“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” Confucius, a Chinese philosopher
In the aftermath of the student uprising of 1980 (2036BS), I was released from Bhadragol Jail in Kathmandu along with dozens of other student activists. I had missed my Intermediate of Science classes at Tri-Chandra College in the middle of a semester due to the imprisonment. And, for a young student of age 17 like me, coping with the courses became difficult and I ended up going to the exams poorly prepared. I failed some subjects and barely passed the others but most importantly I lost the edge on education. This situation, compounded with the reality of having had no connection to people with influence, I had nothing but uncertainties looming in my life. However, I continued on and wrote my last semester exams with reasonable success but what next? The forces of circumstances were cornering me to take steps unknown to me.
In the process of talking aloud of my senses of insecurities and uncertainties, I came across a friend who was once a teacher in Dandagaun, Rasuwa, a place not so distant from his home in Nuwakot. He said that the position of a teacher left vacant by his departure was not filled still and I would have no problem securing that job. This came to me as if a morning sun was dawning upon my desperate soul. Within a few days, I had put all my clothes and a few books in my school bag and a small Jali Jhola (net bag), and was riding on a bus to Trisuli Bazaar in a bitterly cold winter morning.
The bus started from Sohra Khutte and made through many winding turns before taking a break for the morning meal of rice, Mula (radish, daikon) and dal (lentil soup) at Ranipauwa, the radish capital of Nepal. Although the smell of the vomit from the person next to me had bothered me for an hour, the journey’s nature had told me that I must eat at that damp restaurant which was deprived of the sun by the same hill that protected it. Having given the opportunity for the passengers to eat, and to urinate on the open slopes, the bus left the mounds of Mula on the roadsides and continued on.
The cold wind streaming through the open cracks of the window, smell of jam packed bodies, and vomit on the floor that was left not-cleaned, created some ambience that has remained imprinted in me even after more than 25 years. As well as these memories, remained strong the pleasant feelings given to me by the views of unfamiliar mountains (Annapurna II, Manaslu and Ganesh Himal), steep hills full of cultivated terraces and forests, and the valleys of rice plantations freshly cleared after the rice harvest.
Sometimes in the afternoon, and almost all of a sudden, there appeared the last point of motor road, the Trisuli Bazaar. This bazaar was a small strip of shops on the west bank of Trisuli River and just below a big water reservoir that fed an electric power plant. There were four huge pipes connecting the reservoir and a large concrete building and out came the electric wires and went towards Kathmandu being called the transmission lines. I remember little else except the fact that I was proud of seeing an electric power plant for the first time in my life, albeit from outside. I was at awe walking north along that reservoir, and some stretch of land and again another reservoir with gates along a big canal, and all this made me wonder and ponder without any answers on thousand questions that floated in me. Then the whole water of that huge river was crossing the same river on a pipe along with a bridge, a matter of more surprise. How did they do that? I hoped to know it all someday.
At the end of this wondrous engineering marvel, there was a dam making the water of that huge river take a different turn. And, near it were a school and a few tea-stalls. This place was called Tupche, where I was supposed to meet the headmaster of this school, Sreebhadra Neupane, and stay there before going to Dandagaun of adjoining Rasuwa district, my ultimate destination. I was following the instructions of my friend.
As it happens that the very same day a Dakarmi (masonry worker) was going to his home near Dandagaun from Tupche after some days of work there. Shreebhadra said that I would be better off going with him then, and taking him as my guide, than going alone the next day. So, at 4:30PM, we took the trails. The rice from Ranipauwa had long gone and the tea and Chyura (rice flakes) at Tupche could not make much difference either. When the guide said what is on the other side of the Trisuli was Betrabati, it was almost dark. He said that we have long ways to go. I was hungry and no food in the possession. Just before it became all dark, I grabbed handful of Bayar (Chinese date, Ziziphus mauritiana), which were abundantly available on the sandy soil along the Trisuli basin trails. But darkness hit quickly and our journey was to continue.
Soon I realized that Dandagaun was not nearby. Hungry, without flash light, on never explored mountain trails, and uphill on the steep terrains, we were walking on the trace of light emitted by the stars only – no moon on that particular night. My guide was walking in the front and I was following his shadow closely. There were moments when I just wanted to collapse and sleep on the trail but there was something in me which kept on telling me that I continue. Four and a half hours later, we were at a house, which the guide said was his. I had such a great pleasure in contemplating that I would be able to stay there that night but that was not to be. The man said that he was an “untouchable” and his dharma did not allow him to keep me there. So he instructed his son (may be 10-13 years old) to take me to the school. At 10PM I was at the school, where one of the rooms was converted as headmaster’s residence. Unfortunately, there was his wife but not the headmaster, whom she said had gone to Dhunche, the district headquarters.
So, we were in an awkward situation; she did not know me and trust me enough to offer me a shelter but she must have felt deep pain as she internalized my predicament and that of hers. She was speechless due to the lack of solution and so was I. In the middle of a winter, in sub zero temperature, and just below the snow line, it took no time for sweat soaked clothes to chill and pierce my body that was in the state of debilitating hunger. Desperation for warm shelter grew but the silence that ruled for some time felt like an eternity. I regretted for letting my guide’s son return before some resolution for finding a shelter was made. With his departure, I had lost my ability to go any other place in the village but solution had become ever more so important.
While in the state of bewilderment and confusion, the headmaster’s wife stepped out, likely for latrine. Taking this opportunity, I asked the little boy in the room who he was. He said that he was a student of the school from a nearby house. I asked him if he could give me shelter for the night and the boy said yes without consulting his family. So we went to his house and there was a full acceptance, a long built culture and tradition of the people of the mountains. Not only had they given me shelter, but also they fed me rice and Hiundesimi (Lablab bean, Dolichos lablab) vegetable, which was extremely delicious and like a miracle on a descent. Although the rice was from Khurmunika Chamal, which is laden with little pebbles, I had no problem eating them. And, knowing the level of poverty the family was living with, I remain thankful to those people for their unbelievable generosity, which reinforces my inner strength to this day when I am facing adversities.
The next day was spent in the school only to find that the school was demoted to primary school from existing middle school status because they did not have enough students in the attendance. Gone was the position of the teacher, which I came to fill. It appears that a new chapter of uncertainty was to born and my journey was to take its own new course. But this was the beginning of a new journey of my life where I learned to overcome adversities.