Nepal Yet Again!
Fatherland - Holy-land
This is a floral tribute to those who departed in recent years in Nepal
Nhyaluwa Padma Ratna Tuladhar, Prof. Kamal Prakash Malla, Natibajra Bajracharya
besides my relatives
Deo Shanker Lal Shrestha and Indrabhakta Shrestha
Much expectations and excitement loaded in our baggage (that also included some copies of my latest Sikkim: Newfound Home of the Newars in the Black Hill ~ Newars Here and There) to look forward with Raman attending the Kantipur Conclave 2020 as a guest speaker within days of his return from the heritage city of Charminar to bring home the much coveted Bookstore of the Year award for Rachna Books, he has been toiling with day and night all these years since he took over in 2001. It was indeed a proud moment as we were celebrating 40 Years of Rachna Books bringing out some of the best works he could come across and many more in days ahead!
Further, it was the pious month of Magh for Swasthani Vrata Katha as well 45 years of our marital bliss to be with the in-laws in the wedding of niece Smriti with Jione from Zurich to have met while studying there in Switzerland. The visit to our Fatherland in the 104th Birth Anniversary of our Buba meant something special being there again ever since I had touched the land for the first time-ever sixty years ago with him and Gobind Dai from Birgunj after my Vratbandha along with Ome Dai, nephews Basant and Niranjan, as a Class X TNA of 1961. To cut long story short, it was proverbial Pashupatiko Darshan, Sidrako Vyapar Pani meaning killing two birds with one stone, I love birds a lot though!
Yet, in order to make things clear here to those putrid minds beforehand, it was just a two-week-long family trip and not for months together nor for some political gains or otherwise to bring home some awards. We were happy coming back bagful of blissful blessings gathered and wonderful memories of the quality time visiting temples – of God and Godesses, of Knowledge and of God-Godesses-like Elderly past their 95 years of age!
After their six-month-long course at Ahmedabad, Smriti and Jione were here with us in Gangtok to wrap up their Indian sojourn. They did not give a hint of their plans except that they were going back home after visiting her parents at Kathmandu. Very next day comes a call from Bhai Samir that his daughter and fiancee together have decided to tie up the nuptial knot before they depart. It was on the auspicious Vasant Panchami day that we were there at the venue Gokarna House Restaurant of Paknajol near Thamel right at 9'o-clock sharp to welcome and meet not only the guests but the couple and entire family. Ranjana's sister Sama and Jwainsaheb Vilas Dangol from Wellington, Newzealand had picked us up from her sister Sushila and Bhenaju Ramchandra's place at Dallu. Day-long celebrations in the homely precincts helped us meet some relatives like former Minister who visited Sikkim then and Nepal Socialist Party Vice Chairman / Jwain Saheb Rajendra Prasad Shrestha, Bhai / former Minister Ravi Bhakta Shrestha, Jwain Saheb Naresh Prasad Shrestha CEO of the Samriddhi School/College/ Knowledge Solutions to drop us back home later. Farewell dinner in honour of the parents in the eve of their departure to Zurich gave a befitting wrap up to the wedding but the couple were with us throughout.
The much-awaited weekend arrived and we were among the delegates in the Convention Hall of the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu. 'Reimagining Connectivity' was the theme for the second incarnation of the Kantipur Conclave, where Raman Shresta of Rachna Books shared the Dias among others with Namita Gokhale, Founder and Director Jaipur Literary Festival (believed to be the mother all Literary Festivals in India) for the session “Bridging through Literature and Arts.”. Raman had the opportunity to be there in Jaipur LitFest twice in 2016 and 2018 besides his maiden appearance in the Literary Mahakumbha at Goa Arts and Literary Festival in 2013, The Hindu Literary Festival Chennai 2017, Gauhati Literary Festival 2018 besides being with the Food4Thought Foundation in the Indian Reading Olympiad at Hyderabad this Republic Day to bring home the much-coveted BookStore of the Year. Earlier, he was so felicitated at Goa. Rachna Books was among the Places not always mentioned but one must visit while at Gangtok Sikkim by the Outlook Traveller recently. Raman was sharing his thoughts on the topic 'Literature and Arts as the Bridge' This was followed by another session where we could for the first time listen to Prajwal Parajuli talking. We congratulate him later for all his accomplishments after the maiden appearance with The Gurkha's Daughter at Rachna Books way back in 2012. We were meeting him here thereafter though he has been a regular visitor and was more recently also there. After the launch on the lawns, we all go to Sanepa to visit the Pink House Art Mart and find it was more taxing for little Sara and for us, therefore, to call it a day to be back home.
Sakwo / Sankhu
It was a dream come true Nepal visit this time as I could visit the Holyland that my forefathers had come from and that too in the holy month of Magh of Swasthani Vrata Katha. They had moved to Kilagal in Kathmandu and later settled down at Banaras to start their business under the name and style of Harishankerlal Ramshankerlal Nepali way back in 1886 A.D. We were there on the auspicious Monday with the place in festive mood with Mela going on for a month to see thousands of pilgrims attired in the holy red colour reaching there to offer prayers at the only temple of Sri Swasthani Mata, take a dip in the fabled Sali Nadi and get blessed congregated at the Madhav Narayan Mandir thereafter. After having the traditional breakfast of Swari-Jeri and Gwaramari, we do not forget to have the rare opportunity to get a picture shot in front of one of the four gates leading to the ancient township of Sakwo-Sankarapur. We head direct to Jhamsikhel Lalitpur for our lunch of authentic Newar cuisine at the Village@Park, a leading example of Women Empowerment by the Sabhah Nepal since 2009. Vilas informs us of another such entrepreneurship under the name and style of Newah Lahana at Kirtipur and we make a mind to visit there too, soon. Later in the evening Bhai Bikash and son Bipul from New Jersey mention of the One Day 3D Restaurant at Kumaripati with pictures taken ther showing artworks of animals coming out live or things/places looking so real!
Temples: Our visit to Pashupatinath is a must in every Nepal Visit besides Swayambhu and (including Sri Swasthani Mata Mandir this time) a host of others in the vicinity to come across almost daily, like the Ganeshthan nearby, Annapurna at Asan, Nardevi, Raktakali, Kal Bhairav, Maru Ganesh with adjoining Kashthmandap (going for the repairs for the 15th time in last 500 years) Swet Bhairav at Indrachowk, Kumari Chhen, Taleju Bhavani, small Pashupatinath, Baudh, etc. We enter the premises of Janabahadya/ Seto Machhendranath and offer prayers. I tell wonder-struck Buhari Sarvada that our good friend, whom we honoured with Jai Smarak Samman in the year 2015, Raja Shakya was the Chief Priest here, whose presence was indispensable in the annual Jatra here. Seeing a post on Facebook about this temple, I added a few pictures of the Jatra here from an earlier visit some years back. Some friend, probably Razen Manandhar was surprised to find such a feedback coming from a faraway place like Sikkim! On way back, Sarvada asks her Mummy puzzled as to why some of the temples were found lying below the road and Ranjana has no answer to this. Might be their being there since ages that saw subsequent road repairs and carpetting made them positioned so, precariously !
Bajai: Our visit to Nepal is not complete without visiting the grand old lady Jamuna Maya Bajai, who is 96 years and still going strong thinking of coming back to Sikkim once again. If not, she asks us all to be there with her for celebrating 100th Birthday in next four year's time. She had to be hospitalized for four days to fight pneumonia and recently again for another four days due to low blood sugar. Otherwise, she is okay with her daily dose of one sali or twak of Aila to help fight old age as she has gone little feeble this time. She said she knew we would be visiting her like every time in the past and took out a holy Rudraksh Mala and gave to Ranjana as once before. Sharp and alert is her memory to ask me what happened of The Chandra Nursery (1910-2010) Celebrations we mentioned to her and had contributed Rs. 5,000/- in support. It was her husband Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan and his elder brother Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan to start and reach it to a pinnacle of its glory on 12 December 1940 when the Viceriene of India Lady Linlithgow visited there. The lackadaisical attitude of the family members left us with no option but to drop the indea and instead utilize funds for some good purpose bringing out the book Newah Bhaye Learner with CD by Daya Ratna Shakya of Portland, Oregon, USA. It had the 2011 New Year's Day launch at Madhyapur Thimi during the Shankhdhar Sirpa/Award Ceremony by none other than the Newah Icon Padma Ratna Tuladhar in presence of eminent literary figures likes of Laxman Rajbvanshi and others. She is a pilgrimage.
Nini: Next we visited was Ranjana's Thulo/Jawahar Nini also in her 96 well built all teeth, hair black and eyesight intact to share spicy snacks with us. She could not come to the wedding but her four daughters and son Ravi Bhakta were there. She lost her husband well-known industrialist Indra Bhakta Shrestha three years back. This visit gave me the opportunity also to read his memoirs Mero Samjhana and have insight to the good old days and how he was the first from Nepal to reach Bombay for running the business at a very young age with home education alone those days. He was later the person behind the formation of the Nepal Chamber of Commerce for a long time to head and be associated with, visiting different countries in this connection during his lifetime. It was in the early years of our married life, probably 1977. when answering the doorbell of our apartment in the Eight-Unit Building above the Happy Valley at the Development Area, I happen to find this tall personality accompanied by Nini in front to give us a surprise visit. This Sikkim-visit, hiwever, does not find a place in his biography, but for Nini, it was nice to hear about the visit we cherished till this day!
Bhenaju: At 96, still on Facebook, but not active as before and we enjoy video chat over Messenger occasionally in spite of the hearing loss. Shambhu Bhenaju was in Banaras in 1945-46 for his studies but poor health did not permit him to continue. He recollects then meeting my late Muma, whose culinary skills he praised, the taste of which still lingering in his mouth. Married to the eldest daughter in the family of six sons and two daughters of my Nini at Birgunj, he had moved to the USA with the eldest son in Texas to make way for the youngest Sudip to pursue his post-graduate studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He maintains sound health with a cheerful smile and good appetite with teeth and hair all intact but for hearing uses aid and vision corrected with lenses. He mentions me of the photograph of his 12-year old sister Suryamati Shrestha seen making thread from a cotton spinner that appeared in the Gorkhapatra 92 years ago on Baishakh 13 Bikram Sambat 1984 Monday, happens to be the first-ever photograph carried in that news-daily. Mahatma Gandhi had come to the neighbouring border town of Raxaul. Tulsi Mehar Shrestha was propagating the use of Charkha those days and for that very purpose, it was sent to the Gorkhapatra. He was 3 years old then. His father wrote in his diary that the photograph was taken in the backyard of their home at Birgunj, he recollects what he shared with a link me on Messenger last April. To be continued
Just a Pilgrimage