A Trip, a decision

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A little bit of an airhead (or maybe much), a very sheltered person who took most things seriously and when not serious, came up with ideas; some stupid, some naughty, some nice to carry out with friends. That was me! I had a group of friends that did most things together. Why am I getting nostalgic? Of those days when we used to laugh and laugh till our stomachs hurt and in between laughs told each other we’d live a long life because of course laughter was the best medicine and laughter increased life expectancy. Those school days when we used to be carefree and used our brains only to solve math problems and memorise stuffs. Those growing up years were years of obliviousness, ignorance, unawareness and so, of happiness!

No, no I am not complaining nor am I saying I was happy then and not happy now. If anything I am quite liking the process of knowing my own mind. This includes realising that though I think independence and freedom are most important to a person, I have been somewhat faint of heart and have always protected myself and been happy being safe and content. Like happiness and intellectual thinking were two mutually exclusive stuffs, I tend to not think about things on an intellectual level when I am happy and am unbothered, dare I say, like animals going on about their lives, grazing or doing what they do, devoid of consciousness and awareness. I hope to change this aspect of my life. Maybe I will go on a trip to an unknown place by myself. Of course, I don’t find it enjoyable to go to interesting places alone. Who do you share your observations or jokes with if you are alone? But if putting myself in unfamiliar and unsure surroundings and situations alone will help me be brave, strong and experienced. I am gonna go for it. So, watch this space.

Now, getting back to the main story, a few months back I decided to be impulsive and spontaneous and go to a temple on top of a mountain in a district neighbouring my hometown. This was before my epiphany so, I asked my little brother (who had much free time on his hands) to accompany me. It became a road trip for us (we took a motorbike, Bajaj Pulsar), a trip where we both didn’t know the way to our destination. We planned to set out in the morning and return by evening/night of the same day. But that didn’t go out as planned and the one day trip became a two day trip. The trip was everything; fun, excruating, regretful, enriching, you name it.

Things that happened on the trip
-I woke up very early, long before the alarm went off on both mornings. Talk about divine calling.

-We started our journey by descending down the hill on the spiral road and reached hewa river in no time. After crossing the hewa river bridge, the spiral road went up the hill. Soon, we were on the back part of the hill, the shady side. We were going through villages, whose names I had only heard of. My brother like many young boys is an avid biker. He loves speed. Since it was early in the morning and the cold wind was whacking us, I took out a warm scarf and wrapped it around his neck and wrapped a Kashmiri shawl around myself. But an extra helmet would have worked better on hindsight because I did get headaches.

We were going up and down the hills on the snake like road. I enjoyed the speed we were travelling at and the scenery of the hills but after a while the same sight of the humongous hills was monotonous. The big hills were vertigo inducing. I must have stayed too many years away from my home town that I, who have grown up among these hills was getting nauseous on seeing them so close.

-On the way, we got glimpse of the Kanchenjunga moutain range (pic above, which has the third highest mountain in the world) though afar and snowclad in its glory. When we reached the Kabeli river, we stopped to rest where my brother ordered tea for himself at a roadside restaurant. Guess there are only so many hours you can ride a bike before your body gets stiff especially your back and buttom.
 

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-We reached Taplejung and went though the town to the airport area. Beyond Sukhetar airport, the road was rough and full of rocks. And it got even worse as we went further. Where the rocky road ended the muddy road began and since it had rained the night before, the road was full of puddles of water which were like little swamps. In many places, the bike was in danger of getting swamped or skidding. Whenever the bike would get swamped, I would get off and my brother would navigate it out of the swamp. He indeed is an excellent biker.

-There are two bases (fedi); lower base and upper base before you reach the mountain top. We had planned to take the bike as far as lower base but the road was so bad we decided to leave it before that point and made our way on foot. Apparently, there were 2 paths, the long one going around the hill, and the shorcut up the hill. We took the shortcut but I found it very difficult to walk uphill. It took me forever to walk even a small distance. My brother unlike me walked fast and would wait for me. He was surprised to see me struggling and was worried because this was just the beginning of the road uphill. There was a small shop on the way so he ordered tea. And as we were waiting, he suddenly said “this will not do” . Because we had planned to return the same day, speed was of utmost importance and he asked me to wait there and he himself went back to get the bike. We were going to take it as far as we could after all.

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And I dozed off in a chair. It took my brother about an hour to get back with the bike. I had enjoyed a really good nap by that time and my headache was gone! Then, we were on our way again. From the lower base we had to make our way on foot.

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-It’s customary to not eat anything when you are going to a temple to pray. What we didn’t keep in mind was how difficult it was going to be to walk uphill for hours without energy. By afternoon we knew we had not even come halfway uphill and we will have to stay overnight! That was when we had the first meal of the day.

-Since winter had barely begun and It was still warm in my home town we decided to travel light. We didn’t heed the advice of my brother who had been to the temple before to take more warm clothes. I thought it was just few hours walk uphill and we could endure it. But yes, after we took a room in a hotel we wasted no time and got under our blankets. I didn’t even want to wake up and go down for dinner.

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-Going to a place in the Himalayas where the God lives was surely not gonna be easy, this is the great Himalayan trail after all. It turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life but I had my little brother who was my messiah on this journey! It may have been hard but now I have some idea why people go on adventures. It was just a two day trip and I came back with blessings, experience, many stories to tell and memories, the best ones with my little brother.

-A picture is worth a thousand words. Some pictures taken by my brother, I didn’t care about taking pictures. I was just glad that I didn’t die of sheer exhaustion.
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I went somewhere amazing

This year we were planning to go trekking to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) but most of my friends couldn’t get holidays from their jobs or universities and the plan fell through. The friend who was in charge of organising everything said it was not feasible for just 4 or 5 of us to go as the trip would be expensive for a small group. So, I went somewhere else, somewhere amazing, a temple on top of a big hill in eastern Nepal, close to my home district. A temple of Goddess (Devi) Pathivara which is very well known and revered in these parts. It was what I really needed most.

A little back history. The eastern part of Nepal is the Limbuwan region. Initally, these were Limbu kingdoms before King Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered them and made a unified Nepal. Predominantly, the Limbus which is my tribe, live here. We are one of the ethnic people of Nepal and have our own language, script, scripture, culture and religion. Though we are influenced by Hinduism, we are not entirely hindus. Kirati rituals are different from Hindu rituals; especially the birth, marriage and death rituals. Also, the people of the hills and mountains are in someway nature worshippers, they worship the rivers, mountains, the forest God etc as mothers (mata, mai, devi).

But Pathivara mata(mother) is worshipped by all who know of her; the Hindus, Kiratis and the Buddhists. I personally think if a person believes in all Gods or a God and respects every religion and wants to pray in a monastry, a church, a temple or a mosque, irrespective of his/her religion, he/she should be allowed. It seems anyone can go to a church or a monastery, there are no restrictions but some temples and mosques are stricter on rules. I have seen boards outside some temples in Kathmandu prohibiting foreigners (people of other religions presumably Christians and Muslims) from entering. Similarly, non muslims are not allowed in Mecca and Medina. It must be because people while visiting these places, which are not their holy places see these as tourist attractions first and foremost. I speak from my own experiences ofcourse. When I have gone to churches and monastries, and the first thing I did was say “How beautiful!!!!” Maybe someday we will change.

The temple of Pathivara mata (mother) is in Taplejung, a neighbour district of Panchthar. But for all the years I have lived in Phidim I had not ventured beyond Hewa river. My mom and dad have made the journey to this temple once, albeit separately many years ago. It had taken them many days as the roads were rough then, and the site was not even developed as a temple.

They came back with so many great tales that we listened to with awe. How there were money and gold everywhere in the holy site, that people had offered to the Goddess and they had to step on those to get to the praying place. It is believed that She will grant you your wish if you go to her temple and pray. You know how you are not supposed to lie when you promise. And then there’s ‘Mother promise’ which you believed as a kid, will effect your mom if you broke it. And then there’s ‘Pathivara promise’ which is the most fearsome of all. People rarely if ever use it. That is how powerful the Goddess is believed to be.
If you say you will visit her temple then you must. This is the reason we must never utter our intentions to go. If we say it outloud then we must go anyhow. It’s like a promise we make her. Few years back, my aunty asked me if I wanted to go to the temple with her. When I asked my mom for permission she scolded me for even asking as I was going to return to college in few days and I shouldn’t have harbored such thoughts.

So this time since, we had an extra day before we returned back to Kathmandu, we set out to go the temple. It was an impulsive decison. And I didn’t inform my mom, dad or aunties… Only my brothers (cousins) knew of my plan. You are one lucky sister to have brothers who love you and do everything for you. My brother R’s motorbike had some problems so his friend lent us his. No problem there but they (he and my bro) had some work in Kathmandu and were going to take the same bike all the way to Ktm the day after so we had the bike for a day only. We were to go to the temple and come back in a day.

I was gonna go with my kid brother Abhi. He was with his friends for most part of the day. When he came home I told him “Let’s try to go to the temple and return. Eveything is set. We are leaving at 5 or 6 in the morning.” My kid brother loves riding. And because he loves me too, he was excited. But more because a biking opportunity was presented to him, I think.

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My brother “Abhi”

There are so many tales about mother Pathivara. They say people who have sinned beyond redemption cannot make it to the temple. They fall ill or even die on their way to the temple. My cousin (sister) taught me to say it like “I will go and return back”. Apparently some woman promised to bring her child back to the temple if she was blessed with one.  And when she brought the child to the temple, the child died. You are supposed to say I will bring and take back.

We started our journey without declaring our intention. This was my first time and my brother’s second time going to the temple. He had gone before with his parents when he was a little child. So, basically we didn’t know the way to the temple when we set out. This is how our 90-95 km of bike ride on the spiral road up and down the hills began.

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Beautiful scenery on our way
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We were going to the top of the hill like this one. I thought this was the one my brother pointed out to me. Apparently, I was mistaken. The one we were going to was more pointy and taller which I didn’t photograph. This is near Kabeli river where Mechi ends and Taplejung begins.

Let me tell you about my hometown

So, we reached our hometown Phidim after travelling for close to 24 hours, by bus and then by taxi from Kathmandu, covering 900 km or more in distance. Phidim is in the hills between the plains and the himalayas, in the eastern part of Nepal. It is a small town surrounded by hills on all sides. But it is not a valley. I remember asking my favourite teacher, Sir Kulman why Phidim was not a valley like Pokhara or Kathmandu although it fitted the description of a valley. He told me it was not a flat area but an uneven rolling land surrounded by hills.

We were in town for some official work. So, after we finished that we went to the local river called Hewa. There are not many places one can go in a small town. But the river is a popular picnic spot. It is one of the places student bunk school to come to on hot summer days. We had fresh river fishes in a small riverside shop. Then we tried searching for crabs (we found three), skipped stones, did the regular stuff and had fun!!

IMG_0788.JPGOn our way to the river

IMG_0780-0.JPGFish dish was tasty

IMG_0785-1.JPGFound these crabs

IMG_0747-0.JPGAlso saw a truck that had overturned in someone’s rice field.

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I don’t know if it’s because I’ve grown up in this place that I feel at peace there. Other places are more beautiful and more fun but there’s something heart-warming about my hometown. On the way to my hometown, when the terrain changes from plains to hills and the road become spiral, going up and down the hill and up and down again, like a roller coaster ride, I hate it. But when you are on the last leg of the journey and descending down the hill, you get a view of the town and your heart leaps with so much joy!!!! “Home”…your heart says and this is exactly where you feel the crappy journey was actually worth it.

IMG_0826.JPGExhibit A

IMG_0825.JPGPhidim

IMG_0768.JPGI can see my home

It’s a small place where everyone knows everyone. It’s so small that sometimes I hesitate to call it a town. There is one or two of everything like 2 colleges, 1 hospital, 1 cinema hall, 1 prison and so on. You can go anywhere within the place on foot. So, of course there’s no internal transport service, only in and out of the place. We used to walk everyday to and from school. Nowadays, motorbikes are quite popular. It’s a must have for a young male. Boys with bikes earn big points with girls. And Saturday is bazaar day, a day when there’s a Farmer’s market and people from nearby villages come to sell their produce. There’s nothing for a tourist to see here; the river, thakle temple which is at the top of a hill among huge rocks, a nearby tea estate, tupi salla which is a pine trees filled hill with a tower (another popular picnic spot) are not exactly tourist attractions. Still, there’s something about my hometown that I told my brother it’s a perfect place to live in, if only the health and education facilities were little better.