Leaving the Garden Nirvana Hotel, one plunges into Kathmandu. The street is a mass of humanity trying to move in all directions with little success. . . 


Nepal, One View

Jack Frisk


Nepal, One View

Leaving the Garden Nirvana Hotel, one plunges into Kathmandu. The street is a mass of

humanity trying to move in all directions with little success.. One walks a few steps only to be stopped

by a cart full of goods or a taxi trying to maneuver through the maze. The motorcycles move by spurts

among the crowd. The slow pace one must travel gives one time to see every small stall along the way

and often the invitation by the proprietor to come in and see his or her wares. One learns quickly to

move ahead or sideways at every opening to make any progress at all. But one must always be on

guard for the holes and uneven terrain as one walks. Sometimes it's a chuckholed paved street,

sometimes it's dirt.There are three wheel pedal carts, we called them rickshaws though they aren't

really, that will pedal you to where you want to go. They tend to move even slower than walking so

you take them only if you don't know the location of your destination.

The mass of people, the motorcycle engines, and the cars all combine to make a constant roar of

sound. Unlike many other such settings, it is not punctured by yells and shouts. People don't seem to

yell at each other in these streets but patiently go about their business. Still the noise is loud and

constant. Yes, and there are the dogs whose barking interrupts ones' sleep at night. The first couple of

nights I heard a rooster crowing about 4:A.M every morning. Then it stopped. I wondered if that was

the chicken in my dinner the night before.

Along the first block from the hotel one can find a trekking service for mountaineering, a fabric

store, a money changer, a musical instrument store, a gift shop, a jewelry store, a snack seller, a paper

seller, restaurants, a bed and breakfast among all the other store front merchandisers.

The odor. Smells are everywhere. Sometimes one smells the restaurant you are passing,

sometimes one smells the litter on the street, sometimes one smells odors from who knows where.

Sometimes it's sweet, sometimes it's a stench that's pungent, sometimes it's rancid, but mostly it's just a

blend of all the odor making things along the street. I can't describe the constant odor one experiences

though its always there. There is no escaping it.

In that sea of people, noise, smells and apparent confusion, there are bright spots of color.

Brilliant colors of reds, oranges, greens, purples, lavenders, yellows and multitudes of combinations

made by the beautiful saris of the women . One cannot miss their bright clean dress which accentuates

their great facial beauty. The women are fully wrapped in the long sari whose color complements the

the beautiful olive brown unblemished skin of woman's face.

All this blends together to give one a lasting impression that this is Kathmandu. Three million

of Nepal's 25 million people are crammed into a small valley among the low mountains of the

Himalayas that is Kathmandu. There are only four traffic lights in all of the area.. This is the center of

Nepal and the city which the mountain folk seek as they migrate here for a better life, they hope.

We meet a human dynamo of energy, Dr Chandra Lekha Tuladhar. She was one of the first

woman Rotarians in Nepal. She is currently the Water Resource Coordinator for Rotary District 3292

and, in our vernacular, is all over it. She talks a mile a minute, has a huge number of ideas for

improving the water supply, the sanitation and the education of people on creating safe water. There is

plenty of water in Nepal but it is contaminated. We don't even brush our teeth with tap water. And all

of these projects she envisions need to be done now. They are important and can't wait. Her energy and

enthusiasm are contagious. The Rotoractors she is working with seem to share her enthusiasm and are

ready to help carry out the projects she has in mind.

One does not forget such a determined dedicated person.

A taxi ride in Kathmandu is an experience one will not soon forget.

The Shanti Sewa Griha Clinic and Rehab Centre has had a remarkable growth. Begun in 1992

as a hospital for lepers, it has expanded to a health clinic, a nursery school, a sheltered workshop for

many different vocational skills; not just for lepers, but for all who need it. Leprosy is not feared as it

once was but remains a problem. It was a pleasure to see some of the needy clients in the program

receive wheelchairs for improved mobility and skill development. From 12 patients in 1992 the clinic

has grown to serve some 1,100 individuals in one or more of its programs.

There are over 70 Rotary Clubs in Nepal.

Built by Rotarians from around the world, the Nepal Orthopedic Hospital has continued to grow

and expand in its 10 year existence. Rotarian Dr, Anil Shreshka is an efficient and effective

administrator who capably arranged for the surgery team headed by Dr Steve Miller from our Rotary

Club. The team performs 49 surgical procedures in the week they work. Over 10,000 patients have

been treated in the 10 year existence of the hospital. Dr. Anil is one of the people we shall not forget

because of his skill and warm personality.

One observes landmarks carefully in getting about. There are no street signs nor any numbering

system to guide you. Its a little like a maze you must carefully negotiate. The taxi driver often stops to

ask directions.

Pashupatinath Temple spans the Bagnat River in Kathmandu. It is a whole series of structures

on both sides of the river. I drop behind the group I'm with and am joined by Dr. Lopa Dalmia, an

intern in podiatry from Atlanta. She is a member of the surgical team we are with. She left India when

she was 12 years old and has lived in the United States ever since. Typically a bubbly outgoing young

lady, she is now more serious than I have ever seen her. She tells me this is a very special place for her

and other Hindus. Each Hindu is expected to visit one of 12 most holy temples during their lifetime.

This, she says, is one of those 12 temples, so she is fulfilling that responsibility on this trip. She says

she has a special feeling here on the grounds even though she has not yet gone into the most holy shrine


Lopa tells me she will come back and spend some time inside the holy shrine before she leaves.

It is obvious that she is deeply moved just by this passive experience of being here at the temple and is

looking ahead to coming back alone and and entering the holy place only open to Hindus. Her

demeanor influences me and I also feel a special reverence here.

Nepalese, at home, mix their rice with the other foods on their plate and eat with their fingers.

When we have dinner in a home we are given forks while the rest of the family eats with their fingers.

I see a couple sitting outside the operating room at the hospital while our team is performing

surgery on their son's feet. They are holding hands and are engaged in some sort of meditation. I ask

about them and am told they are sending all their energy in to their son on the operating table.

It is quite usual for 3 or 4 generations of Nepalese to live in the same house.

I am sitting on a low temple wall in Kathmandu Baktor Square. A group of 2 to 4 year olds

play on a raised area of the temple street. Sometimes they play as a group, sometimes they play

individually. I start to wonder where the parents are.. One little boy gets pushed over backwards and

hits his head, he cries loud and long. No adult is in sight. The other children gather around in

sympathy. Finally one little girl speaks to him in Nepalese but the translation is easy, "shut up". The

little boy stops crying.

After 45 minutes the group of 6 or 7 children remain. I never am able to spot an adult watching

over them. They remained in the same spot and were still there as I rejoined my group. I find this

rather puzzling, yet amazing at their well-behaved play.

The Himalayan Mountains are beautiful. The monsoons have cleared the air so the sky is that

wonderful blue and the sun on the snow glistens pure white. The blue blue sky and the bright snow

make a dazzling.sight.

My room in the hotel looks out over a private school ground. Each school level have their own

uniform and make an impression on one.. Watching them play makes me think this could be on any

school ground, though they seem to play with less conflict.than we might expect at home.

They line up a couple of times a day in long rows, each row with their own distinctive uniforms.

One day I watch two little girls in the 8 to 10 age range run hand in hand in a big arc behind the lines

that were almost complete. Then they cut back through all the lines disrupting the neat rows to to get

to their own row . They seem proud of their impish behavior.

Most education in Nepal is still private and only is available to those who can pay. Public

schools do exist in the more populated areas but the smaller villages often have no school at all. Three

years of compulsory education has been mandated by the government to begin in 2012, but most

Nepalese believe that enough schools cannot be built to implement the mandate that all children go to

school by that time.

Power outages occur every day because there is not enough electricity to go around. I still

wonder if that was the only reason I always had cold water when I got ready to take a shower.

Professor Batuk Pd. Rajbandari leane on his cane and beams. And well he should. He is

standing in the entryway to the Self-help Group Center for Cerebral Palsy. This program is his

brainchild. He started it, put much of the money for the center in himself and is President of the

Center. Not only does the center serve many cerebral palsy victims, it also helps parents with the tools

to help their children at home. Clearly the lives of those being served are being enhanced.

We are pleased to provide several wheelchairs to some of these people to make their life a little

easier. We watch as one of the wheelchairs is strapped on a motor bike and mother, father and the

little girl with cerebral palsy ride away with their new acquisition.

I am impressed to see that they have designed a system for a seriously disabled girl to use the

computer. She has no use of her arms. She operates the mouse with her mouth and bangs her head

against a pad as the enter key. This is a system built at the center just for her. We see another group

hard at work trying to learn to sit up and to crawl. Some of them are so obviously proud to show us

what they can do.

Professor Batuk has every reason to be proud. The program would be shown with pride by any

American community that had it.