Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Trip to Katmandu, Nepal

out of hundred shots, I think I nearly got one right.
Few days ago, (on 7th June 2014) I had the privilege of boarding the Bhutan airline’s inaugural flight to Katmandu. There were over 70 people who were carefully selected and invited by the management of the airline. It included two Ministers, few senior bureaucrats, few media people and lot of travel agents. Although I was not in the list, I was able to squeeze-in in the company to grace the inaugural ceremony. Thanks to my Director for letting me take his seat. And more thanks to the airline management for accepting me in my boss’s place.

Katmandu, for many people is known for all the awful reasons. Ensuing political instability, the royal massacre in 1990s, the environmental squalor and cheap tourist are some of the topics that invariably get coined with it. In recent times it has even become known for the airport terminal that makes people sweat like pigs and the guards that seeks bribe at the entrance! But for a Buddhists people, especially the Tibetan Buddhists, despite all the predicaments, it is always a special place to be. As it is home for some of the most ancient Buddhist temples, it is one place that is most sought after by pilgrims. It is known fact that people from all direction flock there either to meditate on impermanence or to seek out religious solace or to look for for spiritual refuge.
In Katmandu Airport. 7/6/2014
Coincidentally, this June is by far the holiest month in Buddhist calendar. Therefore, my first ever trip (free trip) to the home of Baudhanath stupa and Swayambhunath sytupa couldn’t have come at a better timing than this. Our team landed in Katmandu airport to an overwhelming welcome ceremony by the Bhutan airlines office in Nepal. It was drizzling a bit but nevertheless it was a special feeling to be accorded a red carpet welcome. Amid all the sounds of trumpets and drums, we were showered with the rose petals. Little girls offered us orange scarfs. I though I was starting to look like lama! Then we were led into the terminal building. Once inside, immigration clearance took lion’s share of our time in Katmandu. With each passing minute, I felt the gradual impatience seep in me. But I was not alone. Nearby, I could easily over hear my other impatient friends grumbling. 

It was an overnight trip. So the keenness to have a quicker clearance for us, in our own sense looks justified. We all wanted to go out fast. After an hour of painful wait, we were all finally out. Several vans have come to pick us up. Seven of us took a van driven by a jolly man named Bassu. And to my amazement, there were quite a number of people who are actually making their first trip to Katmandu like me. As Mr. Bassu took us through the meandering roads of Katmandu city, many of my friends were quick in making comparison between our very own Thimphu and the city we have just entered. While most agreed on the similarities sighted, someone from the back said, even the banana in Thimphu looks similar to the one we were seeing. We all laughed. Few more turns, few more comparisons and few more laughing sessions, we soon reached our hotel. There was another round of khaddar session. It was white scarf that time. Orange and white khaddar already around our neck, three more khaddar, red, blue and green, and all us would have looked like a newly appointed Ministers of Bhutan! 

By then it was not the world class food in the Soaltee grand plaza that came to my mind. Neither were the five star hotel rooms that enamored me. But it was those ancient monumental stupas, the likes of Baudhanath stupa and Swayambhunath stupa that filled my heart. Those stupas have a history of their own. But for now let us leave it for another post. I was so eager to hear the murmuring Buddhists chants and smell the smoke of burning incense. More than anything else was my urge to see those wish fulfilling shrines in their original glory. 

After allocation of the hotel rooms, most of us were out again, swift and fast! Some went out for shopping while others slept in their rooms. But I chose to join the group that was out for pilgrimage to Swayambhunath stupa. Located on the hill top, the stupa has a classic aura  and awe of its own. But on the other hand, crowded, littered and dusty, the holy place apparently confirmed how it is actually succumbing to the forces of change, modernization and over population. There were monkeys and lamp sellers and film makers. Nearby people were attending a funeral rite and not so far away the wedding ceremony was in full swing. 

At around 7 pm, the delegations from both the countries were there to grace the inaugural session. Surprisingly, there were not many mingling taking place between the delegates. Keeping silent in one corner, I felt my throat choking. So I approached a senior Nepali official. I introduced myself to him. But before I could even complete, he said I look 200% Nepali. In return he introduced himself as the father of Mr. Ravi. So I presume Mr. Ravi to be an important person. I asked him about the pilgrim sites. But he had other things on his mind. He told me to put up questions, if any to Mr. Ravi. Seeing all the Bhutanese delegates in our national dress, he conveyed his appreciation to Bhutan for keeping our tradition and culture intact. “Nepal has no culture of our own”, he said. “Modernization and foreign influence are to be blamed” He lamented further. With this brief conversation, he disappeared into the crowd. 

Mr. Ravi’s father’s reluctance to communicate with me gave me an opportunity to observe the event in its entirety. Of all the people present, one person called Dasho Wangchuk, son of legendary Bhutanese business man caught my attention. He is the co-owner of Tashi group of companies, a millionare  and a leader of his own kind. The way he tended to the guests, big and small and the way he supervised his employees that night are simply exemplary. He exhibited that he is a leader who do not eat first. He showed how the giant or Monopoly slayers are made. Today Bhutan’s sleeping public corporations should be grateful for having a person like Dasho Wangchuk. In terms of waking up the slumbering public corporations, I think he is one person who knows to ring the alarm just and right. The night was wonderful except for the small stomach disorder I had to endure for the wrong combination of juice I took. (Do not drink apple, mango and orange juice together. It can really upset your tummy)
Pose worth million with a millionaire 
Next morning was a grad moment for me. I was due to join my group on pilgrimage to the penultimate pilgrimage site, the Baudhanath temple, which is known for its wish fulfilling power. So greedy enough, I made a mental calculation of my wishes on my way. And here are few of them:

1. Many many success to Tashi Air Pvt ltd
 for accommodating me and enabling me to wishes (as listed below)

2. Happiness and prosperity to my family

3. Not to fall ill 

4. To have no worries in life

5. To achieve all the targets that I set for my life

6. To see my three girls do well in life

7. And someday to become a father of a son as well

8. Happiness and prosperity to my mom and dad

9. Happiness and prosperity to my country

10. Long life to our king 

11. To retire as a happy civil servant


Finally we reached to the stupa site. Seeing the majestic stupa, I went wordless. Spellbound and nervous, I couldn’t take off my eyes off the Stupa. I forgot all the wishes I premeditated. It was like going blank for a while. However in more than two hours, I was able to spend the little amount of money I had on donations, incense, butter lamp and on colored prayer flags. By the time I finished writing the names of all my family members on the prayer flag, I lost my friends in the crowd. But to my pleasant surprise, two ladies from our group joined me. 

It was privilege for me to have come across a well known enterprising proprietor of Gangtey Palace resort, Mrs Choki and the chief editor cum designer of the Yeewong magazine and the Kuzuzangpo la magazine, Mrs Pema. Three of us talked extensively on varied topics. Two of them shopped and occasionally I joined them too. Later to my gladness, I discovered that Pema and I actually come from a same community. In course of our communication, I agreed to contribute a quarterly article for her magazine.

The Editor and Designer of
Kuzuzangpola Magazine and Yeewong Magazine
Mrs Pema Choden Tenzin

Finally, after sweating inside Katmandu terminal building for more than 2 hours, our group boarded the Bhutan airlines for our onward journey back to Paro. Fifty five minutes in the air and we were back to where we belong. I felt the trip was like a dream. 

4 comments:

  1. Hi Kuenzang, you are so lucky having the opportunity to go to this trip replacing your Boss. Moreover, it's your first time visiting the place.

    I too, was mesmerized by the Swayambhunath Stupa and was quite lucky being able to visit the place twice during my visit to Kathmandu. Same like you, I also wrote all the name of my family members on the player flags and got lost with the rest of the tour participants Hahaha....

    I felt peaceful and grateful there. However, I didn't make such a long list of wishes like what you wrote above Hahaha...

    Anyway, glad that you too had a good karma visiting the place. Thank you for sharing your experience Kuenzang! Hope all your wishes will come true! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Rima,

    i so glad to see your comment. and please keep commenting...this trip happened all because of my boss. and I forgot to make wish for him... see how greedy people actually are.... but I learnt later that all the wish i made were not actually in line with true Buddhist principle. So i had to press ctrl+alt+ delete on the above wish list...so here is the real wish I made then

    1. May all the sentient beings find bliss and cause of the bliss
    2. May all the sentient depart from the sorrows and cause of sorrows
    3. May all the sentient beings find bliss and depart from the cause of sorrows
    4. May all the sentient beings find bliss that is ever lasting........

    I think that way I cover everyone on this earth.....So that was my world peace prayer .....

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved this post. So many things in one post, its quite hilarious.
    Hmnn...I shall never try apple, mango and orange juice lol.

    Such humble wishes you have there. :)
    I have never been to Nepal, I would love to go there someday.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Rekha,

    i think you should make it a point to travel there, at least once and make your wish. I told by many people that our wishes indeed come ture looo mae............

    Please keep reading by blog and keep droping your valuable feedbacks and comments...

    ReplyDelete

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