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Once Upon A Time in NEPAL

Timothy Leonard

The path brought him to Bhaktapur, Nepal.

Namaste means I salute the light within you. It is the daily Hindu greeting between people with your palms and fingers together raised toward your eyes in a blessing. Smile.

1Offerings, Hinduism, calm fresh air in a fresh morning. This shift of spirit energies, consciousness. Temples, endless dawn processions of women in radiant rainbow orange, green, blue, shimmering, yellow, red saris bundled inside morning mist. Fog water vapor.

A woman offers rice, yellow and orange flowers on a pavement Shiva. Ointments, prayers. Blessings. A man clangs a gigantic brass bell. Sound resounds through the temple square. Deep echo.

No traffic. No pollution. Cool fresh air. Limited electricity access. Daily power outages are the norm. Ironic considering Nepal has the second highest water volume energy source on Earth.

It is an ancient town, filled with Hindu temples, daily rituals, ringing bells, flowers and incense offerings, old hand carved wooden windows, brick homes, brick streets, tiled roofs, vegetable and fruit life street market squares, amazing flowing sari and shawl rainbows, gentle people. It’s on the old trading route from Tibet to India.

2There is no home plumbing. If you need water you go to the community well. You drop your plastic container down brick shafts. You haul it up hand over hand. You pour it into narrow necked brass or copper urns. You drop it again. You haul it up. Repeat until urns are full. You carry them on your hips through narrow brick alleys filled with friends and families. At home you filter it. You boil it. You drink it. You use it for cooking, washing clothes, bathing. You return to the well. Women and girls do all the water hauling, heavy water lifting and daily manual labor. So it goes.

An old caretaker man lies on his back inside an erotic temple with 24 carved images of playful sexual pleasure. He welcomes devotees covered in their piety, devotion, shadows, offering flowers, oil flame light, petals, incense, foot worn stone paths. Interiors.

Ring a bell, many bells, fingerprints wear down stone. Human gestures vibrating bells across a valley. Endless brick factories fill the Sudal valley. Humans living in brick shacks, using water, clay, wooden forms, creating gray bricks. Sand, dust, hand labor, coal fired smokestacks, piles of coal being crushed, hauled on backs to fire. Fire gray red. The scope and density of men, women and children pouring their lives into their daily effort.

This massive element of people surviving. You walk on streets made of bricks, seeing brick homes rising to blue sky. Brick by brick. A mandala. Centering the universe with non-attachment. The center that I cannot find is known to my unconscious mind. I have no reason to despair because I am already there, sings a Nepalese child.

3In the street life of Bhaktapur is Pottery Square. 250 people from immediate families make clay, create pots, piggy banks, animals, bowls, living art, dolls, bells, oil lamp bases, and cooking containers. They dry them in the sun. They slow fire them using straw fuel in large kilns.

“We live here as a family,” said a girl, 12 with her twin sister. “My father makes piggy banks. My mother moves them into the sunlight.” A potter uses a heavy staff to get his wheel turning, rotating faster and faster until it is a blur. He shapes a pot.

Finished products are sold locally, throughout the Kathmandu valley and exported faster than light.

There was huge lake surrounded by mountains in Pokhara and every afternoon wet, smiling, happy kayakers would carry their equipment home. Paragliding is also big business. Fly with eagles.

Wild rivers in Nepal welcome riders and explorers. Many Europeans are intent on hiking and trekking. Lots of hippy types from Europe and Japan and Israel. Looking for bliss in a chilled environment. Yoga and meditation.

4The Annapurna circuit runs $1200 for 21 days. People say it’s hard but worth it. Shorter less challenging treks in the area run 3-6 days. I met an older Swiss man who said he’d been coming to the Annapurna area for 27 years. Now with a bad hip hop rap he doesn’t trek anymore. Besides, he said, It’s way to commercialized. This is true given the over abundance of tour, trek and outdoor companies in Pokhara.

I spent a lot of time with the Tibetans. The majority escaped Tibet through the Himalayas as far back as 1959, many died in Nepal from the heat, settling in green valleys near P, lived in tents, built homes, raised families, cut wood, wove carpets and expanded their opportunities. Their communities are clean, well organized white cinderblock homes, lovely gardens, wild roses, prayer flags in the wind and mountains. The carpet business has faded. They have a monastery, school, clinic.

I climbed Himalayas using only my eyes, protected by glittering mirrors. Humans don’t do the Himalayas. The Himalayas do humans. The unemployed Nepalese teacher, hustling 10 million visitors asked, “Do you know what NEPAL means?” Big business? Economic survival? Mountains? High altitude sickness? Adventure travel? Peak experiences?

Meditation?

Whining, demanding Chinese?

Sitars and raga symphonic structures?

Extensive deep raging rivers?

Riding an elephant looking for extinct tigers?

An old woman collecting and loading cow shit patties into a wicker basket for home fire fuel? Chakra, crystal healing?

A Chinese woman walking with her Nepalese lover, both measuring the ground with the eyes feeling the inevitable end of a quick painless short term physically satisfying fix?

Stoned out ragged travel casualties?

Big fat culturally insensitive white Europeans wearing fancy expensive climbing gear as their Sherpa guide in flip flop sandals carrying the world on his back runs up the mountain, leaving them in the dust?

6Young Israeli cowboys fresh from mandatory military service staring at a sacred cow shitting in the street? 15 million Nepalese women on their hands and knees mopping floors with a dirty rag because mops are too expensive?

Rolling fuel shortages because a) the government wants to increase demand b) India reduces supply?

Limited daily electricity? Nepalese must pay for electricity they do not receive.

“Not exactly,” said the teacher refreshing his lost hunger for money.

“NEPAL means Never Ending Peace And Love.” Oh, said a traveler, I thought it meant No Electricity Power and Light. The light comes from within.

You gotta love a Nepalese tourist town when residents have a local transportation strike. One day. No formula racing cars, blaring horns, buses, motorcycles, diesel belching noxious tractors, broken Chinese dump trucks, mini-vans, maxi-vans, amphibious assault vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, jeeps, school buses, or any combustion engine requiring petrol. Shops are shuttered. No school. It’s a free holiday. Yoga and meditation classes are cancelled. Proceed at your own risk.

Happy kids ride their bikes. Up, down all around. They crash and burn. They laugh. They share guiding gliding secrets. People stroll main street. They stare into deep dark caverns with vacant eyes. Shadows whisper, eat an apple. Birds sing. The town’s lone singing smiling mad minstrel serenades sweet tranquility.

7The incomplete yet fulfilled specific concrete hard red brick hammering echoed across a green Nepal valley near Bandipur.

It wasn’t a hammer. It was a machete. A man chopped trees. His son trimmed branches. He severed sections into four-foot long pieces. His mother stacked them, wrapping them in bundles.

They collected wood all day. They rested at noon. They ate rice mixed with vegetables and potatoes. They shared bananas. They drank water from a stream. They napped in shade. They carried the wood up mountains on their backs and home before dark.

Yellow eagles circled overhead. An infant cried in a brick home. Children in blue school uniforms wearing ties walked home along a red dirt road. Laughing.

They passed a small wooden tea shop overlooking a valley. A 20-year old girl worked at her sewing machine. She sewed large hearts into a white bed spread. The lace pillow cases with hearts were finished. Marriage bed dreams.

Her parents had an arranged marriage. Her father is an electrician. Her younger sister ran away. She married a boy from another caste. He is a cook in a tourist town. They had a baby. Her older brother studies hotel management in the city. Another brother is in high school.

I have a 1% chance of meeting a guy with a good heart, she said.

I am renewed in the flow. The road is made by walking.

Last modified on Monday, 30 January 2012 10:37

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