A Year in Nepal: Preface


“A Year in Nepal” is a book I have been writing since the beginning of this year, 2019. I’d got to my 6th chapter and somehow ran out of steam, lots of ideas, content, adventures, but just couldn’t continue or explain it! I let it sit there for two months, and despite encouragement from friends in Kathmandu, nothing! So, I’ve decided to try something completely different. Every week, Wednesday’s, I’ll post one of my chapters for comment, feedback good or bad, it will all be absorbed. If there’s silence, that tells me something too. Let me ask everyone stopping by here for help, do please comment, reblog, Facebook it, etc etc., all will be accepted, acknowledged, replied to. Here’s the Preface or Introduction:

PREFACE

Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.” (Natalie Goldberg, “Writing Down the Bones”)

Gunshots rang out from the Narayanhity Royal Palace, Kathmandu in the late evening of June 1st 2001. This was the beginning of the end for the monarchy system which had ruled Nepal since its creation as a country in 1768. For almost 250 years Nepal had been ruled by a succession of kings since Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Gorkha King unified a number of smaller kingdoms by military conquest into the country we know today. But the killing of King Birendra and 9 other members of the royal family by Prince Dipendra in 2001 set in motion a complete transformation of the country from a Hindu monarchy into a federal republic by 2008. The path was far from smooth for the Nepali people however, with the monarch being a puppet king under the Rana Dynasty, part of the Chettri warrior caste, for 100 years from 1846. Then a bloody civil war raged between government and Maoist rebels from 1996 for 10 years in which 12,000 people were killed. Naturally the people celebrated the ending of this war with the hope and expectations of peace and much needed development in the areas of healthcare, education, employment, civil rights, human rights, the economy, agriculture, and infrastructure including roads, housing, power supply and telecommunications. Between 1990 and 2017, Nepal’s Human Development Index value grew from 0.378 to 0.574, an increase of 51.9 percent. Looks good? Not unless you count an average income of $2400 per annum as “good” along with being ranked 149th out of 189 countries assessed!

Credit Pixabay

But this is not a book about Nepal’s history nor its aid fuelled economy and mind numbing poverty. Quite the opposite, this book is about the everyday lives and enduring traditions and culture of the Nepali people, their supreme optimism and faith that things WILL improve, and their friendly welcome given to all visitors to their country. I have been lucky and privileged to receive such a welcome by all Nepalis generally and from my “inherited” family by marriage specifically.

I married Champa Hera Tuladhar in late 1971, we were postgraduate students at University of Strathclyde working in the same laboratory completing our PhDs in chemistry. Champa is a Newar from the district of Ason in the oldest part of Kathmandu, and ….. she is the first woman from Nepal to gain a doctorate, in ANY subject. Our upbringings, culture and families couldn’t have been more different. I am an only child born into a working class Methodist family in the Cumbrian Lake District just after WW2, both parents having been in the military. My father was a Coldstream Guards infantryman who survived Dunkirk, my mother was a corporal at Catterick Camp, the army training centre in North Yorkshire. Champa was raised as a Buddhist around the same period of time with three brothers and three sisters. Her father was a civil servant in the Forestry Department who encouraged all of his children to complete school and obtain as high a qualification as possible, a rarity in Nepal for girls who for a time were not even allowed to attend school. Champa’s primary education began on the living room floor of a neighbour’s house which makes the gaining of a doctorate some 20 years later even more remarkable.

Since meeting as two young students we have spent most of our lives in England growing our careers, raising a family and coasting into retirement. But we have naturally spent a great deal of time in Nepal; we have been part of family traditions and events, attended lengthy weddings including that of our own daughter, lived in lodges, tea houses and tents as we trekked and climbed a number of peaks in the Himalaya, visited numerous monasteries and temples either as routine or during religious festivals, eaten the food and consumed the liquor. We created and ran an education NGO for 10 years and have even been aunt and uncle to the Prime Minister for 2 years!

So this book is not a textbook and neither is it a guidebook. The catalyst for it were the words of Nicos Hadjicostis;

Travel is a departure from one’s little pond. A bold renouncement of the petty comforts that hold us prisoner. It is a movement away from the known towards the unknown and unimaginable. Travel is expansion, widening, opening-up…” (Nicos Hadjicostis.)

These words are from his book Destination Earth-A new philosophy of travel ….. words which have inspired, nay impelled me to write this book of my own. Nicos travelled around the globe for 5 years, much of it was relatively unplanned, non-linear even, and his book is not divided into countries and nor does it have a timeline. The whole concept of the book is based on immersing oneself in the culture of ones environment, throwing the guidebook away, engaging with the general populace and taking their advice about what to see and do in their country, district, city, village. And especially NOT moving on until one is satiated and ready to go. Alright for some I hear you say, but only if you have no personal obligations “at home” and unlimited funds. Nicos’ advice is to have a “wiseline” instead of a timeline, a line which is certainly not a straight line but which encompasses culture and traditions, food, history, music, art more than geographical and archaeological sites or buildings.

“The more I read this book the more I started to view my aggregated time in Nepal differently, not just tourism, climbing a few Himalayan peaks or visiting a few monasteries, but as actually living and experiencing Nepal mindfully.”

Credit Pixabay

And so here we go, A Year In Nepal, guided by my dear Nepali wife and her family, mountain Sherpas, our NGO staff and the many friends I made along the way, including Buddha himself, or Sid as we call him! Each chapter describes our experiences with a specific element of Nepali culture, often interwoven with personal anecdotes or incidents. Read about the diversity of foods and their significance in honouring guests or Hindu gods and Buddha himself, about mountain treks and summiting major peaks, and sadly about the downside of corruption in Nepal which is institutionally embedded but also virtually endemic throughout society. You will read also about religious tolerance and the mingling between Buddhist and Hindu faiths and the background to the unification of Nepal with its three main cities in the Kathmandu Valley. It’s not a guidebook but I hope you find some guidance about gaining a mindful and fulfilling experience in my adopted country as well as the desire to gain a similar experience in any country, no matter how short your visit. You may be a tourist, but the only stranger in the country is YOU!

Acknowledgements

• All photos are my own unless specifically downloaded under a Creative Commons Licence and are duly credited with text linked to the original creator.

• My knowledge of Nepali culture and history came mostly from my dear wife.

• My knowledge of corruption comes from personal experience in Nepal!


Don’t forget, I need your feedback, comments and suggestions, if you’re a newcomer stopping by here, then sign up to follow this blog so you get weekly alerts to the next chapter. 🙏🙏👍 Next chapter next Wednesday.

21 thoughts on “A Year in Nepal: Preface

  1. Dear B, you’ve always amazed and inspired the imperfect human inside me. Your writing seized my time.I loved It- the first chapter!! And finished it within a blink of an eye. The citation” Travel is a departure from one’s little pond. A bold renouncement of the petty comforts that hold us prisoner. It is a movement away from the known towards the unknown and unimaginable. Travel is expansion, widening, opening-up…” (Nicos Hadjicostis, This is really inspiring and relevant for me at this time as I am planning to trek to Phoksundo in Dolpo amidst Oct- Nov this year. This one is an additional motivation for it.

    If you remember, I was always fascinated by your storytelling and narratives. I always told you that. I always wished to read your book. Even when you used to define a theory I could vividly imagine things with your description.

    I can feel your love and warmth towards Nepal in this writing. I can feel it is going to be inspirational for lots of people to live mindfully, love meaningfully and learn forever.

    Thank you for being my open learning university B.

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    1. Thank you Ladipma, I appreciate your warm feedback. I am glad my warmth towards Nepal shines through, because for some it will seem different when I write about the corruption within the Education System and the government generally. 🙏🙏🙏🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a few comments/ suggestions:
    1. If your book is not about the politics, why do you start your preface with a paragraph about politics? It was a wrench to be suddenly told, well, sorry folks, that’s not really what the book is about, it’s about this. If you want to bring politics into it, perhaps you can work it into the first time you went to Nepal. Perhaps your wife pointed out where the first shot was fired. Perhaps when you met her family, they talked about the event. Were they worried that a civil war might ensue? How has it changed their lives, if at all?
    2. Wwhat about starting the preface with a description of your reaction the first time you realized that you were entering a world very different from the one you knew. Was it something you eventual-to-be wife said when you were getting to know each other? Was it on meeting her family? What was your reaction? How did it change how you perceive the world?
    3. Who is your audience? academics? People in NGOs doing international aid? Armchair travelers? Tourists who want more than what Fodor or Lonely Planet have to offer?

    I do like the idea of the book, especially as it will be very personal. I enjoy those books far more than some academic description of economy/geography etc., although those do have their place. Keep at it. And I know what you mean about running out of steam. when that happens to me, I forget about it for a while. I’m convinced that some deep hidden part of the brain is still working on it, even if I’m not aware of it, and suddenly, the way ahead is revealed.

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    1. Hello Margaret, I am so sorry for not replying to your thoughtful comment. I found it in spam which I don’t check very regularly, but today I found loads of comments from some of my regular followers. I need time to think through your most detailed feedback, but rest assured it will all be digested. Firstly though, this book IS about personal experiences covering food, mountains, religion, history, aid, education, corruption. Politics DOES influence some of these sections, and the change from a monarchy to a federal republic was an important step culturally …. but the politics of whether the Maoists, Marxist-Leninists or National Congress is in power is not of consequence and will not be covered. Corruption is endemic in Nepali society, not just politically driven corruption. Education is appalling whoever is in power. So, the book is not about politics. I’ll be back, but once again many thanks and apologies.

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  3. Certainly a great start and whetted the appetite for more. I have had the privilege of visiting Nepal twice in the last few years and I would definitely like to read more of your take on the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! My take will be a bit “different” because I was never really a tourist, could speak some Nepali and usually was with family. But it’s a different perspective I suppose that will interest people.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good stuff Brian as ever. I think you should add a bit more about your reactions and how you feel in the moment. It makes a post more personable. Just saying, ignore me if you wish!

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    1. Thank you Andrew, appreciate your feedback. Plus ….. apologies for the late reply …. I have just found about 20 comments from regular followers in bloody SPAM! Unbelievable! I am really getting pee’d off with WordPress at present especially since I just upgraded to a specific domain name. I wonder if that was the cause?

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  5. DR. B I enjoyed reading your first chapter and waiting for the second chapter on coming Wednesday. I have gone through your comment as well I want to know why don’t you like Pasupatinath? CURIOUS….???? Eagerly waiting for third chapter too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Manisha🙏🙏. Very happy you enjoyed it. The reason I don’t like Pashpatinath is that to a white man it’s a very aggressive place, even with Champa they won’t leave me alone. Also they allow Champa and Sharon into the temple but not me …. why?
      Can you post the link on your Facebook page asking your friends to visit and comment it would be a big help?

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    1. Not harsh at all QP, I appreciate your frankness 🙏 and your positiveness. I went through the same thinking, but I have no need of money from publishing and WILL publish anyway in time. Still a few chapters to write, it will be finished and the few good people who read it here won’t influence any distribution of it.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha, it’s “a steal” from a book I read a while ago The Buddha Walks into a Bar, by Lodro Rinzker. Not a particularly good book, and shortly afterwards I read another called Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, a book I enjoyed and found quite funny. The latter was full of short sections, easy to read. So, I thought it would be a good title for our blog with the occasional Buddha “conversation”.
          One for you, I’ve been browsing your site and see lots of images of Boudha in Kathmandu. Do you live there, The White Monastery maybe?

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        2. I have been there four or five times for vacation and for pilgrimages. The three big Buddhas, actually Shakyamuni, Chenrezig, and Guru Rimpoche are below Swayambhunath. Swayambhunath and Boudaunath stupas are very inspiring. Many of the other photos are from here in Germany where I live or nearby. Buddhism is alive and well here 🙂 we have stupas all over the place.

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        3. 👍 Thank you. I watched the three big Buddha being built and have a photo of one of them in blueish colour cement before it was gilded. Swayambhu is my favourite and our daughter was married there too. I like Boudha too, but it has a different feel to it. I don’t like Pashpatinath at all. Everything revealed in my third chapter. I’m enjoying browsing your blog too, needs much thought before commenting but I’m definitely “in tune” with the Buddha Neuroscience connect👍🙏🙏

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        4. Oh thank you so much. Please feel free to comment wherever you wish, even on the older stuff. Like you I appreciate the feedback good and bad. I often go back and rewrite things on my older pieces as my innerstanding grows and develops.

          I’ll check out the books. They found fun 😊

          Liked by 1 person

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