Photographer's Note

December nights are chilly in Nepal. Everywhere you go, be it mountainous Nagarkot or central Kathmandu, you will encounter families huddled by the fire in the street. It feels like scenes taken out of the pages of Charles Dickens’ books. Poverty can be deceptively beautiful and photogenic. I have posted an aerial view of this kind of fires earlier.

I have already mentioned, in a previous post, the people who inhabit the Terai region including the village of Sauraha where I was staying. I did go to Chitwan National Park to see the wildlife. But a true highlight was the interaction with the locals.

I spent every evening in my hotel restaurant in the company of the cook, the waiter and my guide Gapal. Then, I stayed up late at night to note down our conversations in my diary.

I learned a lot about their life. They work hard for little money and the substantial part of their income comes from tourists’ tips. The three of them rent one room, which they share. That’s all they can afford.

Gapal told me stories from the time of the civil war. He recalled how Maoist rebels would storm in, right in the middle of the night, point their rifles at the family, and accuse them of cooperating with the government army. Days brought no relief, while the government soldiers paid visits, pointed their rifles at the family and accused them of supporting Maoist rebels. It went on and on. Both armies were of course looking for young recruits, so, when Gapal was 17, he emigrated to Darjeeling where he spent several years feeling hopeless and alienated. He returned home in 2006 when the war was over.

Like us, they would love to travel, purchase luxury items, such as smartphones and TVs, own vehicles and property. The only way to achieve that, I was told, is to marry a foreign visitor. I had an opportunity to learn about the Big Nepali Dream pictured in this simple poem:

Japanese wife
European life
Chinese goods
Nepali foods.

This is my last post from Terai. After my brief visit to Chitwan National Park I returned to Kathmandu and spent some time travelling in Kathmandu Valley, which I revisited 15 months later. So from the next upload it’s back to my pre/post earthquake reminiscences.

Terai, on the other hand, was not affected by the 2015 natural disaster. However, it did not escape the misfortunes of that turbulent period in Nepal’s history – when the new constitution was announced in 2015 it sparked protests against the discriminatory citizenship regulations. Several people died in Terai during that period of unrest, combined with the economic pressures of the blockade of the border with India by the country’s stronger and bigger neighbour.

Since TE no longer wants to display this info:
ISO 6400, 1/15 sec at f/5.6, tripod
Taken through my hotel room window

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Additional Photos by Kasia Nowak (kasianowak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1404 W: 6 N: 2655] (14710)
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