Sunday, August 30, 2009

A “Country” Paradise

While the trip to Nawalpur visiting my parents, as described in my previous posting, was quite thrilling, my stay there was almost uneventful. I liked the village. The Resettlement Office was a small building and nearby was my father’s government quarters. I recall it was mostly a small thatched roof cottage, but was spacious enough for us (my parents and my two sisters). The government office and a public elementary school were the only concrete buildings in the village. Even though I was expected to be there for two months, my parents decided that I should go to school, it was on odd time going to school, that is, I was enrolling two months before the final exams. I guess the school headmaster was impressed by the fact that I was from Kathmandu. Anyway, I started going to school everyday shortly before 10 am and until four pm.

From what I recall, the government office was almost at the center of the village, a little to the southwest was our cottage, the school was less than five minutes walk east from our cottage, and there were a few huts and cottages north of the office lined up on the main street. A few minutes down the street (east direction) was the graveled highway to Narayanghat. The village was nothing more than a hamlet established in the middle of the dense jungle growth. Aside from going to school, there was not much else to do. I started hanging out with some local boys (I don’t know if they were transplanted just like me) and explored nearby places. The school was perched upon a hill. It was not really a hill, the dirt track from the highway dipped a little bit rising as it reached the village center. Just before the rise, one had to cross a small stream, toward the left a track led up to the school. I remember spending hours with some friends wading in the shallow pools of water and trying to catch fish with our tiny hands. The water was knee deep and clear, you could see the pebbles on the bottom and the fish running in unison in different directions. It gave me immense pleasure to see the small fish trying to escape from our hands, the cool touch of water (even though it was a Fall season, afternoon temperatures could be very high in the Terai), and the jungle surroundings. My days were carefree, pampered, and I always found something to do. Sometimes we visited the government-owned barn where we could pay a visit to a large brown horse. This was also the first time I rode a horse, I didn't last very long on horseback.

All in all, life in the country was completely different from Kathmandu. It was peaceful, harmonious and without events, except for one night when it seemed the whole village was going in flames. The Fall season in Terai is usually very dry except for the morning dews. So one night, as we were finishing our dinner we saw flames rising above us. One of the houses north from ours was up in flames, I recall vividly how high the flames were rising. The flames were twisting and twirling like Shiva’s furious dance moves, everyone was out, some were trying to help put out the fire, others were standing shell-shocked. In a matter of minutes the house was burnt to the ground. Next morning I went out with my parents to check the aftermath of the fire and to express our sympathies to the family. The place was covered with black soot and hardly anything was left worth salvaging. I felt very bad for the family, one of their girls was in the same class that I was in (Grade Four). The Year was 1969.

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