Aug 28, 2016

Travel diaries - Gosainkunda

I want to put up a detailed itinerary of interesting places that I travel to. Because 2-3 such itineraries had really helped us plan this trip, and I am grateful to them, and I would like to expand and add to this community and help fellow travelers who are crazy about exploring the beauty of Nepal. 

And so that you have an idea of the speed and distance required, the four of us who traveled (except our start Richa) were walking very slowly, helping each other cope with tiredness and altitude sickness, and resting every five minutes and eating every 30. So, if we can do it, so can you. Here you go, and all the best:

Day 0
Drive from Kathmandu to Dhunche
(bus tickets available to Balaju Machhapokhari, one day before departure. Take tickets beforehand, else you may not find transport)
8 am - 230 pm

Day 1
start at 5 am - dhunche 1950 m (pituresque town with clean hotels)
930 am - deurali - 2625 m (can have tea and snacks.lunch cooked on demand. clean )
1145 am - dhimsa - 3007 m (seasonal occupation only. good dal bhat when owners are present. can stay the night)
115 pm - lunch
230 pm- chandanbari 3600 m (proper little hamlet with fancy hotel rooms, good bathrooms and good food. when you reach here you are tempted to stay the night because its so cozy. resist)
320 pm - tea
620 pm - cholangpati 3900 m (only a couple of houses. seasonal occupation. good food. good rooms)

Day 2
510 am - cholangpati
640 am - lauribinayak 4100 (?) m ()
945 am - buddha mandir 4300 (?) m
10 am - rest
1230 pm - gosaikunda 4380 m (around 5-6 lodges. good lunch, though expensive. can stay the night if desired, good rooms. but not advised, due to high altitude.)
230 pm - sightseeing
340 pm- buddha mandir
420 pm - lauribinayak
520 pm - cholangpati
545 pm - tea
745 pm - chandanbari

Day 3
7 am - start from chandanbari
8 am - dhimsa
930 am - deurali
12 pm - ghattekhola 
1 pm - dhunche
decide against lunch and buy fruits
2 pm - take sumo
7 pm - reach Kathmandu

Field notes:
1. The total distance covered (one way) is about 22-23 km. That should give you hope in case you think it's too long. (Normally we walk 4-5 kilometers in an hour on plain roads)

2. The list of available foods is very limited: tea, biscuits, dal bhat, noodles. 

3. Apart from the stops mentioned, there are no villages you encounter on the way. If the hotels are full, there is no way you can go and bass magne at a village house. So you need to be prepared to reach one destination, and not move after nightfall unless you are sure of the way, and try to make sure it is not crowded season. 

4. It can get chilly there, so a light fleece and / or windcheater and scarf are advised

5. Take precautions against altitude sickness, stop and rest as often as required, take plenty of chocolates and titaura to keep your mouth occupied, hydrate yourself constantly, and suck on garlic / ginger / timur at high altitudes. Eat chillies when possible. (I don't know how these spices work. But EVERYONE tells you they do, and they worked for me.)

5.  Pack as light as possible, because you will be carrying everything yourself. Just one change of clothes, some food, and cameras should be enough. 

6. Do not forget raincoat and / or umbrellas. Backpack cover advised.

7. Sturdy shoes

8. Sunscreen strongly advised, skin peels off otherwise.

Budget (per person)
Bus fare ktm to dhunche: Rs. 500
Rooms: Rs. 200-500
Food: Rs. 500-1000 per day
(Jeep fare: Rs. 10,000 total, if required on the way back. To book jeeps, follow signboards around town)
Total: Rs. 5-7 thousand

Jul 30, 2016

reflections after madhavi

Watching or reading anything based on Mahabharata is painful for me, my heart always beating hard, looking for any alterations that demean the story or the character, and they are always there. Always.

Despite the excellent music, set, and acting, I take exception to the basic story itself which places so much value on the sexual victimization of the woman and ignores other kinds of victimization. The story seems unable to accept that madhavi was perfectly capable of trading her womb for 200 horses, and instead invented this love story for her, disorienting the entire center of the story. very convenient, to present her as this sexually victimized woman who was sold by her father and then by her lover, only that she was not. What I see here is her dedication to duty towards her father, and full control of her sexuality. She was the one who chose to give a son, and she did not see herself as a characterless woman or as someone who was abused.

Of course, there is abuse, but the abuse is at another level. The abuse is at the level of, how can a father give his daughter away to fulfill another man's quest? Not, how can this woman be asked to have sex with four men? For there, we see Madhavi voicing her own consent.

There are, of course, deeper levels to explore here, one being that the story written in a patriarchal perspective that saw nothing wrong in the actions of the father or of Galav may not have what was happening inside Madhavi. So maybe she was displeased with it after all. (This is the part where the divergence from the text is the strongest, where Madhavi yeas after hr son and Galav is fixed upon his duties, called her frail, an she replies with the strength of creation that only a woman can posses).

Maybe she was displeased at having to have sexual relations with may men that she did not care for, a the command of her father. But there is no evidence to say she thought of these acts as demeaning to herself and to her character, She and her second husband (she weds them all) are compared to celestial deities which signifies that this union was considered sacred enough, And if they wanted future heirs from her, obviously they don't consider her polluter. And then there is plenty of evidence in literature to suggest that a more liberal brand of sexuality existed at that period when multiple partners were not so much frowned upon as they are now.

And let us remember here that it is the kings who set the price, of begetting only one son from her because they cannot afford more, and that they wish they could.

Madhavi's consent in the story, and the kings' acceptance of her, even delight and humbleness at her, all go to show that Madhavi was not a victimized woman or viewed as characterless for her relationships. Not to say this is not a grotesque story (where father gives away a daughter to a stranger in dowry, and her reproductive powers are used for two men's own means), but this also signifies a free society where women with multiple partners are not stigmatized. For after all this happens, Yayati plans Madhavi's swayamvar. The fact that she chooses the life of a sanyasini in a forest signifies that she was unhappy with something. And the whole story is based on what that something was. The part where she yearns for her son, for example, or the part about her failed love (completely contrary to the original story where Galav happily and gratefully lets her go). But mostly, what is added is a voyeuristic imagination about Madhavi's sex life. Instead of focusing on the control of woman's sexuality by male family members or the trade of a woman's body simply for reproduction, we get to focus on the act of sex, why did Madhavi have sex with so many men? What did so many childbirths do to her body? (For the record, there is no evidence that Madhavi grew old after the last birth. She was about to be married, after all, And for another record, married women with plenty of children, like draupadi, are described as beautiful and desired by many men even late in their life. So the whole new addition is a farce)

And that, to me, demeans the whole story. What it does is look at the stories of women's sexuality from today's lens, judge her by the scales of virginity and loyalty, that did not exist then, or at least, not for everyone. The result is that the story becomes more sexist than what it was before, with moral policing added, and makes it seem like this is how it has been since ancient times (displacing stories of an even earlier era, of more innocent times when relationships were were more fluid).

To go a little off track, I was also reminded that the story of Madhavi repeats the pattern seen before in Mahabharata, which builds upon the article written by AK Ramanujan regarding the use of repetition in Mahabharata to explain a theme. Usually, the second time something happens, is more destructive, more important to the core story, as if the first was only a practice run. eg, the destruction by gambling (nala and yudhisthira), the abduction of wife (rama and pandavas), draupadi's denouncement of sleazy men, first in kaurava court then in matsya court  (this time the first one is more important), the naming of the hero (arjuna versus krishna).

And here, the repetition is very very subtle. Yayati is married to Devyani and Sharmistha, more of them formidable women with twisted relationships to their father, By twisted I mean in the same was as Madhavi's was to her father. Sharmistha and Devyani, fighting over who is superior, and Devyani goes into a rage, refusing to eat until her father comes looking for her. Acharya Shukra makes the king Vrishaparva bow to him, and the princess Sharmistha obediently bows down to Devyyani, since nothing is more important to her than her father's command. Devyani then goes on to have an affair with a spy (of the gods) who keeps pretending to die so he can learn the secrets of Sanjeevani. And at her request, her father, every time, revives the little git. Later, she also gets her father to punish her husband when she learns of his affair with her arch rival. So Yayati is this man who has these kinds of women in his life, and perhaps has developed the same kind of close knit obsessive relationship with his daughter. (Strangely, mother figures are absent in all these tales, making one wonder what they would say. Would Devyani consent to this treatment, she who sought her father over her husband to solve every problem? We are not told. And we never hear of the mothers of Sharmistha and Devyani who what they would have to say to their daughters' bizzare tales). The tale of motherless daughters with obsessive fathers, repeated within two generations, is an interesting motif, perhaps the closest and tightest repetition in Mahabharata, even though the specific incidents in the women's lives are different.

In another aside, yayati is also the man who exchanged his old age for his son's youth, because he wanted to have more sex. And after 60 thousands years returned it to his son because he realized that desire never ends. So yes, he probably knew exactly why and how the deal would work out. 

Jan 3, 2016

reflections on bajirao mastani

This week I watched one movie that was like watching several old movies. But never did I imagine that I would watch another such movie which reminds you of several old movies, for all the wrong reasons. Why is it that bhansali cannot move away from some themes? You wonder. And then you realize that it is because these are THE themes few others in the candy floss industry of mongamy are tackling. Impossible love. Love as pride (guroor) love and social status. Illegitimate love. And finally, a love triangle where two women fight over a man, and instead end up bonding over it and loving each other. I might have dismissed this as another male-fantasy film where the man's dreams come true of women fighting for him, if Bhansali had not started his career with the cuteness overload of two men bonding who happened to love the same girl, and ending with respect for each other, And then in the middle brought up the triumph of a married woman's illegitimate love in Guzarish, I could discuss the themes in Bhansali's works for ever and ever, but I just hope he gets a little bit more creative than repeating dola re dola. 

Nov 28, 2015

reflections on watching tamasha

there are a few themes imtiaz ali likes to play with - and those are the only themes he will play with, turning them around and around, and yet produce something new and thought provoking every time.

How people behave out of their regular context,  how social rules confine them. How they are set free when the rules are no longer apparent. how people are afraid to break out of the social rules and do something else, be the "real you" and not who they are in confined social settings. The divide between the two worlds. The desire to extend the stay in this other world without rules. The confusion about which is the real you. The exploration of what happens when the rules you always knew, break down. When there are no rules.

People who discover how important someone is after the other person is out of their life. possibly after trying someone else.

The feeling of feeling nothing with a person you are supposed to love. Asking "that's it?" to regular love. Being inured to the regular dates and meetings. hating the predictability of it, even though there is nothing to hate in the person.

People who are transformed by the touch of someone who has seen the other side of them. People who go after the person who means so much.

The feeling of being with someone even after the other person is lost. The feeling of togetherness when apart, and loneliness when near. the feeling of not wanting what is in front of you, and going after fantasies. The success of finding it.

Don't we all struggle with this everyday, of having feelings that we think are silly to everyone else, but that keep us up all night? Aren't those what drive us, motivate us? make us sad and happy?

Nov 22, 2015

Reflections on castaway man

Today I went to watch Kesang Tseten's Castaway Man.
 Let me start by saying that it's a very well made film. Not a single moment bores you. But that maybe also because I as a Nepali am interested in the celebrity academician Dor Bahadur Bista. I liked ho clearly the movie presented Bista's life and work, and put his theories, condensed, out for the audience's immediate understanding. The aforesaid theory, which presents "Bahunband" as the big villain of Nepal. I do not agree with completely, though I too detest Bahunbad as a hindrance to my own life (and many other things, but mostly the lives of Bahun women). However, to link fatalism to lack of development seems already fatalistic (pardon the pun). because many other countries are fatalistic, and the entire Muslim that puts everything in the hands of God with an "Inshallah" is fatalistic. but that did not stop them from developing. The movie ignore this in its relentless badgering of bahunbad. When Bista says that Bahunbad is a system that only benefits a few people, and is not even followed or endorsed by the rest of the people, he strikes home, but when he makes it responsible for all the evils of this country, not so much, because social stratification and inequality are a part of every society, bot just bahunbad. The film brings up footage of several unidentified individuals whose passive acceptance of their place in the caste hierarchy is highlighted - in an effort by the filmmaker to prove his point that bahunband is what is "keeping them down" in their own words. But then, social stratification and the lack of means to break this,  lack of upward social mobility, is a vast, vast problem even in the most non fatalistic and developed societies. I found it very annoying that these bits and pieces of people who were bashing bahunbad were spread throughout the movie - it was as if the film's main aim was not to present Mr Bista but to prove that his theories were true. why not let time prove it? 

Oct 26, 2015

बाबु, छोरी र जिन्दगि: पार्ट ३

सानैमा, म भर्खर भर्खर चिया बनाउन सिक्दाः
आमाः जति कप चिया बनाउने हो, तेति चम्चा चिनि हाल्नु, अनि त्यसमा एक चम्चा थप्नु।
भोलिपल्ट बुवा चिया खाँदैः
बुवाः कस्तो खल्लो चिया! जति कप चिया बनाउने हो, त्यसको डबल चिनी हाल्नु
मः तर आमाले त एक चम्चा बढी हाल्नु भन्नुभको थियो।
बुवाः अँ, डबल हाल्नु अनि एक चम्चा थप्नु नि!


calvin's dad and my dad:

Calvin's dad:
Calvin: Daddy, why are all the old photographs black and white?
Dad: The world used to be black and white black then, it is only very recently that it started turning colorful.
Calvin: But then, why are old paintings colorful?
Dad: Because artists could use their imagination even then.

My dad:
म: बुवा आकाशवाणी भनेको के हो?
बुवा: तैंले महाभारत हेरेकी छैनस? आकाश बाट एउटा मान्छे चिच्याउँछ नि, त्यहि हो. 
म (हातको टेलिग्राम देखाउंदै ): तर हामीले चै कसरी लेखेको पाउँछौं त?
बुवा: पोस्ट अफिस मा एउटा मान्छेले टिप्छ अनि हामीलाई हुलाकी ले ल्याई दिन्छ. 


छिमेकिको घरमा बिहा हुँदाः
बुवाः बाजा बजेर कति रमाईलो भको छिमेकमा। हाम्रो घरमा पनि एउटा चाहिने!
मः के बुवा? बाजा?
बुवाः अँ! बाजा!


- Buwa loses his phone on the way to Jhapa.
- Asks contacts in Biratnagar airport to look for phone in Kathmandu airport.
- Said contact asks police in Kathmandu for help
- The search goes on for several hours fruitlessly.
- The phone is found later in dad's bag, in silent mode.
- On top is a message from police: sir tapaile phone jhola mai halnubhako cctv camera ma dekhiyo, tesaile dhukka hunu hos, phone bhetinchha


बुवाः (मेरो mousse  को बट्टा हेर्दै) यो के हो?
मः कपालमा लाउने
बुवाः तेल हो?
मः तेल जस्तै
बुवाः म लाउँछु तेसोभए।
मः पर्दैन
बुवाः किन?
मः कपाल अररो बनाउँछ।
बुवाः मलाई तेस्तै चाहिएको छ।
बुवाः (खोलेर हातमा हाल्दै) श्याम्पु त होईन?
मः होईन।
बुवाः किन फीँज आयो त? भरे पानी परेर टाउको भरि bubbles आयो भने?
मः पानीमा नहिन्नु न।
बुवाः (finally कपालमा दल्दै) आहा कति मिठो बास्ना। अबदेखि त म सधैँ यहि लगाउँछु।


हस्पिटलमा, अघिल्लो दिन हामीलाई खाली पेट मा आउनु भनिएको थियो 
बुवा: अलिकती पानी खाए, केही बाधा हुँदैन भाई ?
काउन्र को भाई: हजुर ? भाडा ? कस्तो भाडा ?


बिहानै ट्याक्सीमा अङ्रेजी गीत बज्दै छ 
बुवा: भाई, बिहान को भजन असध्ये राम्रो 
ट्याक्सी ड्राईभर : खोइ सर, भजन त भेटिएन अनी एस्तो लगाए


बुवा: गाला कसरी सुन्नियो?
म: दाँत दुखेर 
बुवा: दुवै तिर उत्तिकै सुन्निएको भए त राम्रो पनि देखिन्थ्यो होला


बुवा कार्डमा लेख्ने नाम भन्दैः उफ कति मेहनत गर्दैछु म छोरीको बिहेको लागि!
कार्डमा नाम लेख्दैः हजुरले अरु कोहि बेहुली देख्नुभको छ, आफ्नो बिहेमा यस्तो मेहनत गर्ने ? म मात्रै होला आफ्नो बिहेको कार्ड आफैं ठिक पार्ने, आफैं बाँड्ने !
बुवाः गर्नु त परो त ! मैले आफ्नो बिहेमा सबै खर्च आफैं गरेको थिएँ !
मः त्यो त केटा पट्टिले गर्नु परिहालो नि !
आमाः आजकालको जमानामा केटा न केटी ! तिमीहरुलाई हामीले केटा भन्दा के कम गरेको छ र !
ऋचाः मेरो सबै ब्यांक ब्यालेन्स सक्किसको बिहे खर्चमा । आई होप यु आर ह्यापी !


ऋचाः ईंगेजमेन्ट नगरुँ होला, पोखराबाट सबैलाई आउन दुःख हुन्छ ।
अजितः ईंगेजमेन्ट मात्रै किन, बिहे नै नगरुँ न, रेजिस्टर गर्दा भैहाल्छ नि !
me to buwa:  बुवा, ईंगेजमेन्ट गर्न कसैलाई मन छैन, नगरुँ होला !
बुवाः कसै भनेको को हो ? मलाई भनेको ? मलाई भनेको हो भने मलाई केहि objection छैन, गरे हुन्छ ईंगेजमेन्ट !


आमाः बिराटनगर बाट आउने प्लेनको टिकट ३००० पुगेछ निचढ्ने मान्छे नभएर !
बुवाः म पनि जाउँ कि क्या होअनि ३००० मा फिर्ता आउँछु।
आमाः यताबाट जाने टिकट पाए पो जानु !
बुवाः ३००० मा प्लेन चढ्नु कति मजा आउँछ होला !
आमाः त्यहाँ पुग्ने चाहिँ कसरी नि ?
बुवाः जसरी पनि जानु पर्ला ३००० मा प्लेन चढ्न !


buwa walks in as i m listening to an audiobook. 
बुवाः यो कुन न्युज हो?
मः न्युज होईन किताब हो।
बुवाः कुन?
मः एडम स्मिथको।
बुवाः पुरानो? ईकोनोमिक्स को?
मः हो।
बुवाः उसले आफै‍ैं पढेको?
मः हेहे
बुवाः किन हाँसेकि? उसले पढ्न सक्दैन र ?


मः बुवा मैले हजुरलाई सुईटर ल्याईदिएको छु।

बुवाः किन दुःख गरेकि? तै‍ं लगा .....


पार्ट 1: यहाँ भेटिन्छ 
पार्ट 2: हाँ भेटिन्छ 

P.S. सबै घटना हरु शत प्रतिशत सत्य हुन् !! 

Oct 7, 2015

Reflections after reading 1984

After you read 1984, you realize it is the “baap” of all the totalitarian societies created in fiction. Orwell has though of everything: a society where you are constantly in surveillance through telescreens, crimes of facial expressions major, and even crimes of thought are monitored. Information is constantly re-invented: old history is deleted, new histories created, so that you never know if what you read is real or not. News is constantly edited to support the party’s official line. New words are constantly added to the official dictionary, and more importantly, old words and constantly rounded up and routed form use, so that the entire vocabulary changes, and no art remains. Control of big brother is total. 

However, the plot leaves many questions unanswered about how such a society functions. What are the mechanisms through which one gets into the inner party circle? Why don’t the common people try and get into the party? Is membership guaranteed by birth, if so what about people who don’t qualify? IS membership by loyalty to the party? If so, can anyone get in? What about corruption within the party and digression, lack of faith, and giving in to temptation (of love, of art, of music, of communication, of ideas) from within the party?

What happens to spontaneous expressions of art? Can you really control art to this extent? For example in language or in doodles? The novel throws big ideas at you in every page, and every sentence is a punch-line. Sometimes you wonder how you can keep up, and then you realize that this novel is an imagination of future dystopia. Today many of the conditions imagined in the novel, like omnipresent technology. This has given us enough information to know that many of the ideas Orwell outlines are not plausible: nobody has time to monitor millions of CCTV cameras 24/7, or Orwell’s telescreens, and if they do, they would be bored to death. Modern dystopian works have learnt from these plot loopholes, and created more plausible societies. However, again, they do so only because Orwell was there to show what was possible and what was not.
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