनि भने । खासै टाढाजस्तो त मलाई पनि लागेको थिएन त्यहाँबाट तर बीस मिनेट मात्र होला ? प्रश्न आयो मनमा ।

आधा घण्टा गाडी त्यहीँ रोकियो । अनि गुड्न थाले पछि बीस मिनेट घडीमा हेर्न थालेँ । समय मात्रै अघि बढ्यो । ठाउँ त आउँदैन त । अर्को बीस मिनेटमा पनि आइपुगेन । होइन, ड्राइभर दाइले त उसै भनेछन् । निकै टाढा रहेछ । शितलबजारबाट हिँडेको ठ्याक्कै एक घण्टामा कुरिनटार पुगियो । त्यसबीचमा थुप्रै ठाउँ देखियो । इच्छाकामना नेर पर पहाडबाट झरेको झरना देख्दा मन रमाएको थियो तर गाडीको बेगका कारण फोटो खिच्न चाहिँ सकिनँ ।

मनकामना केबलकार

मनकामना मन्दिरसम्म सजिलो गरि आवतजावत गराउने उद्देश्यले मनकामना केबलकार प्रा. लि. ईस्वी सम्बत् १९९९ देखि सञ्चालनमा आएको छ । कुरिनटार र मनकामनामा दुइटा स्टेसन छ्न् । बीचमा २० वटा टावरमा बाँधिएको तारको लट्ठामा गोन्डोला (कार) हरू समान दूरीमा झुन्डाइएका छन् । जम्मा ३६ वटा यात्रुबाहक र ३ वटा मालबाहक कारहरू छन् । तर मर्मतका लागि केही कारहरू छुट्टै राखिएका हुन्छन् । केबलकारबाट ओहोरदोहोर गर्न औसतमा दस मिनेट लाग्छ । काउन्टरमा तीनजनाको लागि ठुल्बाबाले टिकट लिनुभयो । हामी स्टेसनतर्फ लाग्यौं ।

मनकामना केबलकार स्टेसन, कुरिनटार

केबलकार चढ्न मानिसहरूको लाइन । माथि बोर्डमा सुरक्षा निर्देशन ।

एनसेलले कुनै बेला पर्पल बनाइदिएको त्रिशुली पारिको बस्ती

करालो

मनकामना बजार

गोर्खा जिल्लाको मनकामना स्टेसनको गेटबाट बाहिरिने बित्तिकै मनकामना बजार देखिन्छ । दश वर्षअघि यो बजारमा खानाको व्यापार व्यापक थियो । अहिले पनि छ । तर अझ व्यापक भएछ, फोटोको व्यापार !

“फोटो खिचाउन यता आउनुस् (दाजु/दिदी/अंकल/आन्टी) ।”

“हाम्रोमा अरू पसलमा भन्दा सस्तो छ ।” रेट कति भनेर सोध्दा भित्र तानेर लान्छन् अनि थरीथरीका फ्रेम देखाउँछन् । चित्त बुझेन भने पनि सकेसम्म आफ्नोमा फोटो खिचाइदिन चाहन्छ्न् । खिचातानी चल्छ । रिसाउँछन्, गाली पनि गर्छन् । रमाइलो मानेकोले मात्रै तर फोटो खिचाउनु छैन भने त अत्ति नै हो नि !

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व्यापार

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बजारमा अग्लाअग्ला घरहरू छन् । छक्क पर्दै हेर्छौँ । बजारको अन्तिम मोडमा पुगेपछि देखिन्छ मन्दिर …

मनकामना मन्दिर

किंवदन्ती

गोर्खाका राजा राम शाहकी रानी महिमावती (जसलाई लीलावती वा चन्द्रमुखी पनि भनिन्थ्यो) सँग महाकाली, महालक्ष्मी र महासरस्वतीको शक्ति थियो । उनको शक्तिका कारण गोर्खामा जनताले न्यायको प्रत्याभूति गर्न पाए । उनको न्यायका कारण “न्याय नपाए गोर्खा जानू” भन्ने लोकोक्ति प्रख्यात हुन गयो । उनका भक्त लखन थापा मगर मात्र उनको दिव्य शक्तिका बारेमा जान्दथे ।”

एकदिन राजाले रानीलाई देवी स्वरूपमा देखे । उनले त्यो कुरा रानीलाई भनेको केही समयमा नै उनको मृत्यु भयो । तत्कालीन चलन अनुसार रानी सती जानुपर्ने भयो । लखन थापाले ठूलो बिस्मात् गरे । रानीले उनको घर नजिकै अवतरित हुने वाचा गरिन् ।

केही महिनापछि एउटा किसानले खेत खन्दै गर्दा हलो एउटा ढुङ्गामा ठोक्कियो । त्यो ढुङ्गाबाट दूध र रगत बहन थाल्यो । किसानले लखन थापालाई बोलयो । उनले त्यो ढुङ्गामा देवी अवतरण हुनुभयो भन्ने बुझे । तान्त्रिक शक्तिको प्रयोग गरेर उनले दूध र रगतको वहाव रोके अनि मनकामना देवीका रूपमा स्थाप्ना गरे । उनै लखन थापाका सन्तानहरू मनकामना मन्दिरका पुजारी रहन्छन् ।

वर्तमान 

… त्यस दिन मनकामना मन्दिरको जुन स्वरूप देखियो, त्यो मैले कल्पना नै गरेको थिइनँ । पहिले देखेझैँ रातो रङ्गले रङ्गिएजो दुई तले मन्दिर देखिन्छ भन्ने लागेको थियो । तर देखियो गजुर र माथिल्लो तला झिकिएको, खट बाँधिएको, फुङ रङ उडेको एउटा संरचना !

२०७२ वैशाख १२ गते गोर्खा जिल्लाको बार्पाकलाई केन्द्रविन्दु बनाएर भुकम्प गएको थियो । त्यही बेला नै मनकामना मन्दिर भत्किएको थाहा पाइएको थियो । ठीक ६ महिना अघि मामुबाबा त्यहाँ जाँदा खट बाँधेको रहेछ भन्नुभएको थियो । तर मैले त्यहाँ मन्दिरको स्वरूप नै देखिनँ । शंका लाग्यो, मनकामना मन्दिर यही हो त ?

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मनकामना मन्दिर । पुरानो स्वरूप जस्तापातामा टाँगिएको फ्लेक्समा । मान्छेले नगरी त भगवानले पनि आफ्नो घर बनाउन नसक्दा रहेछन् !

बजार र वरपरका संरचनामा भुकम्पको प्रभाव देखिँदैन । मन्दिर चाहिँ पुनर्निर्माण गर्न भन्दै भत्काइएको छ । चन्दा उठाइँदै छ । “मनकामना मन्दिरको र केबलकार कम्पनीको आम्दानीबाट नै मन्दिर बनाउन सम्भव छैन र ?” ठुल्बाबाको प्रश्न । “सरकारी सहयोग पनि कुरेर बसेका होलान् ।” मेरो तर्क । तर मन्दिर छिटो नबन्नु दुर्भाग्य नै हो ।
मन्दिर हेर्दाहेर्दै मनमा उठ्यो, “ढुङ्गाको मूर्तिमा भगवान मान्नु अनि संरक्षण गर्नु मानिसको कल्पना बाहेक केही होइन रैछ । शक्तिशाली भए त ढुङ्गाका भगवानले आफ्नो घर त जोगाउनु पर्ने । अनि आफ्नो घर आफैँ बनाउनु पर्ने । तर मान्छेको कल्पनाभन्दा माथी केही पनि छैन । मान्छेले नगरी त भगवानले पनि आफ्नो घर बनाउन नसक्दा रहेछन् !”

ढुङ्गाको मूर्तिमा देउता हुँदैनन् भन्ने मान्यता राख्ने मजस्ताका लागि यो निकै राम्रो प्रमाण हो । तर म खुसी हुन सकिनँ । मन्दिर र मूर्ती हाम्रा पुर्खाको कला र मिहिनेतका निशानी हुन् । मन्दिर बनाउन ढिलो गर्नु भनेको पुर्खाको उपहास हो ।

मूल मन्दिर छेउमा एउटा टहरो बनाएर “देवी”लाई राखिएको छ । मगर पुजारीका हातबाट म “बाहुनको छोरो”ले टीका थाप्छु । जातीयताको कुनै प्रश्न उठ्दैन । पछाडि रहेको गोरखनाथमा बेलपत्र चढाउछौँ । अनि दश-पन्ध्र मिनेटमा नै हामी मन्दिर प्राङ्गणबाट बजारमा आउँछौँ । बजार तीनचार पटक ओहोरदोहोर गरे पछि हामी स्टेसनमा फर्कियौं ।

मनाकामना स्टेसनमा केहीबेर लाइन बस्नुपर्यो । तर दुई बजे हामी तल्लो स्टेसनमा पुगिसकेका थियौं । तर काठमाडौं आउँदा नौबिसेमा जाम परेकाले अनि पानी पनि परेकाले नौ नबजी घर आइपुगिएन ।

फर्किने बेलाको लाइन

​बाह्र सत्ताइस कविता 

बिहान सबेरै उठेर
हतार हतार हिँड्यो केटो

परीक्षा दिन भनी ।

‘ढिलो हुन्छ होला,’ ऊ सोच्छ ।

रिङ्गरोडमा उडेको धुँवा हेर्दै,

बानेश्वर पुग्ने गाडी कुर्दै,

‘कसरी समयमा पुग्ने होला?”

सोच्छ घडी हेर्दै ।
भाग्यले साथ दियो,

एउटा माइक्रो आयो

धुम्बाराहीदेखि बानेश्वर जाने ।

चार मिनेटमा चाबेल पुर्‍यायो

अनि सुरु भयो जाम

गाडीहरूको अद्भूत जाम !

धुवाँ उडाउँदै उभिएका गाडी

लस्कर लागेर एकअर्कालाई धुँवा दिँदैछन्

चुरोट पिउने साथीहरूले चुरोट बाँडेझैँ ।

‘तिनीहरूको फोक्सो दह्रो हुँदो हो,’ ऊ गम्छ

‘यस्तो धुँवा धुलो खप्न

धुँवा पहिल्यै भरिएको छ !’
कछुवा गतिमा गाडी अघि बढिरहेछ

आफूभित्र धुलो भरिरहेछ !

दम बढ्यो केटोको

झ्याल खोल्ने कि नखोल्ने

अलमलमा पर्छ ।

झ्याल खोले पनि नखोले पनि

धुलोले आखिर फोक्सो भरेकै छ ।
जाम खुल्यो पन्ध्र मिनेटमा !

खुलेकै त होइन

ट्रकले छोड्यो बाटो थोरै ।

गयो माइक्रो अघि

केटोले बाटो देख्यो

बाटो बाँकी थिएन

हिलोमा गाडी गुड्दैथे

अनि देब्रेपट्टी एउटा डोजर

मेलम्चीको पानी आउने पाइप

बिछ्याएपछि

बाटो पुर्दैथ्यो ।
साढे छ बजे पुग्यो बानेश्वर

पुग्न अझै थियो शंखमुल

हिँड्दा हिँड्दै देख्यो एउटा पुल

आकाशे पुल

नभए पनि हुने ठाउँमा 

बानेश्वर चोकमा पुल बनेन

तर थापागाउँ जाने बाटोमा बनेछ !

आवश्यक भएको ठाउँमा

जेब्रा क्रस पनि राम्रो रहेनछ !
फोटो खिच्न हुन्थ्यो

मोबाइल रहेनछ !

सेन्टर नै अजिब

ब्याग बिल्डिङ बाहिर राख्नुपर्ने

मोबाइल पनि त्यैँ

घरै राख्नु बेस भनेर छोडेको घरमै !
लमकलमक हिँड्दै

पुग्नै लाग्दा शंखमुल पुल

बोलायो कसैले !

रहेछ एन ओल्ड फ्रेन्ड फ्रम लिभरपुल

“ओहो अबिन !” भन्दै

लामो कुरा गर्न नपाउँदै

एक्जाममा पुग्न ढिलो हुन्छ भन्दै

स्यँस्याँफ्याँफ्याँ गर्दै पुग्यो

एक्जाम हलमा !
मिति लेख्दा कपीमा

बाह्र-सत्ताइस पो रैछ

बेमतलब, बेकार

जाममा फसेर,

बीस मिनेट लम्केर

प्रश्न सजिलै परे

त्यसै दु:ख पाको हरे !

The day I reached the Birthplace of Gautam Buddha

I can’t believe almost one and a half month has passed since that fateful day because it is still fresh in my mind.

Mangsir 26, 2073 (December 12, 2016), was the day I was waiting for long. I had heard that during our field tour of Butwal-Palpa, we could go to their but I was not sure. Thanks to the teachers, I finally got to observe and walk on the Holy Land of Lumbini–the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.

Lumbini is in Rupandehi district, about 30 minutes drive from Bhairahawa, the headquarter of the district at the co-ordinates 27.484ºN and 83.276ºE in the Terai zone of Nepal. It has an area of (4.8 × 1.6) sq. km. and consists of several temples and monasteries.

It was a fine day at Masyam, Palpa. There sun was shining with its might. The hills were bright green. Some stripes of white clouds could be seen in the sky. We would first visit Semlar and Kalikanagar for our field work. Then we would visit Lumbini. Everyone was excited.

As we moved south towards Butwal, I noticed from the bus that the clouds were getting thicker. By the time we reached Siddhababa, the clouds covered the sun completely. I realized it was going to be cold.

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Fog being formed on the north of the Tinau River. Gives an idea on the cause of Sitlahar.

When people living in the hills think of Terai, they only think of the hot climate. However, Terai is a difficult place to live in. Just before Spring, (we call “Shishir” in Nepali), strong winds uproot trees, blow away roofs. In summer it is scorching hot. Hot air “loo” blows from Rajasthan, India and in winter it is bitterly cold due to “Sitlahar”. This “Sitlahar” occurs because the relatively warm air rising up from the rivers and lakes cool down when they reach the Siwalik hills. As a result, thick fog covers the Terai. Sun remains absent for weeks. The cold gets its hold slowly, killing people who are deprived of proper shelters, clothes and food.

Our field work was completed by half past eleven. It would take a little longer than an hour to reach Lumbini. We sang different melodies. Some of my friends danced on the bus. Everything was going on well until our vehicle was dragged into a case of accident by a local Bolero. The Bolero driver claimed that our bus had hit his vehicle on its front. Our driver denied and said that our bus had been hit on the back. The traffic police got involved, looked into the case but could not say if the vehicles had hit each other. In the end both were charged a fine of a thousand rupees. What a chaos on the way to the land where the preacher of peace was born! This incident not only tensed us but also got us late by an hour.

At 2 o’clock, we reached Lumbini Bus Park. At four, we had to return to the bus. As I said earlier, Lumbini was enveloped by cold dark clouds. Everything looked gloomy, except our hearts. Several structures were being constructed in the area under Lumbini Development Master Plan. We walked joyfully down the bus park through a bazaar. About two hundred metres down, I saw something I had never ever imagined: a canal.

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The structure on the far end gives the feel of a terminal. Also notice the foggy weather.

The first time I saw the canal at Lumbini, I was awestruck. Even those of my friends who had come here before had not seen it. We could see arc-bridges in across the canal from where we stood. As we went a little further, we saw motorboats. This astonished us again. Some took motorboats for the experience. I say for experience because they were not that fast and the canal is almost half a kilometer long. The motorboats were noisy, moved along the mid-canal as if zipping and unzipping a zipper and created huge ripples which hit the banks of the canal. At the end of the canal is a huge bell and a continuous blazing fire, which everyone said was artificial.

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A canal and motorboats at Lumbini

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Ripples produced in the canal by a motorboat

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An arc bridge across the canal

We had time enough to observe one structure only. So we headed to the Maya Devi Temple. On the way we were greeted by the little golden Siddhartha Gautam pointing his right index finger to the sky. About a hundred metres ahead was the entrance to one of the holiest temples of the world.

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The little golden Siddhartha Gautam

It was (and still is) a tradition to send a pregnant woman to her parents as she is about to give birth to a child. Maya Devi, the Queen of Kapilvastu was pregnant. Suddhodhan, the king sent her along with servants to Devdaha from their palace at Tilaurakot . However, before she could reach her parents at Devdaha, she gave birth to a baby boy while she was standing grabbing a branch of a tree precisely at the location of Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini. The boy is believed to have walked seven steps just after his birth. However I believe the boy tumbled down and survived. Both the mother and the son were then bathed in the pond by the name of Puskarini nearby.

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Maya Devi Temple from the bank of the Puskarini Pond. On the left of the Temple is Asoka Pillar

Maya Devi Temple was built circa third century B.C. It was renovated and restructured several times until seventh century A.D. After that the land was forgotten for centuries. The archaeological remains are preserved under the current modern structure. As we walked around the temple to see the stone which is said to have preserved the footmark  of Siddhartha Gautam (Myths say Siddhartha Gautam walked seven steps. I just saw a single footmark!), I saw old, ripped up structure of the ancient temple made up of pale ancient bricks. Above my head however, I saw beams and pillars supporting the modern structure. It is forbidden to take photos inside the temple. Else I could show what I am talking about.

We then observed the Asoka Pillar erected by Asoka, the Emperor of Magadh in the third century B.C. The Pillar bears a strange language which, unfortunately I forgot to take photo of (I thought taking its photo was also forbidden). Several other photos were taken around the Maya Devi Temple and Puskarini Pond.

We returned to the bus park, bought some cakes (They were yummy!), and took our seats. Tired and delighted, we returned back to our camp at Masyam. I wish I can be there again. I still have so much to observe.

 

 

A District that Could Not be Separated by a River

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Trishuli River at Salanghat, Dhading

I spent fifteen precious days of my life in Dhading from 4th to 18th January. On one occasion I followed my camp to the Trishuli bank overcoming the fear of crossing a suspension bridge.

I saw the river almost everyday walking through the Prithvi Highway. One day a question came up- why did the river not divide the district of Dhading? The southern part, which is closer to the main highway of the country is still remote. How could development works have reached on the northern part? The headquarters of the district is further north from Malekhu, where we stayed. The northern limit is farther still. Except the areas around the Prithvi Highway and Kalu Pandey Highway (Malekhu-Dhading Road), I doubt there is much development within the district. (I will be glad if I am wrong!) However, the rugged topography is a challenge in development.

The Trishuli river itself is a challenge. Except for a few suspension bridges and fewer concrete ones, Tuin is a dangerous and unreliable means of crossing the river. The river, which flows into three districts- Rasuwa, Nuwakot and Dhading has created valleys but the Highway constructed on its left bank accounts for uneven development.

Which is the only district that ranges from Himalaya in the north to the Mahabharat Lek (Hills) in the south? Dhading. I used to answer with pride. Seeing the real troubles there, I now ask expecting answer from somewhere, “Why was the district not made smaller? If its length was to include the Prithvi Highway, why is there a state of unequal development?”

अनिशको ज्याकेट

दूध-जेरी खान जाने आशमा
स्लीपिंग ब्यागबाट निस्केर एकै सासमा
आँखा मिच्दै यताउता हेर्छ अनिश
जुरुक्क उठेर कपडा फेर्छ अनिश

लुगा लगाइसकी यताउता फेरि हेर्छ
नजरले सबलाई केर्छ
एकछिन पछि मुख फोरेर भन्छ,
“कहाँ छ मेरो ज्याकेट?”

“त्यो मेरो सुन्तले रंगको ज्याकेट
मलाई नभई नहुने ज्याकेट;
मेरो नाम लेखिएको त्यो ज्याकेट!
केटा हो ! देख्यौ कि कतै त्यो ज्याकेट ?”

अलमल्ल पर्दै, टाउको कन्याउँदै
सुतिरहेको छिमेकीलाई उठाउँदै
कराउँछ, “अरे ओ बसन्ती, तिम्रो सिरानीमा छ कि मेरो ज्याकेट कतै;
झट्टै उठ त ओ बसन्ती !”

बसन्ती, उर्फ बसन्त भर्खर उठेको;
प्याकेट, ज्याकेट केही थाहा छैन पाएको
अनिशलाई हेर्छ, छक्क मान्छ;
“यतै होला, नत्र त्यत्रो ज्याकेट भन त कता जान्छ ?”

जुरुक्क उठेर ऊ पनि
भेट्याएरै छाड्छु ज्याकेट भनी
सिरानी हटाउँछ, स्लीपिंग ब्याग टक्टक्याउँछ
अनिशतिर हेरी चकित मुद्रामा ऊ भन्छ,
“हैन तिम्रो सामान कता चैँ जान्छ ?”

तनाव भइसक्यो अनिशलाई
टाउको कन्याउँदै, कराउँदै उठायो कोठाका सबै मानिसलाई
छिमेकीलाई उठाएर वल्लो गाउँमा आइ
भन्छ, “ज्याकेट खोजिदिनु पर्यो, ए पवन दाइ |”

म पनि आफ्नो ‘ओछ्यान’ हेर्छु
शुन्य हात लाएर पवन दाइलाई हेर्छु
पवन दाइ चाहिँ उठेर हेर्दै रमिता
भन्दै छन् यस्तै (यो कविता जस्तै) भाकामा एउटा कविता |

आधा घन्टा भइसक्यो
दूध-जेरी खान पाइने टाइम गइसक्यो
तर ज्याकेट हात परेन
त्यो सुन्तले रंगको ज्याकेट नभई
अनिशको पाइला बाहिर सरेन |

रन्थनिँदै, आँखा मिच्दै, कपाल कन्याउँदै
“खोजाओ न हो मेरो ज्याकेट,” भन्दै
पुर्पुरोमा हात लाउँछ अनिश
फिल्ड जानै नपाइने भो भन्ठान्छ अनिश !

“भुल्नेको नि हद हुन्छ,” म भन्दै छु
पहिले उसले हराएका सामानका बारेमा सम्झँदै छु
‘भुलक्कड’को उपमा दिइसके पवन दाइले !
भन्दै छन्, “कस्तो याद नगरेको हो अनिश भाइले ?”

‘यहीँ त राखेको थेँ,’ सोच्दै अझै वरिपरि हेर्छ;
ब्यागको पहाड मजैसँग फोर्छ !
त्यै पनि कतै छैन ज्याकेट |
अनिशको नाम भएको, त्यो पातलो, अतुल्य ज्याकेट !

थचक्क बसेर कपाल समाउँदै
महामू्र्ख नै बनाउँछन् कि भन्ठान्दै
हेर्दै गर्दा बाहिरबाट आइपुगे रवि दाइ
मुहारमा मधुर मुस्कान ल्याइ !

सोध्छन् पवन दाइ, “ए रवि, अनिशको ज्याकेट देख्यौ ?”
अनिशले हेर्यो रवि दाइलाई अनि भन्यो,
“पापी दाइ, मेरो ज्याकेट लायौ ? कताबाट आयौ ?”

अक्क न बक्क परेर, पकेटमा लेखेको नाम पढेर,
भने रवि दाइले, “ओहो अनिश, मैले लाएछु तिम्रो ज्याकेट झुक्के’र !”

हासो छर्दै भन्दै छन् पवन दाइ,
“डिपी सरको चप्पल*, अनिश भाइको ज्याकेट
कालिदास हुन्थ्यो अनिश
रवि नआ’को भए लाएर त्यो ज्याकेट !”

(माघ २, २०७२ बिहान ७ बजे श्री वागेश्वरी उ. मा. वि, रिचोकटार, मलेखुको रुम नं. ३ मा भएको घटनामा आधारित |)
*२०७२ पौष ३० मा रोशनराज भट्टराई सरले सुनाउनु भएको कविता | यो कविता त्यही रचनाबाट प्रेरित छ |

A Walk, A Bent Back!

The world runs in weird ways. People here run in weirder ways. I didn’t choose to run, however. I walked- from home to college and from college to home, alternately on alternate days. I wanted to save my back.

Whoever has known about the micro-buses in Nepal will understand my problem. These vehicles with low height are meant to carry twenty people max at a time. Four people, including a khalasi ( aka conductor. My teacher once called them handyboy, I don’t know why) can be adjusted in most vehicles (usually manufactured by Toyota or KIA). These vehicles are faster than the buses and mini buses and are also operated on smaller roads. That’s why most people use them. Now the vehicles are not enough for transporting people during the “office-time”. There is always a battle to get a seat. If not, one  has to bend their back for at least ten minutes- if luck favours. Otherwise, one might have to stand in that Yoga posture for more than thirty minutes.

I try to avoid such a situation as much as possible. If I have to “stand up” on the micro bus, I will have to bend my low making ninety degrees with my feet. The back pain that sweeps in is the worst. Walking feels much better than this bent standing up.

I walked. This week I walked everyday until Wednesday. On Wednesday, I walked to college in the morning. While returning back home, I thought I climbed on an empty vehicle but unfortunately, it was filled by people in no time. Within seconds, I was squeezed by the people and within ten minutes, I was gasping. The windows were closed because it’s cold in Kathmandu these days. Ironically, I was sweating. People had seen that and had started commenting already. I had to get off. No, not because my destination had arrived but because I could not bear the pain on my back any longer. I got off at Tangal, almost twenty minutes south of my home. I walked again- tired and limping!

The effect showed up on Thursday. I could not dare to walk for forty five minutes between my home and college. I chose micro bus again. Thankfully, I got seats on both occasions that day.

It’s Friday and the pain continues as I write. The only satisfaction is that Saturday is coming up in almost two and a half hours. Hope (the biggest of the troubles released by Pandora) is making me think I can walk to college on Sunday again. Wishing her good luck is all I can do now.