Experiencing ultimate roughness in remote Nepal
By Kamal Raj Sigdel
Are you bored by too much of law and order, silk and smoothness? Do you like to "feel" the melody of disorder, chaos, and the ultimate roughness? Try a newly discovered hotspot in a South Asian country Nepal.
In a beautiful Himalayan country like Nepal, it is hard to find the place of ultimate roughness. But mind it, Nepal can be as rough as beautiful it is. This scribe, who hails from the country, has found one and wants to brand it internationally the other way round. It is Rajapur, a hinterland in the mid-western Nepal.
Roughness of Rajapur is melodic. Since you are going to find a place of ultimate roughness, the journey won't take you to pristine mountains. You can call it a journey to primordial roughness. It begins with a bus travel.
The buses are really rough; most of them aged more than 40 years. Yes, like wines. Choose the oldest one; remember, the older the wine the better the taste! These are the perfect scraps moving. As you get into one of them, you feel like you are in a warehouse.
I am already into it. It is so raucous, cramped, and rickety. Suffocating passengers cry themselves hoarse but the bus won't move an inch until it gets "full", which means much more than the capacity (40 seats): additional 50 in the passage, about same the number on hood and a bunch of them to hang on the doors.
At last, the driver decides to leave. Don't get surprised, there is no electric start. A bunch of passengers get down and push the bus forward. The driver suddenly pulls the rust-eaten gear with all his strength and the engine roars: an exciting applause by the pushers!
The cramped bus then moves along the roughness of the road bumping you up and down on the rustic seats. The louder the crowd, the faster the old engine rattles along the earthen road and the first gust of dust gushes into the bus. You cannot shut the window, they are all broken.
Meanwhile, an old native woman, who is almost battered by the passengers, grumbles in her guttural growl, fumbles a few words toward the driver. She wants him to slow down. But the driver won't listen. Indeed, it is hard for her a woman with a stomach that bore seven children sags, incapable of emptiness!
Clamoring inside, all her daughters, one is still hanging on her flat and fallen breasts that imbued seven waiting for a son. Her face taut with pain, yells at her husband who is hooting in the hood.
The husband is a real macho a giant figure, violent and uncaring. He could thrash up four children sags single-handedly to their mother's lap when they get unruly. We frequently hear him and his friends hooting in the hood.
The engine moves ahead roaring monstrously through the muddy road leaving everything behind in the cloud of dust. It swings into the confusion of street wagons and carts, children and cycles, bulls and buffalo -- and it is impossible not to admire such courage of the driver.
There is an America tourist too in the matchbox. She fears whether the bus may break apart, whether all four wheels are intact for she could see most of the motor's parts are tied up with ropes. Not a joke -- for it carries a history of half a century. It has no lights no windscreen, no headlights, no rare or tail lights, almost nothing except the four scrap wheels tied with what looks like an olden box. Despite the condition of the bus, the driver is amazingly violent.
At another stoppage, the mother is again annoyed by the driver as he smokes carelessly like his old engine. He would gush out a white cloud to the indigenous ladies, Bathiniyas. The sexy aborigines anyhow manage to sit at the front seats by mercy of the driver. They laugh, blush and simply complain in their demureness. The driver puffs more to tease them.
Ultimately, it is Rajapur. This is the first base camp to Roughness. Rajapur is rough, clamoring in confusion; almost all vendors have their "loudspeakers" on featuring different native songs.
The street traffic is mostly dominated by bullocks, carts and buffalo. And the journey to ultimate roughness begins only when you hire a buffalo, which are reined in by lashing a rope through their nostrils. The buffalo will take you into wilderness through the paddy fields into the villages.(Sigdel, a Nepalese journalist, is Asia Pacific Leadership Program Fellow at the East West Center.)