Our Nepal Trip, was formally ending. It was the last day with the villagers and the community of Jonapur Village. After some remarkable three days with them, it was finally, time to leave. We were taking back with us some wonderful memories, memories of a sleepy little village wrapped up in fog, with mountains bordering it at a distance. Memories of golden yellow and green fields, patchy roads, of ducks floating on large water bodies and bullock carts on its potholed streets. The abundant trees, rickety fences, thatched houses and their simplistic lives. We brought home memories of a village and their community, a community that has pledged free labour from each and every household, to build a school for their new generation, and a better future for their children.
This is the concluding part of my Nepal Travelogue. You can read it from the beginning by clicking here.
A community which we were so very fortunate to meet. We carried back with us memories of some wonderful host families, and the way they tried to accommodate every small need of us through their little means. We also came back richer with a greater team spirit, greater compassion for humanity, empathy and openness to other’s ways of life. An enlightening experience in all.
The return plans had also changed since yesterday. The original plan to fly back from the nearest airport – Dhangadi was shelved because of persisting fog and cancellation of regular flights from this local airport. The plan to drive back to Nepalgunj was on till late last evening when we received reports of an indefinite road block across the region, along with some more reports and incidents of vehicles being burned by mob rage. The dispute between two different states of Nepal, on some territorial rights, and political activists having a field day.
So the BuildOn Team as well as the local community started to connect to local and powerful people in order to find a solution. The local Director General of Police, who had been the chief guest at the village programme two days back was contacted and other politicians were notified. Maneuvering for an exit plan was being worked out. The fallback plan, in case this didn’t materialize, was to hire a chartered plane to fly us back to Kathmandu. Troubled times, as the evening progressed. Late evening, confirmation came that the DGP has spoken to others and have offered to provide us escort protection as and when needed.
Thus after three days in this village of Jonapur in North western Nepal, it was finally our time to leave. By then it felt like we were also part of their lives, their dreams. Their struggles, pains and miseries also burnt a hole in our hearts. The farewell was a touching one. Jonapur community spoke about their experiences and we spoke about ours. There was a small congregation where the important members of the community came forward, gave their thanks and wished us well. So did we, representing Jafza and UAE as a whole. We wished them success in their initiative of building the school, to which they promised to keep up the good work that has been started, and to complete the school ahead of schedule. The target was to bring the school up and running before April when a new batch of students can start.
They wished a safe journey back and we wished them well. Both sides seemed to be losing a friend of long, and our hearts were saddened.
Leaving the village
Around 10, we left the community. We packed our bags and hauled them into the BuildOn bus that was supposed to take us back to Nepalgunj. It was a drive of about 4 hours, a small detour to another school which BuildOn had built a year back. We reached the school in about an hour, it teeming with small children, their parents and the teacher and school management. They explained that though it was Saturday and their school was off. But everybody wanted to meet us and the children wanted to show us their classes and what they were learning.
We spent a half hour with these little kindergarten children and interacting with them. We asked them questions and spoke to the teachers. The next classroom was full with a team of about 30 women who were attending an adult education. The class happens every Saturday. They told us that they wanted to learn a bit of mathematics which can help them in their day to day lives. They also wanted to read and write in English as their children have started school and needed support in their homework. One of them wrote her name on the class-board amid cheering and clapping from everyone around. It was a moment of pride for all of them.
Here is a link to the video used by Jafza , who had sponsored our trip.
We left the school, an hour later and were back on the road. Another half an hour’s drive and we met protestors blocking the road. The DGP was called, more discussions with other important functionaries and then the protestors yielded. We moved on. But every dozen kilometers or so, we had to repeat the procedure and gain access to cross and move ahead. Nick, the BuildOn coordinator always used to humour the protestors by speaking with folded hands in his heavily accented Nepali. “Namaste ! Mora naam Nirmal Chaudhuri ho”. Nirmal was the pseudonym given to him by the village community here in Jonapur. It matched with his very own Nick. But the way he started flaunting it along with his white skin, blue eyes and blond locks; it never failed to bring smiles and funny looks from the protestors.
This funny usage of forceful Nepali usually broke the ice, and then a little coaxing, pleading, informing them delicately that the bus is from an American NGO carrying foreigners who had come here on a school-building project, ultimately broke the shackles. This was repeated each and every time, on the dozens of road blocks that we faced on our way. And ultimately it worked every time. The Nepal police kept a respectable distance, keeping an eye on the developments. Watching these little meets and discussions that were happening along the highway. We were probably the only vehicle plying the Nepal highway in these two disturbed states that day. We were escorted by the paramilitary with a red hooter for the last 25 kilometres to Nepalgunj airport. A couple of hours later the Buddha Air flight left for Kathmandu. We were at Hotel Thamel before dinner time.
No trip to Kathmandu is complete without a visit to Pashupati Nath Mandir for the religious Hindu. You can check the video here. Early next morning, after a hot shower we started for the Temple, about 6 kms from our Thamel Hotel. We hired a taxi, wait out a half hour and then bring us back to the hotel after some small negotiations. The usually packed roads were still empty being so early and for some local festival, and thus we reached quickly.
Pashupatinath Mandir or Pashupatinath Temple is the most sacred temple for the Hindus in Kathmandu and in all of Nepal. The Temple is dedicated to Shiva the king ( nath) of the Pashu (animals). Attracting tourists from not only Nepal, but also from India and abroad, Pashupatinath Temple holds a special place in the Hindu map of spirituality and penance for the religious minded Hindu, -a must in a lifetime. Nepal was officially a Hindu nation till about 5 years back, and the sentiments for a Hindu state run high.
The Temple sits on the west bank of Bagmati river, and there is also an adjoining cremation ground. It is said that many of the old and the weak travel to this temple and live in the adjoining shelters in the hopes of a divine death here and a salvation for the soul. The presence of sadhus or sanyasis is also common around the temple and its different courtyards and cells.
Crowds were just beginning to form at Pashupatinath early in the morning. The temple management manages an external counter to keep your shoes/ bags and belongings safe. In return the office provides you a token. My friend bought flowers from a local vendor, and offered his Pujas and prayers to Lord Shiva. The Temple priest taken with by his elocution of the mantras, brought out garlands from inside the sanctum to offer us. Post pujas we had a look at the beautiful motifs and statuettes around the main temple and its adjoining courtyards. We spent a few minutes in front of the huge idol and then left. We were just back in time to catch the buffet breakfast at our hotel. Bread/jam/ chicken franks and the coffee tasted delicious. We then packed our bags for the flight early afternoon.
Now, no trip to any new place can never really conclude till you have brought home some souvenirs and mementoes from the place. Our flight with FlyDubai was scheduled to leave at 3.40 in the afternoon. This meant that I barely had enough time to get hold of a few items before we left Kathmandu and Nepal. Off I went for some quick shopping around the busy streets of Thame. But b