Ket(ch)sà! 

That is my very bad imitation of a Nepali “How are you?” which in Hindi would be, “Kesè hei?” Apologies for the overdose of language collaboration. In Nepal now and trying to appropriate myself to the environment but failing miserably as others in the group don’t seem to want to go beyond their ‘tourist-ee’ experience.

Okay. I ate with cutlery when we were asked to go Nepali and use our fingers. But we were after a uhm trek and I didn’t see handwash and water in sight and hand sanitiser would have been insufficient. 

I’ve been in Nepal for four days, (running my fifth since this would be up on a Friday I presume?) but feels like longer perhaps due to the Delhi stay. I like the place, grew a liking to the place rather. It’s nice, people are nicer and warmer despite the drop in temperature. The access to most things basic including water, is not easy and Kathmandu undergoes a daily power cut of eleven hours. Obviously we wouldn’t know as we stay at a hotel. Further, the city is also on a petrol shortage due to ‘dues to’ India. The positioning of the country results in a constant shortage of water as well. 

I write from Bandipur. Excerpts from the brief I’ve just read states the following: 

Bandipur has an elevation of 1030m. 143 km to the west of Kathmandu and 80 km to the east of Pokhara. 1991 Nepal census records a population of 9952 people in 1929 individual households. 

Documenting the Tourist Experience 

So, in case you didn’t know already, I’m here on work. Obviously noh, I wouldn’t have climbed 1000+ m for fun noh. I did manage to steal some time away to meet my Nepali friend while in Kathmandu. *yay* 

<insert momos>

I’ve been meaning to write a detailed blog post on my present work life, but never got around to it. But yes, I am here on work for three purposes, two of which is now behind me and am currently in 3/3, CBA8 (Community Based Adaptation). So obviously, the group I am touring with now, on field visits would be those in the field of development working for civil societies, INGOs, Governments and media outlets. Not to generalise or undermine any other profession but I would usually associate a certain amount of responsibility with these groups of people. This would include most, if not all times we travel on work, even while not working. Yes, this means travelling with colleagues on even to the say, town. 

While I know that it is the first time for most of us in this part of the world / country / areas where women and girls balance buckets and barrels of water on their heads, it isn’t well, new. One must have seen an image of a Bollywood movie, tourist promotion video or photograph or even a tour guide. 

Further, while I am acutely aware that not all people opt to document their experiences through the written word, like myself, and prefer the options of pictures, in the situation well, I don’t know. I wanted to say to be ‘subtle about it’ but you can’t and well, if possible opt out of it all together, but that doesn’t seem to be an option together.

So what am I trying to say? I myself don’t know really. Sigh. 

Intrusion

This leads to my next point, just in case you were wondering if the previous point was left un-concluded. Is that even a word? I’ve always had a problem with going to areas and well being all tourist-ee by I don’t know, taking over a few seconds of their chores or profession? Which is why I have an issue with that hotel back home in SL where they allow you to ‘dress up’ as a tea plucker and hit the fields, similarly why I don’t like people working in the field of development posing next to pot filled with water, just to upload as their next Facebook profile picture. 

I say this mostly because I feel as though we intrude in their lives. Perhaps they do like ‘foreign’ presence in their midst to ‘dust away’ the monotony of labour but no, that doesn’t agree with me. As someone who always tries to see a purpose in what we do, I wonder what purpose it serves. 

Is there a solution to end the tourist-ee menace? Well, model villages, though I was against it at first, now pops up as an excellent idea in my pea brain. Primarily because they were created with such a purpose in mind and the basic model or structure is a replica (of a lesser degree perhaps) of their real lives. Maybe they even get paid for that, which is good, I suppose. At least, there is a lesser sense of intrusion here. 

What are our basic needs? 

A bit of disconnect from the previous point I agree, but I hope the last two managed to complement each other at least a wee bit. 

So, before I go on to address basic needs, let me tell you that we were given an option of two hotels this afternoon, both situated within a ten-minute walk, and I opt for the second only because they had WiFi. Now everyone knows where my priorities lie. Turns out my bright idea backfired when I went to have a shower and turned out that we didn’t have water. It took a few hours to get it sorted (the water shortage and elevation weren’t very beneficial) but it got me thinking and laughing as to why I hadn’t thought of a potential water problem in this area. 

Similarly, in our little trek around the village today, we saw miles and miles (fyi, I use kilometres as a metric but ‘kilometres and kilometres’ sound wrong) of power cables and women and girls carrying buckets and pots of water from the pond to the village, uphill. On second thought, I wonder if they were telephone lines? 

Either way. That got a few of us thinking on how these people had access to electricity (or communication if they were telephone lines) and not water? Wasn’t this a country that was heavily dependent on hydropower to start with? 

Reminding me of a similar situation in the Sri Lankan movie Machan, where every house has a television irrespective of the house having access to electricity. 

The Marginalised 

Another fairly disconnected point, but something that has bothered me since my India days is the use of term ‘Marginalised’. Perhaps an overdose of literary theory that taught me to define one in the absence of the other, the ‘Marginalised’ conveniently defines into the lack of all things privileged. 

The word was overused today while they began explaining the work done in ‘rural’ communities where they teach them to ‘adapt’ to the changes of climate and environment and also when the Marginalised were empowered to aim for upward social mobilisation. Uh. While the socioeconomic disparity is prevalent in all societies, I somehow cringe less at a ‘class’ debate as opposed to a ‘caste’ debate, despite being more exposed to the former as I do not belong to any ‘caste’ being Muslim and all. ‘Lower-middle class’ always sounds a better choice of words I suppose.  Austen would be proud. 

P.S. – apologise for any grammatical / semantical errors of sorts, didn’t have time to proofread / add tags / pictures / etc.

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