My recent meeting with an Indian friend, who was in Kathmandu to spent annual vacation, was very insightful. In the discussion, he said that Nepal with its diverse culture and climate is the best tourist destinations in South Asia. Pristine rivers, unending chain of mountain among others contribute it in making this place a paradise. However, in recent past, frequent political and non political strike has tarnished the image of the country.
He expressed dissatisfaction over the growing the political uncertainty and chaos that has impeded the development in many aspects. There is political instability as a result of myopic leaders who have been wrangling for power sharing. Abduction, extortion and subsequent killing are on the rise and the law enforcement bodies are mute spectators. Moreover, country reels under acute power outage while it claims that it is second richest in water resources- next to Brazil. The discussion was instrumental in highlighting the factors hindering the overall development of the country.
After spending few days in Kathmandu, my Indian friend decided to visit the rural areas with sole purpose to widen his knowledge and understanding on rural folklore. Accompanied by other Indian friends, he kicked off his sojourn and expected it to be the journey of lifetime. He returned to Kathmandu after ten weeks.
My Indian friend said that he covered three districts including Kalikot within ten weeks. He exhorted that the villagers were very supportive and helped him in all possible ways to accomplish his objective. Such hospitality is a distant dream in places like Kathmandu and other metros in Nepal. During his visit, he found informal education classes being carried out by government in the districts with the objective to increase literacy rate in the country. According to him, the local people frequently meet and discussed about the issue of local importance in particular and national issues in general. They shared their knowledge, discussed the local problems and hint the possible measures to overcome those impediments. Their collective efforts to address the local problems were indeed commendable, my friend added.
He also lauded the role played by non-governmental organization in the process of overall development of the country. There were toilets built by the NGOs to improve the health and sanitation of local people. Water pumps were installed in the areas having acute shortage of drinking water. With the support of concern NGOs, they held dialogue with the local based government officials on issues of service delivery and their access to the amnesties provided by the government. By all account, their support was helping people in many aspects- from health to political related issues.
In his short visit to Dhading, he found that majority of household had electricity generated from local hydropower plant. Many people owned mobile phones but reluctant to give their numbers for obvious reasons. On the other hand, some villagers in Lamjung district, especially old women, raised objection over a mineral water he was carrying to satiate his thirst. “You hate our local and pristine water and drink paid but unhygienic water” my Indian friend quoted women as saying in the meeting
As said by my friend, through out the journey in the villages, he was received with great politeness and hospitality by the hosts. Within their capacity, the villagers served him with food and other daily essentials. As a host, they left no stone unturned to appease my friend who was an alien to them. “The love and affection shown by the villagers during my visit to the far flung areas of Nepal is truly exemplary. Given the hospitality on the part of local people, the statement “Atithi Deva Bhawa” is justifiable in rural areas of Nepal. I hope Nepalese will uphold century practice till the end of time”, he concluded
Before wrapping up his Nepal visit, he said that foreigners can see true Nepal if they visit the rural areas where local people still follow the century old practice and consider guest as god. In materialistic Kathmandu, such tradition has taken the back seat owing to blatant adoption of negative aspect of western mores, endangering its own invaluable culture. He urged people like us to keep the invaluable custom and tradition intact to handover it to the upcoming generation. Finally, he bid adieu and vowed to visit us at the earliest in near future to cover the more districts.
An overall situation of Nepal could be vividly painted if the tales of my Indian friend were officially recorded and documented.