What ‘stops’ a positive force from leading Nepal ?

नेपालीमा यहाँ पढ्नुहोला

What ‘stops’ a positive force from leading Nepal ?

Nepal is filled with intelligent and talented Nepali who love their country dearly. Not a single day passes by when we don’t hear of a remarkable feat of a Nepali around the world. So here is a question for you.

“Despite many intelligent and talented Nepali like us,  why is our nation still stuck in a rut of poverty while our neighbors leap towards prosperity? Why do we keep falling from one disaster to another? Why do incompetent leaders who fail us repeatedly continue to rule our nation?

The real question is, what ‘STOPS’ us from creating that positive force which leads Nepal to prosperity?

The bitter truth is that “WE” – the most intelligent, talented and fortunate among all Nepali - are the key obstacle to getting the leadership Nepal deserves. Our cynical habits and fatalistic attitude consistently stop any credible leadership from rising to lead Nepal. Here’s how:

“Individually excellent, collective failure!”
We may have become experts and leaders in our fields. But we have become so comfortable in our own little cocoons that when someone dares to start on a nation building journey, it does not occur to us that we should help. We subconsciously fear that if we try to help, our carefully carved reputation might get stained. By refusing to align with other leaders we forsake succeeding collectively. As a result, while our nation reeks of failure, we stay cozy inside our bubble.

“My way or the highway!”
We believe that only our way will bring “proper” change in Nepal. We have a nasty habit of dismissing other’s efforts as useless or even outright harmful. Our narrow-minded arrogance has stopped many remarkable Nepali from coming together to solve our nation’s problems.

“We bask in the warmth of power.”
We often rely on the very corrupt people and failed systems we seek to change. We rarely reflect on the consequences of this, especially how it harms those struggling to ignite progressive changes. We often become bystanders in their actions. Only when they succeed, we enter to reap the benefits, not unlike parasites who leech on their hosts to nourish ourselves.

“They must only be after money!”
We are deeply suspicious of positive deeds. If a person starts something promising, we suspect ulterior motives behind it. Our doubts soon take the form of subtle yet vicious rumors spreading like ‘chinese whispers’ which isolates any changemaker. Unknowingly, we become promoters of a culture of pulling others down – “khutta tanne prabidhi”.

“Such is life” Yestai ho, Ke garne?” attitude.
Have you noticed many of our conversations usually end on this note!  We often blame our own “karma” for injustices we face. When we repeat this mantra of ‘fatalism’ daily, we unconsciously build an ecosystem that makes it harder for changemakers to persuade. We create a vicious cycle of resignation within us that dampens the drive for positive transformation from within.

“We over-promise, under-deliver”
How many times have we fallen victim to this? When invited to support a cause, even we are guilty of committing but rarely showing up. Even when we do, we seem to do it out of sheer obligation. We Nepali need to learn the art of saying “No”. We may dismiss this as trivial but to those seeking to transform our nation, these ‘no-shows’ and ‘unreliability’ slowly drains their efforts dry.

 

”I did them a big favor. They better pay back soon! ”
How many times have we heard this? Many of us have a habit of counting our favors and expecting immediate returns. We have little empathy for those who have dared to take the difficult path of transforming our nation. We often prematurely cut short our support leaving them in limbo.

‘Grass is always greener outside Nepal’
How often do we hear this, “Their children are already in America while mine are stuck here...” A Facebook status about winning US DV lottery gets hundreds of likes. But, a call for helping flood victims in Nepal barely gets barely a few. We celebrate relatives who leave Nepal but when one comes back, we howl, “Are you crazy?” Our towns and villages have become old age homes. Our youth are busy building other nations. Ever wonder who our leaders will be left to work with to build Nepal?

“Tomorrow when I wake up, let there be a prosperous Nepal!”
How many of us silently pray for divine power like Pashupatinath to come and save us, ‘the good ones’? We expect our nation to heal on its own without any effort from our side. We often confuse nation building as an effortless task ‘some-one’ else should easily do for us. Instead of lending hand to those patiently trying to build our nation, we are busy daydreaming that somehow it will magically transform overnight!

So until and unless we cleanse ourselves of these negative attitudes, habits and beliefs, we – the fortunate ones – will continue to be the biggest barriers to any positive force leading Nepal to prosperity. So instead of continuing to be a “leadership barrier”, if you want to to cleanse yourself  and become a “leadership builder” here are some of my suggestions.

1) Recognize a leader: do they practise what they preach?
Check whether they only pay lip service or actually keep their word. Instead of falling for lofty promises, find out if they have delivered in the past. Always champion those who under-promise and over-deliver.

 

2) Don’t “Aid”. “Invest”!
Future leaders need your long term commitment to change, not your one-time donations. If you can, invest your time directly. Otherwise, invest by giving resources or your network. Nation building is like raising your own child. It takes years before you see results. Imagine how rewarding it will be seeing these budding leaders grow and deliver in the future ( because of you). 

3)  “Leaders are built (not born or found)” Make this your mantra.
Buddha, Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Teresa’s journey to excellence did not happen overnight. Pele did not become Pele on his own. Continuous faith and support from citizens similar to you moulded and sharpened these ordinary beings into extraordinary. Today, you have this exciting power to nurture the leaders and heroes you crave for in Nepal. So, take control for raising the next Buddha right here and make our Nepal shine again!

4) Stop building another paradise, focus on rebuilding our own.
Nepal is a broken paradise. Over the years, we broke it. Now let us rebuild it. Instead of “building” already developed nations, why don’t we come together to rebuild our own? If you are outside, you can start building your own path back to Nepal by investing in positive changes here so that our paradise is rebuilt right here, with your direct help from there.

5) “Feed the hungry, not those already full”
Instead of continuing to support only those already powerful, how about giving a hand to those who need it. Those working for change are usually alone, starving for help. Embrace them. Instead of voting for those you think might win, how about voting for those who you believe are on the right path?

6) Help marathon runners, not 100 meter sprinters.
We usually fail right here. We often trust those who promise immediate results without questioning how they would deliver this. Change comes through persistence. We all know this. Let us build our patience to support these who are in it for the long haul and do not tire easily. If you want to see a nation transformed, seek those who are ready to run marathons, not quick sprints.

7) Embrace doers and bring balance to the system.
There is a deep imbalance in Nepal because those who prescribe change outnumber those who make that change happen. Planners, advisers and intellectuals alone isn’t enough to build our nation. We need to find and support the ‘doers’ who will dare to make that change happen.

8) Be that “first follower”!
To build Nepal, you don’t need to have a PhD or be inside the circle of power. Neither do you need to be inside Nepal nor do you need to be a citizen. All you need is to consistently care. The first few dedicated followers is most critical to any future leader. Will you dare to become that ‘first follower’?

9) Place your bet on the ‘outliers’ (mavericks).
Modern Nepal came to be because of one man who ruled over a tiny hill, Gorkha. Nepali history is filled with sea changes brought about by people who rose from obscurity. Therefore build that courage and determination to incubate the mavericks among us. Who knows, you might be the reason someone rewrites Nepali history yet again!

10) Spread positive rumors.
If nothing else, at least cultivate ‘positive gossip’ as a habit. Practice spreading positive news, however small, be it a teenager who volunteered to manage traffic or donated books, spread these type of news wholeheartedly. And please restrain that impulse to spread negative rumors. Disciplining ourselves around this single habit would do wonders for our national well-being.

In conclusion, I believe that leaders are not only those who lead, but also those who ‘build’ leaders. Nepal today needs leadership builders like you. While only a few may be able to make the sacrifices needed to become a leader, the rest of us are able to take up the role of building leaders simply by nurturing these leadership building attitudes.

Nepal is a paradise. To realize its true beauty, the first thing we need to do is to change our own attitudes. Let us not wait. Let us start building the leadership our beautiful Nepal deserves!

Ujwal Thapa
Building 21st century relevant Nepali leaders at BibekSheel Nepali Party’

Read in Setopati newspaper

Entrepreneurial Engineers are bridge-builders to a prosperous Nepal

[This is a career advice to young engineers and those studying Engineering in Nepal]

As an Engineer you have one choice now:

“Either make your own dreams come true or you will be hired to make someone else’s dream come true.”

If you chose to make your dreams come true, do continue below:

Engineers have to become Entrepreneurs for Nepal

Why so? Because Entrepreneurs see opportunity in a problem. It could be any type of problem that we see in our everyday lives. Impure food, lack of electricity and petroleum, transportation, healthcare and many others. Problems that we experience, read of and hear in any area could become an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Problems can come in various flavors – the product – too expensive, scarce, difficult to use, slow etc. Nepalese outside urban centers do not have easy access to doctors. In Nepal, we suffer from long hours of power cuts in the winter months. Food is getting very expensive in the cities. We want the world’s best healthcare in Nepal, but may not have access to it, or afford it.

The harder this problem becomes, the better the opportunity for someone who can solve it.  If you are an engineer, know how to create a device that can generate wind power then, you can manufacture and sell that for cheap, this is a great opportunity here. Not many people can create this device, and once you are in customers’ homes, you can continue providing superior service and build a great business.

The larger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. A problem may only be for one person, or for many. If it is for one person, it – a one-time service and not a business opportunity. But if many people have the same problem, then it is a big entrepreneurial opportunity. For example, we all want to live in a well made house. However, we have serious building quality problems in earthquake prone Kathmandu now. This is a great business with a huge market as everyone can benefit from your excellent standards. If you can solve Kathmandu’s haphazard construction industry, with your business, you could be a billionaire. Plus, you would give service to millions and be thanked for the service you give.

Let us take examples of some famous entrepreneurs who were engineers, who have looked at a problem as an opportunity, built great businesses and changed the world and our lives.

In the 1970s , people did not have computers in their homes like we do today. You had to go to a large mainframe computer center and make a request to  have your work be done. There may have been one or a few large mainframes in our region and your task may have taken a long time. Businesses such as cheap international calling, which depend on fast and  cheap computers, were not around. It was hard and very expensive to make an international call. If your family member went overseas, you may have only spoken once every few months. Today, we are in a connected society in which we use Cisco, Intel, Google, Apple, Skype, Facebook and other technologies to stay connected in real-time.

In Nepal, look at how Bijay Rajbhandari and fellow engineers have transformed CE constructions into a quality brand known for its quality and timely delivery of its projects or how Rudra Pandey developed IT healthcare software company, D2Hawkeye and sold it for millions of dollars to Verisk in USA.

So I hope that you engineers start seeing an opportunity in the problems that we see everyday in our lives and start solving it (instead of waiting for Pashupatinath to come and fix it for us).

Entrepreneurial Engineers have to become bridge-builders of Nepal

Did you know, Nepali engineers were actively involved in building the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world in Dubai? Did you know that Nepali engineers are developing the next generational (rumor has it that they are air-conditioned) World cup stadiums in Qatar for 2022. I know many bright Nepalese working in Apple and Google. Yet, Nepal these days regularly begs for money to renovate its old temples or build bridges/roads/IT infrastructures from foreigners. We have rarely have built any engineering marvels (or any) since Bhimsen Thapa built the Dharahara. Ask yourself why?

This is because  we Nepali have chosen to become individually excellent, but collectively as a nation remained a failure. As an engineer, I urge you rise up to move beyond becoming individually excellent to build an environment for an excellent nation. To build such a nation, we have to rise up and beyond to bring the nation builders together. Will you become this “bridge” between nation builders ?

Certainly I am not talking about a plain bridge (made on roads or rivers). I am talking about a man or a woman who builds and safeguards a bridge (platform/environment) that will connect Nepal of today to the “nation builders” of tomorrow. As a bridge builder your role is simply to consistently and persistently align all the positives in Nepal, in the same direction, so that the negative will become irrelevant.

I believe, ‘bridge builders’ are the real leaders of Nepal. Bridge-builders could be someone just like you, talented men and women who decide to rise up to the challenge of building positive platforms for others to easily build the nation. Bridge-builders forgo their short-term benefits in exchange for a long-term inclusive benefits. Only, if you work towards building positive platforms, other nation builders can come in to build Nepal and protect your future and all our future.

As a young bright Engineer, you have the talent, skills and grit to become our nation’s leaders by becoming that “bridge-builder’ everyone is looking for. In the end, I leave you with this quote,

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry Thoreau

Ask yourself – Will you start hacking at the roots of evil in Nepal (or stick to hacking at the branches just like the thousands before you) ?

 

IMG_9967

समस्त ‘पशुका संरक्षक’ पशुपतिनाथ भगवानले हामीलाई किन रक्षा गर्ने?

Photo © Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP/Courtesy WSJ
Photo © Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP/Courtesy WSJ

समस्त ‘पशुका संरक्षक’ पशुपतिनाथ भगवानले हामीलाई किन रक्षा गर्ने?
एकातिर उनैले ‘रक्षा’ गरेको देशमै हामी पशुको भीषण बलि दिने आँट गर्छौँ। अर्कोतिर उनैसँग हामी आफू र आफन्तको ‘सुरक्षा’ मागीहिँड्छौँ।

गढिमाईले वा मनकामना माईले हामीलाई किन रक्षा गर्ने?
कुनै प्राणीको तन-मन छिनी हाम्रो मनको कामना होस् भन्दै यी देवीसँग बरदान माग्छौँ।

गोरखकाली वा समग्रमा काली-दुर्गा-भगवतीले हामीलाई किन रक्षा गर्ने ?
उनको नाममा दशैँमा गोरखा दरबारदेखि हनुमानढोसम्म बाटैभरि रगतको खोला बगाउँछौँ अनि देशमा काटमार कदापि नहोस् भन्दै उनैलाई कामना गर्छौँ।

देशभरि विभिन्न मठ मन्दिरमा कुनै प्राणीको काल हरण गरी हाम्रै काल लम्ब्याउने जुक्ति गर्छौँ। वाह! नेपाल बुद्ध जन्मिएको देश हो भन्दै एकातिर हामी चिच्चाउदैँ हिँडछौँ, अर्कोतिर विभिन्न चाडपर्वको बहानामा भीषण पशुबलि दिन आतुर हुन्छौँ। अचम्म लाग्दो!

कसैलाई यो कुरामा चित्त नबुझ्ला र तर्क राख्नुहोला,

‘यी त पुस्तौँदेखि चलीआएका संस्कार, चलन, रीतिरिवाज हुन्। किन यसमा टाउको दुखाई?’

त्यसो त सतीप्रथा पनि एक जमानामा रीतिरिवाज थियो। अहिले छैन। किन? कसैले टाउको दुखाएरै त हटेको हो यो। दासप्रथा पनि कानुनसम्मत थियो, पशुपतिनाथकै ढुकुटीबाटै पैसा झिकेर उन्मुलन भएको हो। छुवाछुत प्रथा समाजमा ब्याप्त थियो। यी सबै अहिले छैन। कमलरी प्रथा भरखरै हटाईयो।

अहिले बहुसंख्यक हामीले ‘भगवानलाई खुसी पार्न बलि नदिइकन नै बडा दशैँ मनाउन थालिसकेका छौँ। यस्तैगरी ‘छुई – महिनावारी’ प्रथालाई पनि घरमै समय सापेक्ष ढंगबाट सुधार गर्दै लगेकाछौँ। छाउ प्रथा विरुद्ध प्रयास जारी छ। छुवाछुत तोडिसक्यौँ। अन्तरजातीय विवाह पनि सामाजिक आदर्श बनिसकेको छ। भीषण गृह-युद्धबाट निस्केको देशले नै ‘आदर्शको लागि काटमार’ गर्ने प्रथालाई त्यागीसकेको छ।

भनेपछि अघि जे प्रथा थियो, अहिले पनि त्यही प्रथा त्यही स्वरुपमा रहँदैन। युगान्तरमा सबै चाल-चलन, संस्कृति र परम्परा समयसापेक्ष तरिकाले सुधार हुँदै जादोँ रहेछ। यसमा अब दुईमत रहेन। ‘सुधार’ विधिको नियम हो र प्रकृतिको आधार पनि हो। अहिलेसम्म त हामीले समयसँग मेल नखाने चाल-चलनलाई त्याग्दै गएको तथ्यमा हाम्रै ईतिहास साक्षी छ।

यसैले अब ‘भगवानलाई खुसी पार्न पशु बलि’ दिने प्रथामा पनि ‘सुधार’ को खाँचो छ। हामी बुद्ध जन्मेको देशमा भएकोमा बडो गर्व गर्छौँ। हामी पशुपतिनाथले रक्षा गर्ने देश भएकोमा ढुक्क छौँ। अब आफैँ स्वविवेक प्रयोग गरौँ। तपाईको विवेकले के भन्छ यो विषयमा?

फेरि सोध्नुहोला, ‘त्यसो भए के हामी मासु नखाने त?’

मासु खाने वा नखानेसँग यो लेखको कुनै सम्बन्ध छैन। पेट भर्नलाई तपाई के खानुहुन्छ त्यो तपाईँकै व्यक्तिगत मामला हो।

मेरो तर्क यत्ति हो कि, तपाई एकातिर दिनदिनै पशुपतिनाथ वा वुद्ध भगवानलाई पूजा गर्ने अनि रक्षा माग्ने, अर्कोतिर आफै भगवानलाई खुसी पार्न पशुबलि दिने प्रथालाई प्रोत्साहन दिनुचाहिँ भएन। हाम्रा यस्तो दुई जिब्रे व्यवहार देखेर भगवान कसरी खुसी हुन्छन् होला र? यत्ति एउटा कुरामा चाही स्वविवेक प्रयोग गर्ने कि?

‘यस्ता पशुबलि दिने प्रथा अरु देशमा पनि त छन्। उनीहरुले चाहिँ गर्न हुने, हामीले चाहिँ किन गर्न नहुने?’

अरुको देखासिकी गरी हामीले निर्णय गर्नु ठीक कि आफ्नै विवेक प्रयोग गरी निर्णय गर्नु ठीक? अरुले गरेको काम ठीक हो या होईन त्यो छुट्टाउने विवेक हामी हरेक नेपालीमा छ। अरुले गरेको गलत कामलाई हामीले अँगाल्ने कि उल्टो उनीहरुलाई हामीले सिकाउने ?

गढीमाई पर्व होस् या मनकामनाको पूजा, दशैँको अष्टमीमा होस् या अरु कुनै चाडपर्वमा ‘भगवानलाई खुसी पार्न पशुबलि दिने’ प्रथामा समयसापेक्ष रुपमा सुधार गरौँ। संस्कृतिले धनी हाम्रो नेपालमा चाडपर्वमा ‘मार्नु’ को सट्टा ‘बचाउने’ संस्कार ल्याउने बेला आएको छ। हाम्रा यी अद्भूत चाडपर्वहरुलाई सुधारमुखी तरिकाले परिमार्जित गर्दै अझ भव्य रुपमा मनाउनु पो पर्छ त! मनकामना, गढीमाई, गोरखकाली देवीलाई पशुबलिको सट्टा बाटो, कुलो, पुस्तकालय, चर्पी बनाउँछु भनी भाकल गरे कसो होला! यस्तै कयौँ समयसापेक्ष विवेकशील बाटो चुनौँ न हामीले।

आउनुहोस्, २१ औं शताव्दीमा नेपालमा ‘भगवानलाई खुसी पार्न प्राणी बली’को प्रथा उन्मुलन गरी बुद्धले सिकाएका पाठ र पशुपतिनाथले रक्षा गर्ने देशको मूल मर्ममा फेरि हामी हिँड़ने आँट गरौँ। अनि बल्ल हामीले कल्पना गरेको शान्त र संमृद्ध नेपाल हाम्रै कालमा देख्नेछौँ।

भगवानलाई खुसी पार्न अब मार्ने होईन बचाउने प्रथा शुरु गरौँ। चाहे त्यो पशु बचाऊ होस् वा प्रकृति, व्यक्ति बचाऊ होस् वा देश। यही विवेक हामी सबैमा जागोस्।

पशुपतिनाथले हामी सबैको रक्षा गरुन्। 

सेतोपाटी पत्रिकामा पनि पढ्नु होला।

जाने होईन त चुम उपत्यका? गणेश हिमाल पारी तिबेतले ३ तिर घेरेको त्यो नेपाली ठाँउ

Read in English

IMG_1267

दशैँ तिहार बिच पारी हरेक बर्ष झैँ म र मेरो श्रीमती नेपालका कुनै बिकट मनोरम हिमाली क्षेत्र हिडयौँ। शहरमा बस्दा बस्दा थुप्रिएको अलमल्याईपन, बिभिन्न सामाजिक बन्धन र नकारात्मक सोचका गाँठो फुकाउन बेलाबेलामा प्रकृतिको निकट जानै पर्छ। यस्तो मन सफा गर्ने भ्रमणले हामीलाई अाफ्नो देश राम्ररी चिन्ने मौका पनि प्रदान गर्छ।

IMG_0279

हामी धेरै नेपालीलाई नेपालमा चुम उप्यत्यका भन्ने ठाँउ पनि छ भन्ने कुरा थाहै छैन होला। हामी काठमाडौँबाट उत्तरमा दिनहँ गणेश हिमाल देख्छौँ। तर त्यस हिमाल पारी पनि नेपाल छ भन्ने कुरा विरलै थाहा होला। हो, त्यहि हिमाल पारी नेपालीहरु बसोबास् गर्ने एउटा चुम उपत्यका छ जुन गोर्खा जिल्लाको उत्तरी सिमामा पर्छ र तिन तिरबाट तिवेतले घेरिएको छ।

IMG_1047

चुम उपत्यका पुग्न मनाश्लु हिमाल पर्यटकिय मार्गबाटै शुरु गर्नु पर्छ। हाम्रो चुमको भ्रमण कुल १५ दिनको रह्यो। गोर्खा-धादिंगको सिमानामा रहेको अारुघाट बजारबाट शुरु गरेका हामीले कयौँ दिन द्रुत गतिमा बगेकी बुढि गण्डकी नदीको तिरै तिर हिँडय़ौँ। हाम्रो कुल खर्च भने चाहिँ कुनै पनि विदेश भ्रमण गर्दा लाग्ने हवाई टिकट खर्च जति पनि परेन। समुँद्रबाट ५०० मिटर माथीको सतहबाट शुरु गरेका हामी हिँउ नै हिँउले भरिएको ३७०० मिटर सम्मको उचाँईमा पुग्यौँ।

IMG_1202

चुमका बासी जसलाई “चुम्बा” भनिदो रहेछ, हामी दुई नेपाली पर्यटक देखेर तीन छक परेका थिए। हामी घुम्न अाएको भन्ने कुरा नपत्याउदैँ “होईन होला, ‘प्रोजेक्ट’ बाट अाउनु भा होला ?“ वा “पत्रकार हुनु हुन्छ होला?” वा “विदेशीको ‘ग्रुप’ लिएर अाउनु भा होला“ भन्थे। यी सबै होईन भन्दा केहि नलागेर “अमेरिका बस्नु हुन्छ होला – घुम्न अा होला” भनि अाफ्नै मन बुझाँउथे उनले।

IMG_9829

हाम्रो लागि यो भ्रमण अध्यात्मिक अनुभवले भरिपुर्व रह्यो। चुममा बस्दा हामीले चुम्बाहरुका कला, संस्कृति र परिवर्तन नजिकबाट हेर्न पायौँ। चुमको एउटा अचम्मको विशेष संस्कार बारे थाहा पाँउदा मेरो मनमा त्यस बिकट क्षेत्र प्रति श्रद्धा जागेर अायो। यहाँ झण्डै १०० बर्ष देखि कुनै पनि जनावारलाई मार्न मनाई रहेछ। मासु नै खानु परे पनि जनावार मरेपछि मात्र खाने व्यवस्था रहेछ। अनि अर्को कुरा यहाँ यार्सागुम्बाको व्यापारले पनि अाम जीवनमा अामुल परिवर्तन ल्याएको रहेछ।

IMG_1011

अहिले चुम्बाहरु धेरै पर्यटन देखि अाकर्शित भएका पायौँ र यार्सागुम्बाले ल्याएका अाम्दानी पनि यता तिरै खन्याएका पनि देखौँ। त्यहाँ कति पय गाँउमा त हामी भरखर बनी सक्दै गरेका होटेल-लजमा बस्ने मौका पायौँ। एक बोरा सिमेन्टको ३१५० रुपैया पर्ने ठाँउमा पनि पर्यटनले गर्दा स्थानियहरुले धमाधम पर्यटकलाई बस्न लायक व्यवास्थाहरुमा लगानी गरेका देख्यौँ। खुश्शी लाग्यो ! चुम उपयत्का र जाने मार्गहरुमा भैरहेको तिव्र पर्यटकिय बिकास हेर्दा मनले छर्लङ्ग बुझ्यो कि पर्यटनले कसरी नेपालको समतामुलक बिकासलाई फड्को मार्न मद्दत गर्दो रहेछ।

IMG_1339

चुम्बाहरुका प्रमुख व्यापार तिवेतसँग हुँदो रहेछ। अाफ्ना याक र घोडाहरु लिएर उनीहरु सजिलै ५००० मिटरको पास कटी एक दिनमै तिवेत पुग्दारहेछन् अनि किनबेच गरि फर्कन्छन् भोली पल्ट।  तर नजिकैका नेपालका सहर धादिंगवेसी वा गोर्खा बजार अाउनु पर्यो भने एक हफ्ता सम्म लाग्छ।

IMG_1099

यस् हिडाँईले हामीलाई नेपालको विविधताको बारेमा अझ श्रद्धा जाग्यो। हामी हरेक भित्र विवेकशील परिवर्तन ल्याउनको लागि एउटा उत्तम उपाय भनेको शायद हरेक बर्ष अाफ्नै देशका बिकट क्षेत्रमा भ्रमण गर्ने संस्कार हुन सक्छ।

IMG_1484

“नेपाल सुन्दर छ। यसको सुन्दरता अनुभव गर्न हामी अाफैलाई परिवर्तन गर्नु जरुरी छ।”

IMG_1252

 

Chum, an exotic valley hidden behind the Himalayas of Nepal

 नेपालीमा पढ्नुहोला

Have you traveled to the hidden valley of Chum behind the Ganesh mountains in the Himalayas surrounded on 3 sides by Tibet ?

IMG_0279

My wife and I decided it was once again time for our annual trek onto remote Nepal. It was an excellent opportunity to rejuvenate our souls, secluded from the urban social distractions of Kathmandu. This was also our way of getting to know our Nepal. The sad reality is many Nepalese these days have seen other countries more than places within Nepal. If we only make it a practise of traveling within Nepal once a year, our tourism industry would be further self-reliant while Nepalese learn and enjoy the diversity and beauty within. Here is our daily account of how we ventured into the hidden valley of Chum. I bet many of you have never heard of this place which lies just behind the Ganesh mountain range that you see every day from Kathmandu valley.

 IMG_1267

Day 1: Kathmandu (1300 m) to Gorkha (Via Khaireni) 

We shared a ride on a car from Kalanki as the usual microbus station at Maacha pokhari ( near New bus park) was empty possible because of Dashain, one of the biggest Nepali festival.

We reached Gorkha in 4 and half hours where we stayed at small hotel called “ chautari” near the bus park. It was decent enough. We found Gorkha to be warmer than Kathmandu. In the evening we took a steep walk up the stairs for half an hour to reach the tiny palace of Gorkha that spawned one of the greatest Nepalese born, Prithivi Narayan Shah, the uniter of Modern Nepal.

As we climbed the last stairs, we were overwhelmed with the stench of blood all on the stairs as people a few days earlier in Dashain’s 8 th day “Aastami” had sacrificed animals to the goddess Kali’s statue there during Dashain festival. I hope someday they replace these sacrifices with flowers or something kinder. It would be fitting for the one of the most powerful goddess in hinduism.  We had brought some fruits which we quietly ate at the palace grounds. I was contemplating a simple question, “What motivated a small king to go on to conquer and unite into what we call ‘modern’ Nepal today and how did he build the team to make that impossible possible?

 We stayed there to see the beautiful sun set over the palace. I couldn’t help but wonder how Prithivi Narayan Shah must have built and managed a ‘dream’ team in the 18th century that went to win much bigger kingdoms after another while in the south, built a worthy adversary to the southern “british empire” where the sun never set.

 IMG_9466

Day 2: Gorkha bazaar to Arughat (500m?)  to Arke to Soti Khola (700m)

We missed the bus by mere minutes! Unfortunately the local bus schedules are haywire and irrelevant. We had to wait for 4 hours to find the next bus to a place called Arughat a town by the budhi gandaki rivers on the borders between Gorkha and dhading district.

Just to get the tickets we had to push our way through crowded chaos at the ticket counter. As the bus rolled on a dusty, dirt-road, cramped with people traveling for dashain. Believe me, when I say, I couldn’t even see who was sitting on the other aisle of the bus for hours. Those of us ‘fortunate’ who had seats were busy carrying the random babies in our arms because their parents were busy clinging to the bus as it swerved through an atrocious cliff one-lane roads. Finally at about 5 in the evening, tired and dust-covered,  we reached Aarke just beyond Arughat where we started our official trek to a place called Soti Khola which was about one and half hours away. Just at dusk we reached Soti Khola and slept in a just finishing up newly built lodge, “Fulbari lodge”  listening to the roar of the raging Budhi Gandaki river just steps away.

 IMG_1363

Day 3: Soti Khola to Lapubesi to Maachakhola (900m)

After having an appetizing tibetan/manaslu bread (think of them as an exotic rectangular form of doughnuts) with milk tea for breakfast we started off our first full day of trekking. An hour from Soti Khola we passed by nice springs just by the path where you can take a bath and easily fool around for an hour. The smaller one further up has a nice waterfall too.  This was our first real day of trek, going over suspension bridges, hundreds of meters above ground, to seriously rocky trails on the cliffs under breathtaking waterfalls. The one just after Lapu Besi will hold you spellbound (just over looking a suspension bridge).

IMG_1441

 Lesson of the day: Have breakfast before you head out! It gives you enough energy to sustain yourself for a few hours. We were  weak when we reached for Lapu Besi, a small gurung village. On the path we met a lot of elderly foreign tourists ( above 60 ) who dared to trek in this region. It gave us more confidence! Just before we reached Machha khola, we had a leisurely walk through the sands along the raging Budi Gandaki river.

At Machha Khola (Fish water – english translation) we stayed at Chum Valley Guest house (recently upgraded into a new lodge). If you ask the locals, they will prepare you a dish with local fish caught in the river right there.

IMG_9701

Day 4: Machha Khola to Tatopani to Dobhan to Jagat (1300m)

Best to start the days early before the sun slows you down considerably. I recommend starting at around 7 in the morning. The highlight of the day was a 5 tier waterfall. At Tatopani, i bathed in the small hot springs (more of a bathing place). At Dobhan we had a delicious lunch of Dal-Bhat with fresh green vegetables with chutney (achhar). The walk today was filled with small to humongous water falls. The trek all day ran besides the Budhi Gandaki gorge between mighty mountains on either sides.

 IMG_9829

We reached Jagat at around 4. (The word ‘Jagat’ means a place since centuries ago, that collected tax through the ancient trade route between Tibet, Nepal and India. We stayed at the freshly built Manaslu Shanti Hotel (in upper Jagat village). The one besides it is just fine too. At Jagat we came across police station and a Manaslu conservation area check post that checks for your permits. Make sure your guide has all the documents. We saw cases where guides did not have the permit or their own identification papers (clumsy). As for us fortunate Nepalese we don’t need any permits :). All we got were surprised faces who didn’t expect Nepalese to travel (within their country).

IMG_9859 

Note: Make sure you charge your phones here. Also the only mobile phone system that works beyond Jagat is called “Sky telecom” (Nepal Telecom and NCell didn’t work beyond Jagat at the time of this writing).

Day 5: Jagat to Philim to Chisapani to Lokpa (1900 m)

We started our trek at 7:30 in the morning. First stop was a small village called Shirdibas where we had tea and coconut biscuits, the legendary trekker favorite biscuits made in Nepal that every Nepali guide, porters, travelers enjoy!

IMG_9696

Soon after we crossed a very long suspension bridge (allegedly the longest in this region), and climbed uphill to reach a beautiful gurung village called, ‘Philim’ (1600m). We were pleasantly surprised to find wi-fi internet at a lodge there started by locals with the help of Mahabir Pun. I enthusiastically uploaded my pictures and updated family/ friends since there were going to be no mobile communication and very little electricity from now on.

IMG_9967

 

We had lunch at Chisapani where a new hotel was being built. Everywhere we went, we were seeing tourism infrastructure being built. I am sure in a year or two the basic accomodation will be highly improved! Not to be missed was the enormous waterfall beyond Philim just beyond Chisapani.

After an hour from Chisapani, you come across a crossing one which takes you to the main Manaslu trek towards ‘Larke’ pass, and the other to the mysterious Chum Valley trek behind Ganesh Mountains where the ‘Chumbas’ lived, almost shut from the rest of Nepal (and the world). We took the one towards Chum Valley and immediately embarked upon a steep hair-raising walk by the cliffs with the budhi gandaki river deep below.

IMG_1339

In about an hour and half, we reached outskirts of Lokpa and stayed at the solitary lodge called “New Tsum Hotel and Lodge” where for dinner we had one of the most delicious “Roti and Aloo-tarkari” (Chappati with potato curry).

Day 6: Lokpa (1900m) to Chumling (2400m)

At Lokpa we met a guide Laxman kaji rai, who had done Chum Valley more than a few times, and two of his german guests. We were to tag along with this group for a whole week. Unlike the earlier days, this day had a lot of steep walks up and down, even though the destination was short. We started at 8  in the morning and had a good walk through the jungles full of monkeys and beautiful green lush pathways, as always with the river besides us. On the way we managed to crawl through a recent landslide that was scary to walk through and scarier to look back at. We reached Chumling at just after noon, and stayed at a solitary hotel, Tsum Ganesh himal hotel and lodge, outside the main village.

IMG_0531

After lunch, we decided to wash our clothes at a local river minutes away, which was deeply refreshing. In the afternoon we went up to the village to see local villages busy harvesting their crop ( special wheat ). Chumling village was beautiful at harvest season and gave us a good taste of how people have lived for long in that region, shut off from most of civilization. Chumling also overlooked another village on the other side of the gorge called, “Ripchet”. Much higher up was a village called “Chum-chet” an hour or more steep walk from Chumling. We didn’t dare climb to it, although the views would be very rewarding of possible Ganesh Mountains.

Trekking industry is the melting pot of Nepali society where guides and porters from all regions of Nepal come together to bring in fresh skills, ideas and knowledge and mix it with locals and conjure the best of Nepali hospitality. It may be a noble way to build harmony among the diverse ethnic groups of Nepal.

IMG_1258

Day 7: Chumling (2400m) to Chhekampar (3000 m) :

We were now entering into the main Chum Valley today. As today was also going to be a walk on the shorter side, we started off at 8:30 am. It was a steep climb up to Chhekampar with the sun shining hard on us as we walked up the cliffs entering the valley ahead. Unfortunately there was not even a single tea shop on the way. Make sure to bring a few things to bite upon and plenty of water on this day’s walk.

IMG_1011

A somewhat scary thing happened on our way up. As our group passed through a narrow trail up the cliffs, we suddenly heard a big sounds with bells just behind us. We looked back to see a Yak had fallen off the cliffs and was crushed hundreds of meters below. Obviously the horses, and yaks herding above seem to be the cause of this all. The cliff walk although sturdy may feel dizzying to many travelers.Pretty soon, with the sun bearing hard upon us, we were agonizing with thirst specially when there were no shops or houses on the way to get water! Luckily we chanced upon a fresh stream after walking for an hour uphill where we drank to our fullest and bottled some for the rest of the journey. At about 2 in the afternoon, we came up to the  Chhekampar village and stayed in a hotel right in the middle of it. Today’s highlight was the breathtaking view of Ganesh and Manaslu mountains.IMG_1293

Also finally I could sense my mind was de-cluttered and “present”. Being with raw nature is a wonderful filter for our soul! 

Day 8: Chhekampar (3000m) to Nyile (3200m)

It was a clear blue sky today. We came across zen like rock gardens on the way from Chhekampar to Nyile village. The panoramic view of the mountains were just majestic all the way around. On the way we diverted to Rachen Gumba a buddhist nunnery with hundreds of nuns. We had a fun time with young nuns there who were teasing us, coaxing for my wife to convert as monks right then and there while I was to become a monk nearby at another monastery!

IMG_0685

As we passed another village Lar, we could see women jolly harvesting crops. Harvest time seems to be the merriest time in Chum valley. We heard it takes a difficult 11 months to harvest crops here (as compared to 3 or 6 months in the lower regions of Nepal). We also learnt here that Chum valley inhabitants call themselves “Chumba” :)

We reached Nyile around 3. At Nyile we stayed at a young local guide Migmar and his family’s freshly finished lodge “Mingmar’s Lodge”. It is among the first houses when you enter the village.

IMG_0751

 

Day 9: Nyile to Mu Gompa (3700m) to Nyile

The first night at Nyile was a hard one as we started feeling the effects of altitude. One of the effects is the need to pee more often (especially in the cold night). Today we woke up later than usual (8ish) knowing we were only going for a short walk up to Mu Gompa at 3700 meters. As we ventured towards the Mu Gompa, we started feeling visible effects of the altitude as we were panting for breath even though we were climbing a few steps. The views of borders with Tibet and the mountains all around was breath-taking. At the top of our climb was a monastery and a bit to the side a nunnery. If you walked a few more hours from here, you could reach the high 5000+ meter passes to Tibet. All along we could see majestic horses roaming around freely while terrifying yaks carried woods from forests to households.

IMG_0866

In the afternoon, we went to another monastery above Nyile and Chhule, an adjoining village separated by a river). From here we got a superb view all the way to Manaslu mountains to the west.

IMG_0849

By the late afternoon, the weather started turning for the worse with clouds all wiping off the blue sky soon to be replaced by rain. We were kind of  hoping it would snow so that we could see the other side of Chum valley. As we gathered around in Mingmar’s kitchen, he started telling us a story about his near death fall while collecting “yarshagumba” in the high mountains at near 5000 meters. He talked about whole village emptying during the pre-monsoon season when everyone went to collect “insects” (yarshagumba). He mentioned stories of how even pregnant women went up there and gave birth high up while collecting these quick cash generating prized “insect-fungus”.  This lucrative trade of himalayan herbs seems to have given some degree of prosperity to the villagers devoid of other quick income generating activities so far. From all the tourism infrastructures being built, I am confident tourism will soon replace this highly risky unsustainable activity.

 IMG_1047

Day 10: Stuck in Nyile (3200m)

We woke up in the morning to find the rain had turned to snow and that too falling heavily. October was a highly unusual time for snow here but the villagers were rejoicing it as it brought water needed for their fields. All of us travelers were stuck looking at the snowfalls that seems to never stop falling. By the evening there was a foot of snow. At one point there was a white horse waiting for cover on our lodge doors. Another time, there were literally 2 yaks on the door steps looking for cover. So surreal !

IMG_1099 

As we were all huddled by the kitchen stove, this was a good time to ask our lodge owners about their customs, their history and how they survive up here. Mingmar told us that it has been nearly a hundred years since Killing any beings was forbidden. It is amazing that tradition still continues where no animals are killed for whatever reasons. You will be hard pressed to find any meat in Chum valley. Only freshly dead animals meat is ever eaten here.

It was bitterly cold that night in Nyile. We didn’t have sleeping bags so we had to wrap ourselves around in 2 blankets while sleeping.

IMG_1103

 

Day 11: Nyile to Chhekampar

Early in the morning we started walking (or tried to) through the slippery snow back towards Chhekampar. The whole landscape looked brand new to us because of the snow cover all over. The snow melting had all our shoes soaking wet. We could see and hear small snow avalanches all over the mountains we passed by.

IMG_1015

We had lunch at Burje and at Chhekampar returning stayed at a just finishing up hotel at Tashi’s hotel & lodge.

 IMG_1202

Day 12: Chhekampar to Lokpa (via Chumling)

Tough walk today. We had decided not to go towards Ganesh Himal Base camp because there was no real tea house for accommodation nor guarantee of food at the gompa nearby. We didn’t have sleeping bags so we felt we were underprepared for the grueling trip there.  So instead we headed back towards chumling. We started early at around half past seven (after having our fill of tibetan breads for breakfast).

IMG_1232

Because of the snowstorms, the fresh stream we had met while going up had been replaced with ice by avalanche. The view though was superb and going downhill eased our burden a bit although our knees bore the brunt. Sticks really helped us here! In between Chumling and Lokpa we again had a hair raising experience crawling up on a scary landslide on a deep river gorge hundreds of meters below.

IMG_1252

At Lokpa we stayed at the same lodge Chum Valley guest house. Our host Lobsang Lama was a gracious man, soft-spoken and humble who had built a nice place there.

Day 13: Lokpa to Jagat

Today, we began to hear news that many trekkers had died on another pass, Thorang la in the Annapurna regions during the same snowstorm we had met. Since we had no internet, electricity or phone during the time after the snow storm, we were relying upon other tourists for any news from the outside world. We decided that given the amount of snow up on the mountains,  the 5100+ Larke La (pass) on Manaslu was not worth the effort. So we decided to return back to Kathmandu from the same route. We seperated from our german tourist friends we had tagged along with their guides.  While they went off towards Manaslu base camp, we went down to the gurung village of Philim. We had delicious vegetable momos for lunch at Philim and managed to log in and tell on facebook to our friends and families that we were safe. Little did we know that our friends and families for 3 whole days had panicked about our whereabouts and some had even checked us on the “missing” lists on Thorang la!

IMG_1205

At Jagat, we again stayed at the same local, Bal Bahadur Karki “Manaslu Shanti” lodge to hear more of his stories about the history, politics of this region and the local efforts to change this region into a separate district of Nepal the “Larke” district which never came into being. The regular Nepal Telecom and Ncell mobile phones again started working here. So we were finally back connected to the world although I didn’t want to connect just yet.

 IMG_0728

Day 14: Jagat to Machha Khola

We traced back the same route from Jagat to Machha Khola. Going back we found out we could hardly remember traveling up the same route. So it was good that we imprint  a clearer memory of walking through this trail. We had a forgettable lunch at Khorlabesi at some hotel with gardens. They prefered foreigners to us (Nepali) while charging the same amount.

 IMG_9823

At Machha Khola we stayed at Manaslu Lodge. All the hotels were packed because of overflow of travelers returning from the failed Larke La pass attempt. Here we met guides and trekkers with sun burnt faces who told us stories of how the snow nearly took their lives, how they made it to within 100 meters below the pass but had to give it all up because of the snow of over nearly 2 meters (6 foot). In hindsight we had made the right decisions.

 IMG_1379

Day 15: Machha Khola to Soti Khola to Arughat and then all the way to Kathmandu!

Today was one hell of a marathon!  We started early at 7 and set out to make it to lunch at Soti Khola. On the way we took a rest to dip ourselves at a nice waterfall by the trail. After having a delicious Dal bhat lunch at ABC Lodge in Soti Khola we took a local bus all the way to Arughat. It took us about an hour and half. No more walking!

IMG_9559

At Arughat we reserved a 4 wheeler jeep who was returning from bringing tourists for the Manaslu trek. After bargaining on a reasonable rate, we started on our way back to Kathmandu going through on a reasonably comfortable ride on a dirt road trail via Dhading besi.

On the way we went through beautiful Salyantar in Dhading and the river below was a stunning sight as the sun set as we passed through.

IMG_1484

We heard this area was about to become a huge lake if a big hydro project went through as planned in the coming years. It would be another interesting place to stay in, if this artificial lake came into being. We ate a local junction “khursani taar” as recommended by the driver Badri Ojha ( 9851044266 ). From Dhading besi to Kathmandu, we were on a highway.

We finally made it to Kathmandu at around midnight. I checked my weight. I had lost 2 kilos, without dieting :)

 

In the end I leave you with this  from some place we stayed on the trek :)

IMG_1407

Some helpful tips:
1) All photos taken through a mobile (Apple Iphone 4S)
2) For a Nepali traveler on Chum valley expect around Rs 1,500 a day if you want to travel comfortably and treated as a tourist without the feeling you are being discriminated in favor of foreigners. (This is cost without any guides or porters. Transportation to and from Arughat is extra depending on how you travel- local bus or private jeeps).