Inside the room (and mind) of a world record holder Nepali athlete who dreams to produce players like him from his remote locale
Khalanga Bazaar (Jumla): It’s absolutely fine if you feel like running (not running away) on entering this room of a house situated in the lower neighborhood of the bazaar. A close observation of the world record holder (high altitude) marathon runner Hari Bahadur Rokaya’s dwelling reflects his accomplishment, stories of his success and pains of limited opportunities.
Solar panels on the house roofs is common but why one in the corner of Hari’s room? “I take my camera along with me when I run,” said the player who has been running over hills around the bazaar since his childhood. “The panel is for charging camera batteries.” It is his hobby to take pictures of “beautiful scenes” as he runs on high hills.
A few weeks ago when the camera costing Rs 40 thousand fell to the ground and broke Hari had felt so angry that he “wanted to hurl that into the river.” Luckily the camera still hangs on the wall. Nearby is a wooden box with a glass cover containing several medals.
There is a red mosquito net hanging above the bed which is to keep afar the most abundant living objects found in Jumla: flies. “If you want to sleep in the afternoons,” said the three time winner of Everest Marathon in record time that has been mentioned in the Guinness Books of World Records, “flies come and hum in your ears.” There is a row of framed letter of appreciation and certificates above the net in the beam. The remaining is piled near the window. The runner is now turning the pages of a file filled with certificates, news cuttings and photographs. “Look at this,” he said showing the letter of appreciation given by the Jumla District Development Committee in 2060 BS. “It says I am the ‘Bird of Karnali’.”
Just as he was saying this a rat ran through the room. “Brat it has come again,” he said picking up a slipper from the floor. “But my family does not allow me to kill it, they regard it has Lord Ganesha.” He looked thoughtful for seconds and continued, “I also pity them. They don’t do any harm. Big rat causes harm, small one doesn’t.”
A well known personality in the entire region, Hari currently trains girls and boys who have been self chosen by him from various villages. “There are no game tournaments,” he said. “If they were held regularly, players would excel. Here the children only train without being able to play.” His chelas, however, are hopeful about being able to participate in the regional games which are soon to be held. “You have to take them to Nepalgunj by plane,” Hari said. “It costs six thousand for one player, sixty for ten. If the roads had been built properly we could travel on our own costs through vehicles. There are a lot of problems to play and succeed here. Things would be a lot easier if we had a donor.” The player who hopes to get foreign help by opening a club to feed and train players is making final preparations to register “Karnali Sports Club” in Kathmandu.
When he is not running Hari goes around the locality arranging TV signals to mending the sound of loudspeaker in the airport. The representative repairman of NTV in Jumla, Hari also does plumbing, building, house wiring and fitting solar panels. “If necessary I can even repair TV and radio,” he said.
How could a TV repairman’s TV have any problem? The black and white Western TV, that had glistening shields on top, was bought 18 years ago in Birgunj. “It’s still working pretty well,” he said turning on the box on. “NTV must have left its signal now.” Just as he turned it on Sarita Lamichhane was taking leave from a program and he immediately closed it. “The TV is run by battery. The electricity does not provide enough voltage. After all it is Jumla’s electricity.”
Hari seldom likes to sit down. “My body’s always restless. If I don’t run I feel as if I have forgotten something.”
His eldest son studies in Kathmandu while the younger one studies medicine in Dharan. He finds it hard to pay for their studies. “It’s a player’s job. I do all the work and collect money. My children have understood this and do not spend much money. If they spent like other children my earnings would not be enough,” he explained.
There is a picture of Buddha in one corner of the upper part of the room pasted by his elder son. Nearby is a picture of a snow covered hotel in Switzerland where he had run once. The player who has been to 13 countries to run has a picture of himself running in Jhapa on the other side of the wall. “I did by showing all I could,” he said by looking at the photograph. “Now we need to bring out the new ones who can do it all.”