A musical journey to the biggest lake of Nepal in remote Mugu district with the trail filled with flowers of all kinds and the air reverberated with local folk tunes
With jeans tugged into their socks and eyes as red as ripe tomatoes, the boys were Jug Bahadur Bhandari, 15 (left), and Prakash Bhandari, 13.
By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
ब्लगमान्डू: राराको छेउ नजर जुराइदेउ
While going uphill the Karali Kharka range by the Jumla-Mugu borders in the hope of getting the first glimpse of Rara Lake, a melodious voice came floating in the air from somewhere below:
Ma ta pagal bhayeni he bahini
[Don’t you cry remembering me
I’ve gone mad, oh sister
But you stay sane]
On a balmy day in the last week of Asadh, two people walked energetically uphill on a muddy path. They did not give any sign of being out of breath and both of them were conversing in the dohori rhythm of “Don’t think of me and weep”. Both of them turned out to be teenagers who were carrying a small bundle of garlic and Gadaino herbs. With jeans tugged into their socks and eyes as red as ripe tomatoes, the boys were Jug Bahadur Bhandari, 15, and Prakash Bhandari, 13.
“They’ve arrived here after flirting with girls all night,” Rom Bahadur Mahat, whom I had met on the trail as we headed to the same destination and become close to, said aloud. An employee of Rara National Park, Rom knew them well. Two sisters of Jug Bahadur and their brother husbands who are the residents of Chautha, a remote village in Jumla, run a canteen in the National Park. Jug Bahadur and Prakash, who live near Gamgadi in Mugu, are relatives. Jug, accompanying Prakash, wanted to meet his sisters and brothers-in-law and had with them a bundle of herbs as gifts.
Smiling boys of Jumla: singers of the jungle!
“You people keep on walking,” Jug Bahadur responded to the call to move on after resting for a while. As we crossed the lush green hills and reached Tiune Kharka, Rom Bahadur shouted, ordering the boys: “Hey, let’s go.” After a while, he shouted again: “Come on, let’s go. It’ll rain.” The boys still showed no sign of movement. “They’ve fallen asleep,” Rom Bahadur murmured.
Maya launchhau ghataigatako
Din dhalkera raat bho
Man udera paat-paat bho
[Your love was filled with betrayal
Days turned into nights
My heart has flown away and turned into leaves.]
Dinesh Wagle (right) with Rom Bahadur Mahat
The boys started singing again. As they joined us half an hour later when the path downhill to Rara was just about to begin, we all knew that they hadn’t slept the night before. The previous day, after the afternoon programs of the anniversary day were over at the Shree Mahadev Lower Secondary School where Jug Bahadur studies, the boys started singing dohori till the wee hours of the morning. After sleeping for just a couple of hours, they began their journey at six in the morning.
“We didn’t tease girls,” Prakash countered Rom Bahadur’s satirical remark, and said, “That’s my maternal village. I was returning from Jumla, and happened to be there just for a while.”
“You have grown mustache,” I told Jug Bahadur on noticing the thin line of hair on his upper lip. “You’re growing up.” As Jug Bahadur looked at me flushing beetroot red like any shy girl Prakash gave a witty answer: “A man’s son will surely have mustache!”
Rom Bahadur Mahat in Karali Kharka, above Rara Lake
Walge with Jug Bahadur and Prakash
While Jug Bahadur foraged among the bushes to collect leaves to make pickles, Prakash sang and chatted with me. I had asked him about life in Jumla and Mugu.
“We were born and brought up here,” Prakash said, “So we’re habituated to walking. Now we have only a bag to carry, mostly we need to carry a load of 30 kgs. For people living in the plains it’s hard because they are not used to it.”
He was the most talented boy I met during my entire two-week-long trek in the Karnali region. He even had his own plans and dreams for the development of the region.
“Illiteracy is the biggest problem of this place,” he said, treading on the slippery and sloped path. “People are uneducated. Development can happen only if people are hundred percent educated,” he said eruditely.
“People before did not know how to act right,” Prakash continued. “Even though there were herbs they did not know how to utilize them.”
Opportunities without talent,” said the youngster who planned to act according to what situations future held. “Talent without opportunities.” He pointed out the need of road access and emphasized on drinking water, electricity and employment after that.
We were about to reach Rara and Prakash had not stopped singing.
Rara talako chheu
Mana parne mayalu najar juraideu
[On the banks of Rara
Oh my beloved, let your eyes meet mine]
“I’m disheartened,” Prakash wrote on my notebook when I asked him to express his dreams about Rara. “These hotels, the army camp and park office have dirtied the lake.”
An eighth standard student (attending in 8th school in his life) Prakash’s family, displaced from Chautha by the Maoists, now lives in Lama Chaur. His father supplies vegetables to the army while his mother is a housewife.
“I studied upto the fourth grade,” Prakash’s 29-year-old mother whom I met by coincidence said. “I know the hardships of a student. Even if you don’t work as a porter, studying is not easy. So I’ll endure every hardship and help my son study.” She also informed me that Prakash was good hearted and more responsible than his sibs.
Wagle in Mili, near Rara, with lake on the back
Wagle on the bank of Rara that is filled with so many colorful flowers
Wagle with a plate of berries (bhui kafal or bhui aiselu) that were picked up (above) from the ground and jungle on the bank of Rara Lake.
Karnali ghumau toparo lauri bagaudaina
Bairagika baja, man duli agaudaina
When Jug Bahadur sang the famous Deuda, the quintessential song of the region, on my request, Rom Bahadur started dohori with the boys:
“Don’t go roaming around in the night, you might go astray.”
The counter response was instantaneous:
Jadole manabhitra chhundaina
Geet gauda bigreko hundaina
[Winter chills don’t go inside the heart,
You aren’t spoiled while singing a song]
The boys said they listen to songs in cassettes and Radio Nepal and sometimes watch TV in the bazaar. Although he sang folk-dohori all the way, I was baffled to know Prakash’s favorite singer. “Swaroop Raj Acharya,” he said and started singing:
Dherai maya dida raichan mutu chori laneharu
Premko parkhaima basda raichhan sacho maya dineharu
[“The ones who steal your heart away love you the most
The ones who give true love wait for their Love”]
Saying that he had forgotten the name of the artist but naming the album “Man ki Rani” (Queen of Heart) he sang:
Kalo badal phatera ho kohi din ta gham lagla
Yo dukhilai samjhiyeu bhane apthyaroma kaam lagla
Hey maichyang, kalo kesma ribbon badheko
[“Clearing the dark clouds the will shine someday
It might help you in trouble if you cared to remember this sad soul someday
Hey dark haired Maichang”]
After listening to their songs, it was my turn to treat them. I took out my iPod, tugged the ear phone in Prakash’s ear and played the remix version of a folk song. It looked to me as though it was an unforgettable musical moment in his life. As the silent Rara Lake glistened in the setting sun, Prakash was humming a “never heard before song” in a loud voice:
[Landlord……courtyard…stay for a night
…stay in your heart…]
“I had never heard this song before. The music [quality] is great,” Prakash related his iPod experience to me. “Your entire concentration is focused on the song.”
The ones who listen through earphones with a high volume don’t realize that they are humming in a loud voice, too. That’s why Jug Bahadur was looking at Prakash inquisitively — Why is he yelling? — when the latter was trying to catch the lyrics rather loudly.
Half an hour later, the iPod was with Jug Bahadur, and as he shouted By rodko baato…dhulo udaudai- “By road…..flying dust” -it was Prakash who couldn’t control his laughter this time.
Rara Lake in a cloudy morning:
The biggest lake of Nepal is five kilometers long and two kilometers wide
It’s 167 meters deep.
This article appeared in today’s edition of City Post (The Kathmandu Post). Nepali version appeared in today’s edition of Kosilee (Kantipur)
ब्लगमान्डू: राराको छेउ नजर जुराइदेउ