Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Childhood Memories

I was born and raised in Paknajole, Kathmandu. I am old enough to remember how dramatic current changes in our neighborhood have been. I had a big circle of friends with whom I played all kinds of games boys these days would hardly know about. For example, we played ghwagra (with marbles - actually, large size glass beads), guccha, and tash (playing cards). For money, we had cigarette packets, which were neatly folded into square shapes. The days were free of worries and we just soaked ourselves in the sun, wandering around the neighborhood looking for empty cigarette packets. On occasions, we walked toward the Bishnumati river, mostly in the direction of Shobha Bhagavati and sometimes Mahipi (toward Balaju) looking for our cherished prizes but also with the intention to beat the heat by swimming in the river! Can you imagine today swimming in Kathmandu's rivers?

Let me tell you a little bit about Kathmandu Valley's stream morphology. The two major rivers are Bagmati and Bishnumati. Originating in the Shivapuri Hills, Sundarijal to be precise, Bagmati flows downvalley from the northeastern direction and is joined by several tributaries, most notably, Manahara, Dhobikhola, Tukucha, Balkhu, Nakhu , Kodku and Godawari. At Teku, Bishnumati merges with Bagmati. The two rivers and their tributaries were, and still are, the lifeline of Kathmandu residents, but they are more than a lifeline for local farmers (Jyapu) who depend on the rivers for irrigating their fields, washing their vegetables after harvest and before selling the vegetables in Kathmandu's streets and market centers like Asan. The rivers are sacred, with strong ties to Kathmandu's religious, cultural and social customs and beliefs. To sum up, if Bagmati is the soul of Kathmandu Valley, Vishnumati is its soulmate, and the Valley their theater to stage their elegance, beauty, charm and occasional wrath. Together, they supply the blood that enriches the soul, mind and body of valley residents. For more info on this, please visit

Anyway, I used to swim in those rivers. While swimming in Bagmati was perhaps once a year affair (mainly due to its distance from my home), swimming in Vishnumati was a regular thing (I would say at least once a month). Back then, the rivers were clean (at least in the eyes of 12/13 year old kids) and the water volume during summer was so strong that boys in our group challenged each other to swim against the currents, and boy, swim fast we did. On the riverbanks, we could see snakes of various shapes and sizes slithering around. Everytime we walked toward Bishnumati from my house (15 minutes approx.), we were certain to see at least one snake, and the mere thought of seeing one gave me chills (discloser: I have Ophidiophobia, or snake phobia, there is a story behind this too, but that will come later). In fact, I learned my swimming lessons in Bishnumati, and still cherish those days of carefree wandering, bonding and sharing with my friends, and occasionally regreting to inform my grandparents my plans for the day that had just passed. You know, what would follow in the evening upon returning did not really matter so much as long as wanderings like these were regular. Regrets in the evening would be quickly forgotten the next time such an opportunity (that is, to wander around) were to come.

To be continued...

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