Monday, 6 October 2014


It is certainly a good idea to come here to recharge the batteries before the long flight back.The hotel is an oasis of calm. This is my second visit here. It looks as good as I recalled in 2009

The contrasts with Kathmandu could not be more stark. Traffic here is Spartan There is a rural feel to the place. It is situated beside a lake and closely surrounded by the different mountain ranges.Even the shops are more varied in the goods they sell.The belief and practice  that  first successful transaction of the day will influence  the bussiness day  is very much alive and kicking.Shops are being opened for bussiness from 7am onwards.Even taxi fares are relatively cheaper.There is more character to the place. It is not just a tourist haunt.Maybe its to do with an abundance of young people , backpackers from all over the world, milling around with the locals.

It is interesting to see the far reaches of the buoyant Chinese economy here too . In order to help the numerous Chinese tourists feel at home, many Nepali shop keepers, who are  at the high end of their bussiness, are speaking Mandarin. Majority of the shops, especially the restaurants, have mandarin written placards extolling their unique cuisines, inviting customers to call.Old habits die hard. The Chinese do drive a hard bargain, always looking for that added value in every transaction.   I suppose I have lost that edge, having lived in UK for so many years.It was said to me  a long time ago  that one must never forget to allow a little profit for the locals to make a living.That message has remained with me wherever I travelled. However I get carried away sometimes and the locals then loses out.

Two more days and I will be leaving the land of mountains. We have achieved much, but there are so much more that we can do, given the resources.For me it is harder each year because I have got to know the individuals better.Its easier to say no to someone who  I am less familiar with than some one I know well, fully appreciating the hardship and suffering they are going through....But what is  the answer ?  How can I be fair to everyone?  I agonised over this daily, still looking for an answer .......

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Festivals

Uma 's children are home for a month. It is interesting that the length of the school holidays varies according to whether one is in a state school or a private ( English speaking ) school. In Neel Barahi's case, the state school is only closed for 15 days.  The pupils are given tons of homework to keep them occupied during the break.And the pattern is the same the whole world over- the children will rush around and get all the home work done in the first week, then they will spend the rest of the time playing and read their story books. Thats what I did when I was in school all those years ago. Nothing changes, it would seem. :)

The last few days have been one  big round of socialising and feasting. I was eating so much meat that I ended up having only 2 meals on some days .The water buffalo meat is very popular, but very spicy .The  Nepali chicken is the better option, tasty but not too hot..Some of the children are not used to eating so much rich food and meat day after day. They have ended up with indigestion and upset stomach . Well, the main days of Dashain  is now  over. Tihar (or Dewali- festival of Light ) will be upon us in a few days' time.

I have been privileged to be staying with Uma during the festival  this year. I think I have caused her quite a headache in terms of the schools' and home visits we wanted to do . Thankfully they were all resolved  without too much changes to her busy schedules. It was such a pleasure to be treated as part of the family . I received daily  "puja " (blessings with a tikka on my forhead ) from Uma, along with the children each morning. We then had the specially prepared sweet pastry for breakfast  afterwards.Yum yum.. I have always enjoyed that. Yes, they are deep fried and sweet. They are probably  not healthy to eat, but hey ,once or twice a year  is not going to hurt.

One of the first things the children asked for is a work top mini oven. A few cakes later, Rasmila, the eldest girl is becoming proficient in this.It is baffling that the staples we take for granted like raisins  and all the cake making and decorating stuff  are just not available here.I can see the list for next year growing. I showed Uma how to bake Mcann's chips in the oven rather than deep frying them. They are very pleased with the knowledge because it  means a healthier option.

We started with a simple sponge. We have baked the cakes 3 times. I would have liked to do a light fruit cake, but raisins and other dry fruit are not available here. Another time, another year. Rasmila will just have to content herself to be  the expert in sponge cake for now.It is humbling  to see how appreciative the youngsters are for everything I do with them.

There are only  a few more days left before I return to UK.What happened to September? Time waits  for no man, it would seem...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Do you know.............

A humorous take on the local   practices:

-It is vital to check on the times of shed loading ( power cut ) before going to the hairdresser's. I did not. I ended up with a  (freezing ) cold hair wash, and having to walk home with wet hair, looking like a drowned rat.

-Privacy is an alien concept when you are having beauty treatment.. I had manicure and pedicure the other day. 4 people atttended  to me for the 4 limbs. I became a contortionist. I positioned myself , finely balanced with both arms outstretched  to each side , and  the 2 legs spread eagled in opposite direction. It was a precarious operation to say the least. Even the boss came in to watch and talk with staff ........A high staff  ratio of five to one. Impressive by all accounts

-It is perfectly acceptable to jump queue in any social situation. Even if it means physically elbowing your way through. No one bats an eye lid, I noticed. Having being at the receiving end several times, I  have started to elbow my way into queues as well. It certainly feels right to do . When in Rome........ :)

-I have always wondered why the dogs are so docile and sleepy during all hours of the day. They would sleep in the open drain, and middle of the road, on the road side, anywhere and everywhere. After 6 years, I have come to the conclusion that its to do with  being on a vegetarian diet. May be we can reduce the aggression in dogs in the developed world...........

-There are ad hoc and never ending road building programs going on all the time. It becomes urgent when any visiting VIPs declare their plans of staying in a 5 star hotel. Invariably the access road  to the hotel will be built and tarmacked before their arrival in record time. And the road built will only extend as far as the eyes can see. That usually means the end of that particular road. Frustrating for the local residents around the area...they have to put up with the mayhem of disruption with no benefit.

-During the festival period, it is forbidden to do any washing on the most auspicious day. It is the belief that one will remove all the good fortune coming the family's way. Interestingly, the Chinese is forbidden to sweep /clean the floor on first day of the new year for similar reasons.I almost committed the cardinal sin yesterday. With a handful of dirty laundry, I was on my way down to do my last lot of washing, before returning home.. Uma asked what I was doing with the bundle....I had to come back hastily and put it off for another day. :)

An interesting  way to observe life in general  in Kathmandu.