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And I thought London was expensive. I had totally forgotten how not-so-cheap Kathmandu is.
As I flip through the newspaper this morning, I am simply amazed by the parties in town for ushering 2012. And more than that, I am utterly surprised by the money they’re charging for these parties. And also, it’s quite surprising (excuse me for overusing this word, but I am surprised like every other year) that people are paying to get into these parties.
One of the most ridiculously expensive parties that I’ve come across is at a five-star hotel. They’re charing Rs 8,000 (almost $100 with $1=Rs 80) for a single entry and Rs 15,000 ($187) for a couple. And I say to myself, “What’s the story?” Well, some singers from India are coming to perform and as the advertisement proclaims it’s going to be a free flow of food and alcohol.
I keep on flipping through the newspapers and there are more and more ads–from expensive five-star treats to something taking place down the alley, and most of them at a pretty high charge.
I’m not against these parties and I’m don’t even have anything against the money they’re charging. As it seems people have money and they’re willing to pay for it. I think it’s a good way to forget the year gone by and just celebrate–spend those extra bucks you’ve been saving and drink the night away.
But is it worth is?
For me, not. So I’m spending my night with my close friends at a cozy place (and mind it, it’s not that cheap as well). But rather than getting wasted on “free flow of alcohol,” and spending so much of the money that I don’t have, I’d rather prefer spending my money and time my way: being in the company of the people I like.
And at the end of the day that’s what I’m going to remember. It was a wonderful 2011 with these bunch of people, and I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing 2012 though we’ll be spread out in this gigantic globe.
And as I recollect 2011 in memories, moments of love and laughter, making through the good and the bad, and traveling the world, I’m looking forward for 2012.
There is the capital-centric Nepal; there is another Nepal, countless Nepals in different levels within the bubble called Kathmandu; there is the donor driven Nepal where development and sustainability seems to go hand in hand; there is a progressive Nepal where people talk about development in ways that everything can be achieved.
But amid all these Nepals, many of us hardly tend to look at real Nepal. And every time I cross the peripheries of the city, I see bits and pieces of real Nepal—the Nepal that hasn’t been fictionalized.
I haven’t travelled extensively within my own country, but from what I’ve seen and experienced in these past years has certainly given me a sense of what actual Nepal is like.
So how do I define real Nepal?
Poverty. Illiteracy. Lack of infrastructure…and the list continues. And that’s true.
When you cross the cities, big concrete buildings slowly transform into small, muddy huts. The luxuries of modern transportation are limited to bullock carts. Getting to a hospital is a two-day walk.
As I travelled through southwest Nepal this time, I could see everything that constituted a real Nepal. In this small village of Badarpur, people smiled as they talked of their problems as if they weren’t any problems.
I met a couple who had just recuperated from a disease that they didn’t know about for five years. The wife was living with a condition called fistula that she developed due to long and obstructed labor. Fistula is condition that leads to a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention. (A story I did on fistula in May)
Her baby died for it took her more than 24 hours to get to the hospital, and even when she reached the hospital, the local hospital referred her to a district hospital, which again asked her to go to a bigger facility in the city.
As a result her unborn child died and for the next five years she lived with urine leakage because of fistula. She said she couldn’t get out of the house because it use to “stink.”
The couple talked about their problems and how they finally managed to overcome after they found about a free health camp that cured their woes.
This woman’s story is only a representation of what’s happening in rural Nepal—hundreds of women and newborns dying due to lack of awareness and also health facilities.
While situations as such gives a grim picture of what real Nepal is like, not everything seems dark and gray.
During the same trip, I met a group of young people actively engaging in the community. These young men and women, in their 20s, talked about sexual and reproductive health. As a part of a program called YPEER, a youth-to-youth initiative, they were involved in making their community aware about the issues—from sexual and reproductive health to maternal problems and how to tackle them. I also met a group of college students in Rajapur, few of them who talked about these issues without any hesitation.
And while talking to these young people, you can see their enthusiasm. They know what they’re talking about, and they’re clear on what they want to do.
As a section of the country is facing problems, it was good to see that a small part within the same community was trying to solve those problems in their own ways.
Information and communication is important to drive a community forward. And it was good to see some people, young people, involved in this regardless of any political of self-vested interests.
The real Nepal is full of problems and there are too many issues to be addressed. What I have addressed here is just a minute representation. But at the same time, real Nepal is also about a group of people in every community who are working to make it better and make lives better in their community.
Most of the times, we just tend to see the unreal aspect of the real Nepal, mostly clouded with crisis. We tend to overlook the changes, though very small but significant.
As I travelled, though the images of a grim, real Nepal was depressing, it was encouraging to see young people at least making an effort from their side.
Yes, real Nepal is full of problems, but at the same time, real Nepal also has people trying to solve these problems.
I started this blog for my Feature Writing class during my undergrad years in the spring of 2009. I thought it would be a good idea to keep it alive. Since then, through the summers, winters, falls and springs, this blog has been a chronicle of my experiences. From North America to South Africa, Asia and Europe, I have my experiences saved in here.
But as I am jostling with my graduate classes now, I really am really not generous of stepping in here. But once in a while, I do like to reflect on my life–past, present and even the future.
Let me start with the obvious present: my life in one of the greatest cities in the world, London. Well, still I don’t know that I am totally love with New York City. First love always is special, as they say.
Anyways, London. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been here. I’ve enjoyed the sunshine while it lasted, the blue skies and temperature in the upper 20s. Now I think it’s time to embrace the winter. I know I’m just going to bitch about the cold like I did in Kathmandu, but some of my dear friends have been spared this time around. I think they certainly miss me whining, complaining and bitching 24X7.
As far as the city, I love walking around the city. I really do miss my friend as we always worked around Kathmandu literally all the time. And Sumina Karki, yes you, you probably won’t be complaining about your shoes and men staring at you on the way to office!
Office. Oh, I miss that cubicle of mine. And to be honest, I do miss the real-world work.
But here, I am learning a lot. I can now shoot and edit videos. I’m going to start radio soon. That’s some addition to my skills.
Wait, did I tell you all that I got a one-day internship. Well, it’s an NGO and the first day, which was last week, I wrote two press releases. I didn’t move from that desk. I am not sure if I really like the PR stuff, but it’s just utilizing my time here or I’d be sleeping half the day.
I’m going to keep it short here. If something strikes me and if I am free from my course blog, I’ll step in here again. And if some random thought strikes my mind, I’ll have them here.
But if you are a really die-hard fan of my writing, then follow me at www.bibekjournal.wordpress.com
I won’t disappoint.
Seriously, I hate to be saying every time I’m talking to a friend or someone back home, “Oh, how much I miss this and that.” But honestly speaking, I do tend to miss them all.
As I’m writing this post, one thing I am not surely missing is the lack of electricity and slow Internet though.
Ok, want to resume my missing list.
I miss momos. I miss, believe it or not, the congested streets of Kathmandu. I miss food–I mean stupid Nepali food. I miss the perfect weather and clear view of the mountains. I miss working. I miss having a monthly salary. I miss having a grin seeing my bank account. I miss my cubicle. I miss office (how many of you would say that?). But I think I miss the company around me.
I miss my friends. I miss being in the family. I miss drinking every other night. I miss mid-week crisis on Wednesdays, another reason to binge. Miss the gathering at Mitra. I miss going for coffee at La Dolce. I miss Thamel.I miss Fridays at Factory.
I miss my gang.
I miss seeing texts and emails on my phone when I wake up. I miss texting some people. I miss bugging some people. I really miss annoying the hell out of some people.
I miss bitching. I miss complaining. I miss whining. And I think this is one of the ways I’m doing it.
Oh well. I just miss those people and the places.
And maybe I miss blogging here. I’ve been busy with my class blog. So do check it out: www.bibekjournal.wordpress.com
I think I’ve found my new best friends: canned and frozen food. Say everything you want to say about them, but as a student, or as a single person living in a foreign land, believe me they do tend to become your best friends.
So it’s been two weeks that I’m here in London. Kitchen is not exactly the place where I want to hang out. But as it seems I have to make compromises. But some compromises are easy, I suppose. Thanks canned and frozen food items.
But how long can you survive on that, right? Well, five years in the US and I should have at least learned something. But no. So like it or not, as it seems, I have to make that effort to step into the kitchen and try to make something once in a while.
And in these two weeks, I think I have done that. Maybe two times or three when I really craved for some spicy, authentic Nepali/Indian food., I’ve made that genuine effort (or not) to actually make something. But then again it involved the pre-prepared, canned stuff. Thank god!
So what I did—got this Biryani sauce (like the pasta sauce ones), made some rice and just mixed it. It was yummy! I think that’s the only food I have made except fixing some sandwiches and pasta. And whenever I go to the supermarket, I make a point to get some pre-cooked Indian veggies.
And yes, there are tons of stores that sell Indian stuff—right from chips to chana masala and everything else. Be it Dallas or London, think we should be very thankful to the desi community for without their humongous population, and the stores that sprouted later, I wouldn’t have had the luxury to buy food that reminds me of home.
Not a big sucker for food (as you can figure), but yea, sometimes, you can’t help those cravings. So until I don’t know when, the pre-cooked spicy Indian food, frozen, canned and ready-to-eat stuff is what I’m holding on to.
In the last six years, I have moved into three continents and over five cities—from a small town in West Virginia to the shores of Maryland and down south to Dallas-Fort Worth to across the ocean in Mumbai, settling down in Kathmandu for a while, and now again, making a big move to London.
All these years, moving from one state to another, one city to the other and finally making the move from one country to another, it’s never been easy. As you’re settling down, getting used to the place and trying to make that once unknown, weird and unfamiliar place home, it’s time to move again. That’s how the 21st century world is I guess—you’re just on a constant move.
And with that move the entire dynamics of love, life and relationships changes too.
The move to London hasn’t been easy. Well, yes, I’ve been on a move for a while, but as they say home is where the heart is. I mean, I literally have a love-hate relationship with my city. I hated it while I was there, but deep down the love never died. And of course, it’s where my loved ones dwell, it’s where I’ve been acquainted with love, it’s where I have discovered my passion, and it’s where I’ve had a chance to breed that passion of mine. And moving on doesn’t mean leaving it all behind, forgetting all those people and relationships I believe on. Oh well…
So now here I am in London, one city that I forever dreamed of visiting. Here I am now living here for a while, at least until I finish school.
Out of Heathrow, with an address of one of my dad’s friends, and tons of baggage I walked out. This time at least I had an address; it wasn’t like in Mumbai where I moved without anywhere to go. All I had was a broker’s number. Well…
So lucky me that my dad’s friend was there to pick me at the airport. Good that he helped me with my luggage and then we were off. It’s always great to be welcomed by daal-bhaat for dinner. I know I’m going to miss daal-bhaat!
And as of today, three days of moving into the residence halls, I am surviving on pre-cooked frozen food, bread, bagels, coffee and fruits. Well, that works. And as a student, I mean, it’s again finding free food…let’s hope…
And yay, I’m back to school. That’s what this move is for. That’s why I am in London.
So it was first day of school—back to J-school again. Ad in a few days, it’ll be back to day-long classes, back to reporting, back to bitching…maybe not. Westminster does remind me a lot of TCU, especially the building and classes, they’re alike Moudy. I’ve yet to disover if there’s a newsroom like the Skiff. I know there’s a magazine called Smoke. Hmm..even the names start from “S.”
The first day of class went pretty well. It was basically all introductions, and I’m glad to have a large group of international classmates—from neigboring India and China to South Korea, Egypt, Palestine, Germany, Spain, Italy, my favorite US, and the UK. Looks like it’s going to be a great cultural living and learning experience.
Speaking of the cultural experience, my roommate happens to be a French-Irishman. When I walked into the room, all I saw was a guitar, and I thought to myself that it’s pretty cool that my roommate plays the guitar. And turns out he is a musician. The past days, he’s played and sung in the room, and he ain’t bad at all.
So here is how I basically am summing up my move so far—totally the informal way.
As I sit here, thinking of tomorrow’s assignment—and also working on it—my mind is also hovered by memories of the past, of Kathmandu. I’m thinking about the city and the people. I’m unpacking my memories that I carried along with me. I’m relishing the moments that I spent with some special people. Without you all, it wouldn’t have been real.
And as someone said to me days before I left, “Real smile means real happiness.” And I know I’m gonna be back for that wicked happiness. Soon.