Nepali Times

Almost there

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Two weeks after electing the Prime Minister, the country is likely to have a cabinet of ministers by the end of the day.

After late night talks on Sunday, the two largest parties, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML were able to chart the tentative shape of the new government and the portfolios the parties will head. Out of the 26 ministries, the two parties are likely to get 10 portfolios each. NC will take charge in Ministry of Defence, Finance, Communication, Cooperatives, Local Development and Education, among others. CPN-UML has laid claim on 10 ministries including Ministry of Home, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Health and General Administration. Smaller parties that have supported NC are also in line to head some ministries. The final allocation is expected to be formalised within today.

Internal talks are underway since early morning today to formalise the deal made between the two parties and pick the candidates for the ministerial positions. NC Parliamentary Party is meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence in Baluwatar to endorse the deal.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala was finally able to convince CPN-UML to join the government after conceding the Home Ministry. The meeting of the two parties on Sunday focused on allocating ministries. The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

Untangling the Home Ministry knot

The power sharing talks between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have concluded on Sunday deciding that the two largest parties need to discuss the matter again on Monday.

Today’s talks focused on allocating ministries to NC and UML. The NC has already decided to assign Home Ministry, the main contention between two largest parties, to the UML.

The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

In today’s talks, Gautam along with UML Secretary Bishnu Poudel took part in the talks on behalf of UML, while NC Secretary Krishna Prasad Situala led the NC team in the talks.

The next round of talks on Monday will start early in the morning at 7 a.m., it is learnt. It is expected that the talks will conclude soon, paving way for the swearing in ceremony of UML and NC’s new ministers in the evening, the same day.

Read also

Whose Home is it anyway?

The year of living dangerously

Nurse’s book wins Madan Prize

Sunday, September 14th, 2014
Radha Paudel

Radha Paudel

As a young girl in Chitwan, whenever Radha Paudel complained about not having new shoes or pencils, she remembers her father telling her that children in Jumla didn’t even have enough to eat. When she grew up, Radha became an anesthesiologist at Bharatpur Hospital and applied for a more senior position. There were only two openings: a relatively easy job in Rupendehi, or the hardships of Jumla. Without hesitation, she chose to go to Jumla.

Her father, who had worked in Jumla previously, tried to make her change her mind. It is dangerous, he said, there is a war going on and life is hard in the remote mountains. But Radha reminded her father that it was he who had inspired her to go to Jumla in the first place, and do something for the people there.

When she got to Jumla in 2001, Radha could not sleep at nights seeing how mothers died at child- birth, children toiled as porters to earn a living. It was fluke she wasn’t born there, she thought, and she was troubled by the low esteem with which the rest of Nepal looked at Jumlis.

Radha got a job with a safe motherhood project supported by DFID and immediately set out to the remoter parts of the district to care for women even though it was a war zone. The security forces and the Maoists both looked at Radha with suspicion and thought she was an enemy spy.

Khalanga Ma Hamala (The Attack on Khalanga)

Khalanga Ma Hamala (The Attack on Khalanga)

The Madan Puraskar Guthi announced on 14 September to award this year’s Madan Literature Prize to Khalanga Ma Hamala (The Attack on Khalanga). In the book, Radha Paudel relives minute details of the battle of Jumla and  how that close brush with death motivated her to continue to work for the upliftment of the people  of this remote part of Nepal.

But, as Radha Paudel, reminds us, “The end of the war has not meant peace. The roots of the conflict are still there. As long as people are hungry, there will be war.”

Radha Paudel went through similar doubts, but persevered because she thought it was important to tell the story so people understand the true meaning of peace, and valued it. She teared up during a recent interview and said in a choking voice: “I had to go back to Jumla and help the people I went there to help.”

After the battle of Jumla, Radha started writing down everything she remembered about the 13 terrifying hours of the fierce Maoist attack on Jumla on the night of 14 November 2002. The CDO, DSP and dozens of army and police were killed, and no one knows how many Maoists died.

Radha first just hid under her quilt, thinking it would protect her. Bullets whizzed all around, hitting the ceiling and walls. The army’s helicopters hovered overhead, dropping mortar bombs, while the Maoists and the army exchanged fierce gunfire in the street below. She peeped out of the window to see captured policemen being beheaded like goats.

Radha Paudel with some members of the community she worked with in Jumla in 2002

Radha Paudel with some members of the community she worked with in Jumla in 2002

She went to hide in her landlady’s room, but a neighboring house caught fire and they were trapped between the smoke and the gunfire outside. Radha thought this was the end, but somehow survived the night. Radha kept working in Jumla, and got the Women Peacemaker Award last year for her selfless work in rural Nepal during the conflict. Radha’s first manuscript was lost, and she wrote it all over again from memory.

Radha says she will plough the royalty from Khalanga ma Hamala to her 
group, Action Works Nepal, which works in Jumla, Kalikot and Achham to help the Karnali people to stand on their own feet.

Kunda Dixit

Pokhara tries to save its famous paddy

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Urban sprawl and out-migration has reduced the production of Pokhara’s rare rice

House in the middle of rice fields

Photo: Merilin Piipuu

Pokhara once used to be renowned for its indigenous rice variety called Pokhareli Jethobudo, which is also the first traditional seed variety for which Nepali farmers were given intellectual property rights.

Pokhareli is an aromatic rice that is in very high demand all over Nepal and abroad. The rice is soft and tasty, but its market price is twice that of the other rice varieties, giving farmers a hefty income. But Pokhreli is becoming more difficult to find in the market because the paddy fields where it used to be grown is being devoured by urban sprawl, which in turn is driving prices up further.

Although the city is not expanding as fast as Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara land prices have soared as people settle in what is considered Nepal’s most scenic city. Migrant workers coming back to central Nepal districts have also driven the property market by investing in land.

Pokhara people are not only losing their soft and tasty rice, but also the whole paddy-based civilisation that used to go with it. For instance, Pokhareli Jethobudo used to be mandatory during festivals and other important occasions, and as it gets harder to find people are opting for alternative varieties.

Pokhara Valley has the highest rainfall in Nepal, and the moisture has given ecological pockets here microclimates and soil types that have resulted in a wide variety of rice. Along with Pokhreli, there used to be Jhinuwa, Biramphul, Mansara, Thulo Gurdi, Sano Gurdi, Gudura, Anadi, Ekle and Anga rices – every one of them with a distinctive texture, aroma and taste. But loss of arable land and farmers switching to modern high-yield hybrids has endangered some of these varieties.

Pokhara farmers are now getting together to treat seeds and grow them in nurseries. For example, the Fewa Seed Producers Group in Pame grows Pokhreli Jethobudo seeds and makes them available to farmers who want to use them. But the government is promoting modern non culture seeds, and this discourages the use of indigenous varieties.

“There is no control whatsoever over the varieties grown,” says Kamal Khadka, 32, an agricultural scientist in Li-BIRD, a Pokhara-based group that works with farmers all over Nepal. Farmers are attracted by high prices for land, and are selling them, and with their sons migrating to work abroad, elderly parents also find there is no one to farm the fields.

With new residential houses now mushrooming all over what used to be Pokhara’s famous emerald paddy fields, there is a race to save what is left of its rare rice. But who will take the responsibility before it is too late? Is it going to be farmers who are simply interested to improve living standards, the government, or the private sector?

Whoever does it, the price of development can be felt by all the people who would like to have tasty and soft rice on their dinner table.

Not isolated anymore

Being a farmer in Nepal once meant living in isolation and loneliness, faraway from the world. Not any more.

With the road network now reaching nearly every VDC of every district in the country, far-flung hamlets are only hours away from cities. But even more importantly, satellite tv, mobile phones and the internet have connected the hinterland to the centre.

Farmer Surya Mohan Bastola in his farm.

Farmer Surya Mohan Bastola in his farm. Photo: Merilin Piipuu

Majhthana is a small village near Begnas Lake, 30 km east of Pokhara. The only way to get there in the past was to walk the whole day from the Prithvi Highway. Now there is a rough road that winds up the mountains to reach the settlement. It may still seem like you are in the middle of nowhere when you get to Majhthana, but farmers are using their new income to buy tvs hooked up to satellite dishes, checking Facebook on their smart phones and hooking up their laptops to internet dongles.

“My favourite channels are National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet,” says 49- year-old farmer Surya Mohan Bastola. When there is no electricity, he listens to the radio, and is mostly tuned into to the agriculture programs on FM, LI-BIRD ko Chautari and Krishi Karyakram.

Bastola has received little agricultural training, but he is learning new words like ‘organic farming’ and ‘permaculture’. He now knows how important it is to make farming sustainable, and use alternatives to pesticides and chemical fertilisers. “We have not thought about migrating to the city,” says Surya’s wife, Sita Devi. “Our children are working abroad, but we talk to them every day on our mobiles so it doesn’t feel like they are far away.” Sita Devi carries her mobile wrapped up in her patuka, even when she is working in the fields.

Sita Devi, wife of Surya Mohan Bastola, talking on her mobile phone.

Sita Devi, wife of Surya Mohan Bastola, talking on her mobile phone. Photo: Merilin Piipuu

The mobile phone and the tv are gifts from the Bastolas’ youngest son who works in Qatar. The parents believe that one day he will come back and take over the farm.

“You have to make your son Lahure so that they value their home more,” explains Surya. Indeed, their youngest son loves working in the farm and is planning to return. His decision has been made easier because Majhthana is not remote anymore and the quality of life is even better than in the city. Paradoxically, this is exactly what tourists come to look for in Nepal. The remote village life where there is no technology except for a few books has become one of the ideals of Western world. This has led many farmers to establish home-stay eco-villages to augment income. Furthermore, tourists often fall in love with Nepal’s countryside, and are willing to support local schools or households in buying communication technology. This in return makes people stay in the countryside.

Says Surya Bastola: “Being in the middle of nature is like meditation, it brings peace to your mind, body and soul, and maybe make us live longer. But now we are connected to the whole world from here.”

Merilin Piipuu in Pokhara

Read also:

Sharing what she knows  Tong Sian Choo 

Earning from nature to pay for its upkeep Kunda Dixit

Blood and mud

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

One World Theatre unveils a fascinating production of In the Red and Brown Water in Kathmandu

In the Red and Brown Water Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water is a lyrical tragedy set in the ‘distant present’ of the fictional town of San Pere, Louisiana, and relates the story of Oya, a young woman who ‘runs like the wind’.

She refuses a track scholarship in a state university to stay with her suffering mother. When Mama Moja dies, Oya desperately runs after another target: getting pregnant. She then hesitates between passion with Shango and security with Ogun.

The plot is set in an Afro-American context, which has nothing to do with Nepal. “I would have never directed this play in the US with non Black actors,” admits director, Deborah Merola. Still, the themes covered are universal and surely struck resonance last week with every Nepali and expat in the audience at the Theatre Village: social pressure, accomplishment, motherhood, dream and reality. The production and the performance of The One World Theatre make the story remarkably translucent and easy to watch.

Alize Biannic from France succeeds in turning Oya’s radiant smile progressively into dramatic expressions. Divya Dev is sensitive as the stuttering Ogun, who recovers the ability to talk when Oya falls in his arms. Rojita Buddhacharya and Binita Baral have minor roles in Act 1, but brilliantly portray characters Nia and Shu, who gain in importance as the play goes on. The amazing Loonibha Tuladhar steps out, as she flawlessly interprets the Afro-American aunt Elegua.

The play could do with some tiny technical adjustments. While the light should put emphasis on the ‘gift’ Oya gives to Shango at the end, the stage gets darker and the action loses intensity. In the meantime, the two musicians in the corner of the stage add nothing much to the play, except when it comes to moving the rain stick that gives the needed aquatic atmosphere.

Still, the setting deserves praise. The minimalist decor serves McCraney’s powerful text well, and the patchwork of colours painted by Kurchi Dasgupta helps blur the boundary between dream and reality. The display adds vividness to the characters’ gestures and also reveals some of their inner emotions. The play also involves some bad language without falling into vulgarity, whereas the sexuality is made beautifully suggestive through dancing – an alternative added by Merola who rightfully takes advantage of the talents of Alize Biannic, a former dancer of the Royal Ballet of London.

Deborah Merola’s adaptations are often considered to be too long. But her creative direction and the talented actors of the One World Theatre make this In the Red and Brown Water a fascinating piece of theatre.


Loonibha Tuladhar

Loonibha Tuladhar

When Loonibha Tuladhar appeared on the stage, you would be forgiven for feeling like you have arrived at the Louisiana bayou. The actress is perfect as the busybody aunt Elegua, godmother of Oya. Tuladhar talks and gestures like a stereotypical Afro-American woman from the popular imagination. One had to reconfirm that Tuladhar was indeed a Nepali. “I’m actually from a typical Newari family of Kathmandu,” she says after the show. “I’m a big fan of Queen Latifah and Will Smith, so it wasn’t difficult to pick up the accent and gestures.”

Loonibha Tuladhar’s incredible talent bursts forth in her performance in Merola’s In the Red and Brown Water. She is never louder than the other characters, and her performance is never a caricature.

Stéphane Huët

In the Red and Brown Water
Rs 500
5 to14 September, 5.30pm
6 and 13 September, 1.30pm
The Village Theatre, Lajimpat

False start

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Locals oppose an addition to the Changu Narayan museum gallery

The inauguration of an important new gallery addition to the Living Traditions Museum of Changu Narayan was disrupted  by disgruntled locals.

The inauguration of an important new gallery addition to the Living Traditions Museum of Changu Narayan was disrupted by disgruntled locals.

The inauguration of an important new gallery addition to the Living Traditions Museum of Changu Narayan was disrupted on 6 September by disgruntled locals who said they were not consulted.

The gallery, called ‘Now and Then since 464 AD’ would have complemented the UNESCO World Heritage site which has relics of some of the oldest settlements in Kathmandu Valley.

James Gambrione and Judith Chase, who curated the section on the repoussé, was explaining how the gallery came about when he was interrupted by slogan-shouting locals. American Ambassador Peter Bode who was supposed to inaugurate the gallery returned back from Bhaktapur.

Jim Danisch, the artist who designed the museum said it all started when about 20 “very hot tempered” men disturbed the preparations earlier in the morning. Coming from the nearby villages of Shagdaha, Halchap and Narayantar, they asked the organisers to postpone the inauguration.

“They were confused about their claims,” Danisch told Nepali Times, “but I understood they were complaining that they had not been participating in the conception of the museum.”

The situation is now calmer as the lawyers of the Living Traditions Museum negotiated with the locals to have the inauguration on 13 September, it is not clear what the exact demands of the locals are. One complaint was that the Living Traditions Museum didn’t have the proper permissions, but Danisch said the museum had proper permits from the Department of Archaeology and UNESCO.

Jay, 29, who owns a souvenir shop near the temple said he understands the anger of the villagers around: “They feel neglected and don’t see the museum adding an advantage to the villages.”

But Ashim Bhatta, 32, who has a gallery of thangka paintings near the entrance of Changu Narayan Temple was really disappointed by the incident.

“I have known Judith Chase for a long time and I know she has invited all the community around to get involved in the project from the beginning,” says Bhatta, “sometimes, people just want to show the little power they have.”

The Living Traditions Museum holds dozens of pieces that were collected by Judith Chase, while she was trekking all over Nepal between 1975 and 1985. “It’s sad, because the museum is real touristic opportunity for the people of the community,” says Jim Danisch. “We’ll wait for the discussion of next Saturday to see how things evolve.”

Stephane Huet 

Read also:

Return of the past  Lawrence Miller

Changu Narayan facelift 

Lamjung’s ghost town

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

More than eight years after the war ended, the displaced still haven’t returned to their village

The army came in the daytime and the guerrillas came by night to taunt and threaten the villagers of the tiny village of Maling. Finally, they couldn’t bear it any longer, and more than 100 families left their crops and livestock in the care of neighbours and abandoned their homes. They haven’t come back.

Such was the fear that they haven’t returned even after the ceasefire in 2006. Their houses are falling apart, the terrace fields are overgrown with weeds, the school building is dilapidated, and Maling is a ghost town.

It all started after the Maoists came in one night in 2002 and left a dozen bags and one of their fighters, Ramchandra Tiwari, in the home of Som Maya Tamang. The army had always suspected that the village located 10 hours straight uphill from the district capital of Besi Sahar was a Maoist stronghold. A few days later, they surrounded the village and went house-to-house, they caught and shot dead Tiwari even though the villagers tried to save him.

HOMELESS: The home of Som Maya Tamang in Maling village of Lamjung is falling apart, while she lives in a rented room in Besi Sahar working as a cook.

HOMELESS: The home of Som Maya Tamang in Maling village of Lamjung is falling apart, while she lives in a rented room in Besi Sahar working as a cook.

A few nights later, the Maoists returned and took away Ward Chairperson, Niru Maya Tamang and Som Maya and tortured them in a nearby primary school, accusing them of being spies. But the rebels let them go after they couldn’t find evidence that they were spying. “We were so afraid that we couldn’t stay there any longer, we left,” recalls Niru Maya.

All 127 families abandoned their homesteads in Maling. Some settled down in Besi Sahar or Pokhara, others went to Kathmandu and beyond to India and the Gulf to find work. None have returned.

Som Maya today lives with her family in a rented room in Besi Sahar, and worked as a cook to feed her two sons and two daughters. Her elder son dropped out in Grade 8 and went off to India to work, his younger brother followed him. Both are now in Saudi Arabia.

At the Lamjung office of the Peace Committee, there are only names of six individuals out of the 127 displaced families from Maling who have been given Rs 5,000 compensation. The current coordinator of the committee, Maoist member Mohan Hari Poudel, denies there are any displaced people in Maling, and maintains that no one can claim to be displaced by war anymore.

Parbati Tamang, is also displaced from her home in Maling (right), but never got any compensation, and lives off earnings sent by a brother who works abroad.

Parbati Tamang, is also displaced from her home in Maling, but never got any compensation, and lives off earnings sent by a brother who works abroad.

Former coordinator and ex-DDC chair Krishna Prasad Koirala, however, says it’s a shame that the displaced of Maling never got compensation from the state.  In fact, the Peace Committee doesn’t even have a record of how much aid it distributed and to whom. For example in 2007, there is a record of the local Peace Committee receiving Rs 2.7 million, but the cash books show that only Rs 7.85 million was disbursed.

After the ceasefire, the interim government decided to give families of those killed, tortured and displaced compensation.  Under this, the family of teacher Muktinath Adhikari who was executed by the Maoists in 2002, collected compensation for both his death and their displacement. Mohan Singh Ghimire, also from Lamjung, who was killed by the Maoists also got Rs 300,000 as death compensation and Rs 50,400 for being displaced.

Aside from high profile victims like these, or survivors with political connections, ordinary poor farmers who also suffered loss have never got any compensation.

Maya Nath Ghimire of Sribhanjyang was detained by the army and tortured, but he has no idea where to get the compensation he is entitled to. Bishnu Ghimire of Bhalayakharka put in an application at the District Administration in Besi Sahar, but he never heard back. Bishnu Pandey was abducted by the Maoists while in Grade 10 in his school in Bhalayakharka, then he was detained by the Army for being a suspected Maoist and beaten almost to death. He never got any money. Torture victim Chandrakant Poudel was detained by the Army, filed his application for compensation, but has got nothing.

Government records show only 15 people who claimed to be detained and tortured got Rs 25,000 each from the state. But while real torture victims have got nothing, there are questions about who these 15 are and whether some of them are genuine victims.

Yubaraj Shrestha in Lamjung

Read also:

Tortured past Naresh Newar 

Sharing sorrow to ease the pain  Juanita Malagon

Open wounds Mallika Aryal 

The Sunkosi disaster site – a month after

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

On the pre-dawn hours of 2 August exactly a month ago, a whole mountainside swept down on the village of Jure, burying at least 156 people (almost a third of them children) under tons of rock and rubble. The entire side of the hill on the western bank of the Sunkosi between Mankha and Ramche VDCs fell off at 3 AM that morning, disappearing the old village on the slope as well as the settlement along Arniko Highway further down.  One entire government secondary school was wiped out. On the edges of the landslide one can observe only the devastation’s periphery, because most of the people, livestock, houses and highway lie deep underneath.

There is a term in the Nepali language to indicate landslides that dam up rivers, ‘bishyari’ rather than the more generic ‘pahiro’, and this indicates the regularity of these occurrences over historical time in the high Himalaya and midhills. The tragedy of these events are heightened in modern times because of highways that snake along the base of river valleys beneath unstable slopes, and the ‘ribbon development’ that has people in search of livelihood settling along the roadways.

On 30 August, in the company of Ani Choying Drolma, we visited the dammed up Sunkosi area where Jure village used to be. It was a numbing experience, to understand the scale of the landslip and the tragedy it brought the sleeping inhabitants of the village and roadside settlement. We present here some photographs of the site of the ‘mountain-slide’.

Coming up the road from Lamosangu, this scene is typical of the generally unkempt roadsides along Nepal’s highways

Coming up the highway from Lamosangu, this scene is typical of the generally unkempt roadsides along Nepal’s highways. But then, right around the corner…

With Ani in Sindupalchok

… is this view of the landslide, which is about a kilometer long and nearly as tall. It buried both settlements and a stretch of Arnico Highway, blocked the Sunkosi, and created a lake stretching 3 km upstream. The excavator in the picture is part of the effort by those involved in the Nepal-China trade (through Khasa) working with the Roads Department to cut a dangerous track across the landslide debris field so that goods and passenger traffic can resume. The Nepal Army is building a longer track on the hillside across the Sunkosi.

On the edges of the landslide, where some of the concrete-pillar houses are still standing, we saw this orphaned CD collection with the leaf turned to Phalguni Pathak.

On the edges of the landslide, where some of the concrete-pillar houses are still standing, we saw this orphaned CD collection with the leaf turned to Phalguni Pathak. Chinese tourists are brought across the landslide area by porters/guides who are arranged by a network of ‘facilitators’ that has quickly come up. Indian pilgrims headed for Kailas-Manasarover traverse the other way. Chinese tourists are brought across the landslide area by porters/guides who are arranged by a network of ‘facilitators’ that has quickly come up. Indian pilgrims headed for Kailas-Manasarover traverse the other way. Jure 5

Shredded high tension wires can be seen along the terraces and forests. The national electricity grid has lost about a tenth of its production due to the landslide. Jure 6

The picture shows the scale of the ‘mountain-slide’. Where Ani Choying Drolma and Shanta Dixit are traversing is about where Jure village is said to lie, deep under tons and tons of rock.Jure 7 Jure 7-A

The rapids and the midhill tranquility at the outflow point of the Sunkosi lake… One gets to understand the energy of flowing water even better when confronted with this over-topping of the suddenly-created landslide lake. Jure 8 Jure 9

The Sunkosi lake and rapids has become a spot for photography.

Jure 10

The team of Nepal Army engineers has been working away to develop an alternative channel and reduce the lake level. They use dynamite and excavators, one of them seen at the far side. The level of the lake is said to be steadily decreasing.

Jure 11

The alternate channel is muddied by the army’s excavation work upstream. The scouring of the hillside on the far side indicates the volume and energy of the 2 August event. The landslide that came down the western bank reached far up the eastern side before collapsing on the valley floor. On the far bank, the hillside has been scoured, trees felled or bared, and the forest far above splattered with mud and rubble. Massive rocks traveled hundreds of meters through the air to land beyond the landslide footprint.

Jure 12

Gigantic rocks have come down from the mountain. The scale can be judged with reference to the policeman at right.

Jure 13

It is the end of the workday, police/army personnel and civilians working at the disaster site head out. The rock at the left is one of those that flew through the air to land here on the night of 2 August.

Turning the bend on the road and arriving at the disaster site.

A 360 degree view of the Sunkosi rapids, rock dam, landslide slope and surrounding hillsides.

Shanta Dixit and Kanak Mani Dixit

Turning grief into hope

Monday, August 25th, 2014

On 24 August 2010, an Agni Air flight bound for Lukla was returning to Kathmandu in poor weather with a technical malfunction. It crashed 30km south of Kathmandu in the town of Bastipur in Makwanpur district. Fourteen people on board were killed, including flight attendant Sarah Sherpa.

ROAD TO REMEMBER: The 6km road build by Dorji Tsering Sherpa and his SKY Memorial Foundation in memory of his daughter, Sarah,  and others killed in the Agni Air crash in Makwanpur exactly four years ago this week.

ROAD TO REMEMBER: The 6km road build by Dorji Tsering Sherpa and his SKY Memorial Foundation in memory of his daughter, Sarah, and others killed in the Agni Air crash in Makwanpur exactly four years ago this week.

Her parents, aviation entrepreneur Dorji Tsering Sherpa and Anju Sherpa made it to Bastipur a few months later and burst into tears when they saw the crater where the Dornier fell to the ground. Seeing the couple in such a state of grief, locals who had gathered around also started weeping. The Sherpas were so touched by their emotion, they decided to spend the money from her daughter’s insurance and wedding budget on the development of Bastipur village.

They decided to start with the nearby Bakiya Thakur Primary School, which the plane narrowly missed. The school was in a dilapidated state, enrollment was falling, and few children studied beyond Grade 5 since the middle school was a 45-minute walk away.

The couple renovated the school building, and started working on upgrading it to a middle school, hiring teachers and paying for their  salaries. The school now has 100 per cent enrollment and students have scholarships, and get free stationery and uniforms.

But there was a lot more to be done. Dorji got in touch with families of other victims and set up the Sky Memorial Foundation, named after three young victims: Sarah, Kendra Fallon (US), and Yuki Hayashi (Japan). The foundation now manages the development work in Bastipur and its surroundings. Dorji says that his 30-year career in aviation has earned him a lot of friends, who have contributed in fundraising.

One of his Japanese friends helped build a health clinic in nearby Shikhapur in memory of his wife, which means local villagers do not have to make a two-hour ride to Phaparbari to see a doctor.

Some money also went to reviving the local school, which was on the verge of being shut down. In consultation with local villagers and with help from local CA member Indra Baniya, the Foundation has just finished construction of a 6 km road  connecting Bastipur with Hattisunde where locals were ecstatic when the first jeep arrived recently.

Dorji Tsering Sherpa at Bastipur's school and stupa.

Dorji Tsering Sherpa at Bastipur’s school and stupa.

Now, farm produce from the area can be taken to market. “Our bananas, cucumber, mango and pineapple won’t go to waste anymore,” says farmer Prem Bahadur Ghale.

Says Dorji: “More than infrastructure development, our biggest achievement has been the change our work has brought in the mindset of the villagers who now seem positive and hopeful about the future.” Dorji is already planning ahead. He thinks a homestay program can bring tourists to the area and boost local income.

After his wife passed away last year, Dorji is even more determined to continue the work. He says: “I think of Shikharpur as my daughter and wife’s home.”

Gokarna Gautam in Nepal, 24-31 August

SKY Memorial Foundation

+977 9851018820

See also:
Immortal memorial

Hotel Echo’s last moments

For Nepali original: