Thursday, July 9, 2015

An account of the destructive earthquake in Nepal: Narrow escape!!

I remain traumatized from the effects of the April 25th Nepal earthquake, but I am also optimistic at what Nepal can now become.
On April 25th, 2015, I was visiting the Boudhanath stupa, one of the UNESCO’s world’s heritage sites, to meet my friends for conversation and coffee. We were busy talking when without warning, everything started to shake. The cups and chairs, tables and plates began to fall. We rushed outside the cafĂ©, not fully aware of what was taking place. We hugged each other and stood next to the wall of Boudhanath stupa. Looking up, we saw cracks in the Boudhanath stupa. It wasn’t safe. People were yelling, crying and very were frightened. We tried to console each other but earth tremors continued at random intervals, keeping us on edge the entire time. We were looked towards the buildings and stupa, waiting for them to collapse. I tried connect to the internet in order to get updates via facebook. I soon learned that even my Indian and Bangladeshi friends feIt the quake. I learned that the quake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and that the epicenter was in a small village in the Gorkha area, 80km north-west of Kathmandu.
I received a message from my father after the quake, relieved to know that he and the rest of my family were fine. Not being able to contact them made me worried. I wanted to get back to my home, which was around 20 minutes walk from the stupa. I decided to leave my friends and walk home. I had no real idea of the devastation until left the stupa. Many people were injured , running everywhere. Some were covered with blood; Many were crying outside of their crumbled houses, or over the bodies of their family members buried beneath crumbled structures. Doctors were scampering, looking for cardboard boxes in nearby shop to be able to treat victims in a semi-clean environment. II found all of this to be very heartbreaking. I have been worried about my family, relatives and friends but I was not able to contact anyone. It all seemed sereal; like a disaster movie. I was not being able to realize what was happening.
I was passing Om hospital when I felt another tremor. I saw a large building smashing loud on the ground. The rumbling and vibrations caused by moving buildings was quite disturbing.
After a while, I began to cautiously walk towards my home. I could see that all the residence were out in the open, away from the crumbled buildings, horrified from the quake and after shocks. I saw my Mom; she hugged me I was safe. People stayed outside, frightened. We were told that we were not safe, at least for another 72 hours and thus, were required to stay away from buildings.
That night, we slept under the stars on a small carpet on the ground. We ate noodles and biscuits. It was really cold and the tremors continued throughout the night. The next morning, we sneaked into homes for some food, warm clothes, and blankets. We felt another aftershock. This time measuring 6.7. I begun to loose all hope and thought we all would soon die. The tremors made me feel so helpless. There was nothing I could do and I had never been scared in my life.
Staying outdoors with out warm clothing or nutrient food, I had become sick. A mild fever began to set in, causing me to slow down. I briefly took a look at a newspaper someone had been able to obtain. Until this point, I had no idea how destructive the earthquake had been. It surely turned out to be a black day for Nepal and all Nepalese. We have lost most of our historical monuments, lives and properties. Our tradition, our temples, our past what we were so proud of, all are gone in a glimpse. Those heritages which stood with pride are now shattered on ground as some careless splinters.
It’s been 11 days since the first earthquake, but tremors are still felt every now and then. There has been about 145 small earthquakes above 4 Richter scale and countless below that frequency. We have moved in but still we are afraid to live in our 3rd story home. For few days, I had terrible dreams of running along the rubble, falling houses like ghosts approaching towards me. It is a lifelong ordeal that will haunt us for ages.
Despite all these adversities, I could see the ray of hope; the sense of togetherness, brotherhood and unity that had been fading away from our society is rekindling. Rich, poor, high, low, Brahmin, newar, tamang, gurung, kshetri, madhesi are all together in a tarp, holding each other, sharing their food, consoling one another. Amidst the unbearable suffering we are going through, the picture of unity was heart-warming for me. Every time there was a quake, we’d hold unto each other gazing up in the sky, praying to our own Gods to have mercy upon us and rest of the time, we talked, laughed like long lost friends. We are clearing the mess, removing the broken bricks and wooden planks, supporting each other in the time of grief. This is what our society had been lacking in recent years.
May be this is what our shattered, crumbled temples, monuments are trying to say. We have had enough clashes in the name of religion, castes, and ethnicity. We were too eager to divide the nation and taken our cultural heritage for granted. Since they are no longer among us, we now realize their importance. We had forgotten the sense of unity in diversity that Prithvi Narayan Shah had instilled among us long back. We have been provided this opportunity to correct our mistakes and build our nation collectively from every nook and corner towards prosperity. We can now drag our country from of the quagmire of inequality and poverty if directed towards right direction and with proper vision.
As the consequence of World War II, many jobs which previously excluded women were now open to them, allowing women to realize their potential.  This helped change the oppression of women in western society. As per this earthquake, where most of the men of rural Nepal are either a labor in gulf countries or studying abroad, women have been the worst hit. They have the responsibility of their parents, in laws, children as a whole. Besides, young women are seen actively involved in the relief operation too. Can we take this as a hope to shake our gender based discrimination?
Another important aspect we have to ponder about is our housing system and consciousness regarding cleanliness of our surroundings and water supply. It’s a mud mortar or lavish apartments, the houses have crumbled down mercilessly, it shows how tiny we are in comparison to the forces of nature. No matter how hard humans try to boast for their inventions, nature has always proved us wrong. Taking this disaster as a lesson, we have to plan a better housing system and consciousness regarding cleanliness. This earthquake has given us the chance to either leap ahead or lag behind; and the choice is ours.
We Nepalese have a wonderful habit of smiling even in the face of adversity. I understand that we have fallen, been shaken, and traumatized but we have not given up. We will rise from the ashes like a phoenix.
I am grateful to everyone who wished for our safety and trying all day and night to secure our lives all over the world. But, I also want to request everyone to make sure our independence and sentiments be respected, we might have lost our houses but we have not lost our dignity or pride.
(There was another big quake of abt 7.2 RS after 18 days of the first quake, survived!!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Vulture Song!!


http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2015/03/02/oped/the-vulture-song/273796.html

MAR 02 - In 1832, the English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin described vultures as “disgusting birds with bald heads formed to revel in putridity.” Since time immemorial, vultures have been always been characterised as ugly, cruel, greedy creatures.
The term ‘vulture’ is also often used to refer to someone who exploits others.
But are these birds that ugly or cunning? If one looks at these birds carefully, you will see the other side of these magnificent birds. To hate vultures is similar to hating people who sweep the streets every morning and keep our cities clean or those who collect and manage garbage. Vultures are the nature’s clean-up crew. These birds play an important role in maintaining a clean environment through rapid consumption of animal carcasses and human dead bodies that undergo sky burials practised in some parts of Nepal and Tibet. By devouring filthy carcasses, they prevent the spread of disease. According to a study done in India the number of feral dogs increased resulting in more rabies cases due to a sharp decrease in the number of the vultures.
Birds in need
There are 23 species of vultures present in  the world while nine of them are found in South Asia. Nepal supports all nine species: six residents and two migrant vulture species and one which was recently recorded. They are white-rumped vulture, Lammergeier, slender-billed vulture (critically endangered), Cinereous vulture, Egyptian vulture (endangered), Himalayan griffon, red-headed vulture (critically endangered) and Eurasian griffon. The long-billed vulture is the most recently recorded member of the species to be spotted in Nawalparasi, which makes Nepal rich in these birds. The population of three vulture species—white-rumped, slender-billed and long-billed—once stable and collectively numbering between 10 and 40 million have declined by 99 percent in the last 20 years. On monitoring vultures in Nepal, it has been found that there has been a 90 percent decline in their general population from 1995 to 2009. The near complete disappearance of these birds is generally considered to be one of the world’s most significant recent ornithological conservation catastrophes.
The next step
Various reasons such as deforestation, habitat loss, lack of appetite have caused the decline in the number of vultures. But the major cause for this catastrophic drop of vulture is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac, used as a
painkiller for cattle and humans too. In 2006, the Nepal government banned the use of diclofenac and recommended the use of meloxicam, a better and safer replacement.
Still, to ensure the safety of the remaining vulture population, in-situ conservation and availability of safe food for the birds along with conservation advocacy and awareness programs are equally important. Conservation activities, however, cannot succeed without the participation of people. Realising this, Bird Conservation Nepal, an NGO, along with other stakeholders began community-based conservation of vultures through
the establishment of a vulture restaurant in Nawalparasi back in early 2006. At present, there are six vulture restaurants in Nepal.  Apart from providing
food to the birds, these sites have been developed as  research centres for scientists to study the biology and ecology of these threatened species. Besides, it also provides an opportunity for eco-tourism, which eventually supports the livelihood of the local communities.
Intelligent creatures
On the research front, studies on vultures are mostly limited  to their distribution, current status and threats to these birds, excluding a very important aspect of conservation—behavioural science. The conservation of endangered species requires that we know enough about their natural behaviour in order to develop effective policies and protection measures. Failure to identify the behavioural needs of these endangered animals will undermine the species’ potential not only for survival but also for evolutionary change.
It is sad that these disappearing large birds have got little sympathy for their plight due to their macabre reputation in comparison to other animals like tigers or rhinos. But trust me, vultures are far more beautiful and intelligent than we think. The world will be a rather disgusting and greedy place without them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Awareness through Art!!

As the saying goes,' A picture is worth a thousand words!!' 


On the joint collaboration of US Embassy Youth Council (USYC), Animal Rights Club (ARC), & YUWA, drawing competition was organized within the students of Shree Malpur Secondary School, Sauraha Chitwan. Program was conducted with the theme of the conservation of endangered Asian elephants on 11th January, 2015. Altogether, 44 students took part in the competition who drew the pictures of elephants with the message - "Hatti Mero Sathi" i.e "Elephant: my friend".
There are approximately 16,000 working elephants in dozens of countries of Asia and 208 in Nepal. Mahouts often do have a deep and genuine care for the wellbeing of their elephants. For example, traditional mahout culture includes Tharus, who are known widely for their strong bond with nature and animals. But still they are compelled to treat elephants with cruelty because of the widespread misconception that pain and fear is necessary for controlling an elephant. The main reason for using pain-inflicting methods is not cruelty, but an unawareness of the existence of an efficient, animal-friendly alternative.


These days we have also been hearing about negative responses from tourists about how inhumanely elephants are treated. Hence, realizing this fact, this program was a small initiation to imprint the young kids about the elephants and their welfare. Surajan Shrestha,ARC's President hosted the program in the presence of School Principle, Krishna Dutta Poudel and Chief-Guest, Dhurba Giri from Sapana Village Lodge. Dhurba Giri delivered the powerful speech with the idea to do a business with elephant without using them for safari or other abusive activities. He is the first private elephant owner to initiate chain free corral in private elephants.




Students were also shown video of conservation of endangered species via projector. After that, they were distributed prize according to their position. Altogether, 7 students were awarded.
Winners from Secondary Level (Class-7,Class-8, Class-9, Class-10)
First - Ashmita Giri
Second - Suman Bote
Third - Sujan Darai
Consolation - Sandesh Lama
Winners from Primary Level (Class-4, Class-5, Class-6)


First - Channu Ram Mahato
Second - Alisha Mahato
Third - Ashmita Tamang


Besides this, I also realized something that pinched me within : differences between the private school and govt schools or say so called rich and poor. if I had conducted such competition in a private school then, every student would have their palette, sketch book, brushes etc. they would have drawing classes with qualified teachers while the principle of the Malpur (govt school) said, 'Here students cant bring the notebooks as they can't afford them, it's unimaginable to expect the colors, brushes from them." It is really sad as many of them were really good, but they lack good instructor and materials. 
Pictures drawn by the kids:







Keeping that aside, the program was successful and I am grateful to USYC, YUWA, ARC and my friends cum volunteers.
http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2015/01/12/news/drawing-for-awareness-on-captive-elephants/271942.html

Into oneself !!


TIME: a simple 4 lettered word which is the most powerful thing. It can create topsy turvy changes in a glimpse. Time transfigures everything and everyone. 

Recently, we celebrated New year, welcoming 2015 and bidding farewell to 2014. The whole one year has gone and another has started but along with time, are there any other changes? We talk about developments in our lives, in the lives of people around us, in the country and even the world. With lots of advancement in science and technology, we have been passing the time even comfort. We listen to songs, read books, chat with friends, social networking sites, etc etc. We have lots of options to not to be alone.

I was wondering, how many of us just try to think about ourselves or talk to ourselves in some lone time? How many of us doesn't need any means to distract us from being oneself ? Actually, I felt this is a very important practice that we should follow regularly; giving time for yourself. This would not only refreshes you but also help you to keep on moving, most importantly we will be able to understand ourselves. This is a form of meditation for me. 

I do not know if this is the sign of maturity, but whatever it is, it's amazing!! 

Recently, I have been travelling alone to some new places, new people. I had to be formal with people, behave properly and i really missed myself. I am very informal, fun loving and joyous person. So, every time I was alone, I  talked to myself, laughed at myself. Surprisingly, it brought some positive vibes within me. For some days, I was sad to be alone, being far from friends and family but again I was happy that I am transforming. Something in me was changing and I could feel the expansion of nerves, muscles inside.  

I found peace, felt some sense of satisfaction and happiness... Hence, loneliness doesn't have to be filled with sadness, it's a journey into ourselves!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wanderlust

Wanderlust: A strong desire or impulse to travel or wander and explore the world. 

It feels so nice to get back to you after a long journey, an extended work or a hectic exam. I had been thinking to write about  it since long but always got trapped by something else.

Travelling..... what does your mind clicks when you hear this word? It is the most beautiful activity in life that introduces you to yourself. Travelling is a pure form of rebellion and I have been enjoying every bit of it. I have almost visited 50 districts out of 75 districts in Nepal.


Frankly speaking, travelling was beyond my horizon few years back. I was like a caged nightingale happy in my own way but sadly unaware of what I could experience in this life. i was wasting my life rather than living it. Until the day, when everything got changed. I got a chance to come out of my box and see, explore everything around which was virgin to me. Studying forestry has become the most correct decision  that I have ever done.

So, getting back to travelling, all these years I have turned into a traveller not a tourist. Nepal, being world's one of the smallest yet one of the most beautiful countries in the world and my homeland has provided me lots of insights, stories, surprises, queries and harsh realities that I feel so enlightened within myself.

Based on my personal experiences, I would love to share some inspiring quotes that may help you become an ardent traveller like me :)





 Travelling is actually journey to yourself.  We live in this highly competitive world that is rushing all the time. We don't have time to stop and stare what's going on. We have become so wretched and gray that we lack that love, lusture and essence of our lives.  NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST!!


Life is short and happiness is shorter. We are not getting back this valuable time and the energy that we possess. If we don't dare now, we'll never move ahead and turn to a sedentary mode forever.



We expect the grass to be greener on the other side of the hill but travelling makes us realize what it means to get back to home, family and the cozy bed you left. “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky


I am nomad, a vagabond, a gypsy, wanderer, vagrant  that underwent through metamorphosis turning myself into a butterfly to explore and live my life to the fullest cuz:

And once the travel bug bites you, there is no any antidote that can save you. But, I would prefer not to be saved rather than living my life in a misery and abandoning myself to explore this beautiful world. 



“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

No country for old

Tulmaya aama peers out through the wooden-carved window of the oldage home. The street is busy with people moving here and there. But unlike the rest, she was there lying stationary with her shabby choli and old dhoti and her eyes full of tears.

I remember how her world turned upside down after the demise of her husband. The way her son, daughter-in-law and even grandchildren tortured her was so much intolerable. I also heard that they tried to kill her so many times that she had to escape. And with nowhere to go, she took a shelter in the oldage home. It’s been 17 years already.

Since then, she is living the lonesome life. She spends most of her time praying to God, chanting hymns, crying silently. ‘I hope my children are very happy and wish they have to suffer no problems in their life.’ She prayed with a wrinkled smile.

It’s really strange, how a child can act so inhumanely with his own parents; the one who gave birth to him, nurtured, and made him capable enough. And when the time comes to pay them back, he kicks them out of the home. The cases of misbehavior, torture, forbidding the parents in the oldage home or temples has become very common these days. Has the situation become worse?

We also can’t deny the fact that the society has become very competitive and fast at present. We need to work vigorously, run here and there to earn a living. We have to struggle really hard to survive in this world, resulting a very little family time. In this rush hour, how can we stop everything and sit to look after the old parents? Who will earn for their medical treatments and many other expenses? Humans have turned into machines. The issue is also very genuine. Unlike the past traditional society, where women used to stay at home, took care of the house and old members of the family now, we are in complete different arena. Women have double loads; look after the household chores along with outside office. How can the time be spared to take care of the elderly member?

I recall the poem, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ by W.B Yeats where he wished to be in the heavenly place where he needn’t regret being old. So, is there any way out to address both parties? Yes, it may sound very rude as per the traditional mindset of our society but it can help both old as well as younger generation to keep the relationship bonded. We need to build some sophisticated oldage homes that fulfill all the services and requirements of the old people; including medical services, sanitation, nutritional food, religious programs etc.



If the parents stay at those well equipped homes at their own will, it will not deter the relationship with the children as they won’t have to go through the torture given by their own children. The children also will be compelled to visit their parents every weekend or holidays. This approach will address both the traditional as well as modern society’s aspiration making this nation another Byzantium for old.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Uneven greens MYREPUBLICA.com

Uneven greens MYREPUBLICA.com - News in Nepal: Fast, Full & Factual, POLITICAL AFFAIRS, BUSINESS & ECONOMY, SOCIAL AFFAIRS, LIFESTYLE, SPORTS, OPINION, INTERVIEW, INTERNATIONAL, THE WEEK news in English in Nepal

Sumitra aunt
Women in forest management


Community forestry has been a successful and important policy in forest conservation as well as livelihood development of rural people. However, there is still a pressing demand to minutely and effectively address the gender-based issues in forest management. 

The deeply rooted patriarchal mindset has always dominated women and forestry sector is no exception. Women are the primary collectors and users of resources such as forest and water. But the patriarchal division of labor has limited them only to household chores. Most of the women are engaged in food production: planting, harvesting, washing, peeling, preparing, cooking, serving and preserving food. Besides, they have to clean the house, harvest and chop straw for the animals, milk the buffaloes and make the offerings and pray to the gods. 

Women power undoubtedly is Nepal’s one of the valuable untapped resources. Realizing this fact and for directly incorporating women in the institutional framework, forestry policy has made it mandatory for at least 50 percent of women representation in Executive Committee (EC) of community forest user group (CFUG). This has contributed a lot to bring women out of the household domain and realize their role as the real managers of the forest. 

With changing scenarios of our village where the male partner in every third household is a migrant worker and most of the children are sent to the cities for higher education and jobs, only women and senior citizens reside in the village. Who will be responsible for the management of the forest now? 

I had recently got the opportunity to visit Jhauri community forest, one of the most famous CFUGs in Parbat district, which was awarded the third prize by Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation with Ganeshman Singh Forest Conservation Award for the better management of forest in 2003. I was assisting my Colombian researcher Paola there. We stayed there for two weeks in the house of one of the community leaders and shared most of our time with the local women. 




During my stay, I observed that most of the men were away from the village. Young ones have been sent to study either in Kushma, Pokhara or Kathmandu. The youths are either working in Kathmandu or been abroad for work/studies. And the middle-aged men, mostly the retired ones, are involved in the management of the forest and carry out related works. For this, they have to travel to the closest cities most of the time. Only women and the elderly people remain behind. 

According to their constitution, the CFUG has to select the EC members every three years. However, in Jhauri no changes have been made and most of the male members of the committee are the same faces since the beginning. This has promoted a strong and centralized leadership in the community. There is an urgent need to switch the leadership to the next generation.

Being a woman, it was easy for me to get information on women’s perspective on community forestry. For men, it will be difficult to get information as rural women are very shy and quiet in front of men. We had long discussions with aunts, sisters, sisters-in-law while working in the field, kitchen, or doing other domestic chores. I talked with them about their role in the committee, decision making, and benefit sharing so that I could get the actual picture of their involvement. As per my expectations, the participation of women is merely limited to representation rather than being meaningful. 

Actually, women don’t feel the need to speak when their male counterparts are discussing or making decisions as they think men know everything. It’s all guided by the patriarchal norms, the behavioral values that good women are not supposed to put their views freely in front of their respected in-laws and husbands. 
Nevertheless, during my informal chats I realized that even though women were shy to put their views in the mass, they did analyze the decision and talked with other women about it. Another important thing is that women gave their views on the matter or any decisions while chatting with their husbands in the night. I found this indirect influence of women on men interesting. This shows that women are highly interested in the management and decision-making affairs. 

Sumitra Regmi is a very bold, beautiful and inspiring woman in the village having an influential role among women. She has been actively involved since the establishment of the forest, its conservation and management. Despite her tireless efforts, the villagers don’t realize their importance or explore their capabilities and strength in forest management. 

Two issues stand out in forest management discourse in the village: a) Male outmigration and urge to transfer power to another generation and b) Latent leadership qualities and interest of women in forest management. If these two are placed in the appropriate position, many pressing problems will be solved. Placing women in the vital post can encourage the most enthusiastic women to take the lead. This will address the problem of leader deficiency and fulfill the aim to bring women in the mainstream of sustainable forest management. 

Forestry is probably the largest sector where thousands of women have officially been part of user groups and involved in resource management. However, comprehensive homework is needed to ensure active and meaningful participation of women rather than merely representative participation.