Short stories of Nepal

ANG Sherpa and Pemba Sherpa were two mountain guides. They were tough, experienced climbers dedicated to their chosen vocation – that of climbing mountains. Now on the fateful day they had just about decided to climb the mountain … to the very top.
If their luck and the weather held, they would establish the four camps on the route. To say the least both were highly excited at the prospect that stretched before them. The mountain on which they would spend so much of their time was one of the lesser mountains to the north of the country. But it was awesome and daunting.
More than anything else, what started as a mere skylark was fast turning into serious adventure. In a company of score of men they had previously started out to trek to the base comp from the capital city. And after a couple of weeks had arrived in a blaze of glory. Only a handful of them were given the responsibility of making it to the top. The rest were assigned routine duties and to await the success or failure of the climb.

As climbers the others feted both men. And they basked in the glory.. Ahead of them lay several days of arduous climbing with a lot of boulders and snow to be negotiated.
Early in the morning hours the pair set off suitably decked out. Ahead of them lay the mountain – somnolent and majestic. The snows glittered. The going became increasingly hard as the day wore on and the load on their backs more of a burden. A slight breeze blew continuously off the mountain.

During the afternoon they paused for a break amidst a jumble of rocks and glacial ice – to recover from their tiredness and exhaustion. This was a familiar experience to them for they had climbed peaks before in the past. That experience proved the guiding force in preventing them from making mistakes.
Such mistake would be deadly since it would result in a fall down a crevasse or burial under a snowdrift. At mid-afternoon both mountaineers came sluggishly to a halt and camped for the night. It would be dangerous to move on with nightfall only a few hours away.

The next day the two men offered a simple and humble prayer for their protection and safety, before readying themselves for the day’s climb. Neither held any hope for a break in their labour of love. As mountain men they held a deep reverence and love for the many peaks that lay scattered on the land and as boys had always cherished the idea of scaling them.
As on the day before, they scaled the mountain face, the muscles of their arms and legs stretched to the limit of endurance. The wind blew steadily at them and they found the going harder and harder. Yet allowing themselves no respite they slogged up … and up. And the day ended for them when they bivouacked at Camp II.
Climbing to Camp III posed a couple of technical problems. Either they found the ropes a bit too short or a bit too long. The spikes often came away in their hands, as the snow was soft. But they persisted. They took a short break and rested their aching bodies. The wind would not let up, driving flurries of snow at their faces. It struck at their goggles meant to protect the eyes from snow blindness and tugged fitfully at their clothings.
The going was steep with frequent rock falls and many mini avalanches. Each step was made only at the expense of painful lacerations to the limbs. Their next objective seemed miles away. To make matters more difficult, the weather worsened. And a thick mist rolled down from the top.
The night was spent in exhausted slumber interrupted by fitful awakenings.

They awoke in the morning more cheerful and optimistic. But here a snag developed. They found they had to opt for an alternative and more devious route. What this meant for their oxygen supply and loss of time was obvious. Nothing could compensate for those two factors. The weather, which had held throughout the night, now snowed down in gusts and softened the surface so they had to slog right through it.
Both Sherpa spent the better part of the night at Camp IV huddled together, cold and miserable. It seemed nothing could ever warm them enough. The thick, protective clothing, which they wore, was only a token surety against the biting cold.

And now … the final ascent! But a short while after proceeding onwards they found to their dismay a major obstacle – one, which is the bane of, mountaineers the world over. An overhang! It lay before them as a mighty trap reaching out to crush them in its grasp.
Ang was the first man to speak out. His teeth gleamed white in the nut-brown face. “What do you think of that, my dear friend?”
Pemba, the younger of the two replied, “ I think nothing of it.”
All the technical problems were gone over with a fine toothcomb and all possibilities exhausted. They had to reach the top at any cost. Coming down would be no problem, as they would rappel away. Ang led the way.
For the next half-hour or so the besotted pair grappled with the overhang and it counted for a nerve-wracking moment. Later on they could think of the moment and the shiver would run down their spines. They would visualize the ecstasy of their being as they overcame this monstrous brute and relive in their minds the final stages to the very top.

See You In The Next Life

LAKPA Sherpa had one overpowering obsession in his life. And that was the Yeti. The strange creature that lurks in the forbidding Himalayas.
When he was a child he used to sit by his mother’s side listening to tales about the snowman. Now a couple of decades later he still carried with him the urge to locate and identify the elusive being.
With deft movements he stoked the fire in the hearth adding more wood and the sparks flew off. He stretched out his hands warming himself. It was wintertime and the cold outside was bitter.
There would almost always be snow, yet again if the temperature persisted. But Lakpa was not thinking of snowflakes or what its coming would do.
He put his hands behind his head and sighed in relief. He had just
finished a trip to the capital city and would not be going for another six
months. Six lonely months of staying in one place and trying to make the earth yield its crops. Potatoes. For all that he was worth, he thought and dreamed of nothing but this particular crop.

 For its was the only thing that would grow in this cold climate.

Then his attention shifted onto himself. The return trip had nearly failed because he had lost his way.
It was a thing that struck him as odd and strange. He sat back recalling the incident. He had gone to the capital city to buy bags of salt and other commodities. The trip had been uneventful.
But many things had happened on his way back. Things that he recalled with great clarity.
For one thing, after he had travelled a bit by bus, he had set out on foot for the mountain village. It had been a tiring trek due largely to the load of goods, which he carried on his back.
He had walked on trying to make it to the settlement before dark. But he had scant hopes of making it.
Then it had happened. He had blundered and lost his way. The dim light of the evening hours and the narrow track had served to confuse him.
Thick mist swirled around him as snow began to fall. There was snow everywhere covering the ground and the worn out path, which he was following. It served to make the whole caper dangerous.
Lakpa did the only thing he could in the circumstances.
He deposited his precious baggage onto the ground and sat besides it massaging his numb fingers.
There was no way he could start fire and no one around on the desolate patch of ground. What he longed above all was rest and the thought of home and a warm fire.
The cold chilled him to the marrow of his bones, and he shivered uncontrollably.
The thought of what lay ahead if he did not find the path frightened him. He had often heard stories of men losing their way. Then the thought struck him. What if he chanced upon the Yeti?
The place and time was ideal for such a prospect. Fear gnawed at his entrails and he strove to control himself.
Then a sound made him sit up. The sound was as if a heavy object was being moved in the clump of bush nearby. He got up to investigate thinking that some other men had come along.
What he espied froze the blood in his veins. It was a strange creature resembling in form and nature the indomitable, Yeti.
Then he stumbled and fell to the ground. From his prone position he say the form detach itself from the protective shelter of the bush. It lumbered across the snow for a brief period of time then vanished amongst some trees.
Lakpa lay stunned by what he had seen. It was an impossible thing to happen to him. Yet it had happened.
An occurrence that would not be repeated in his lifetime. The strange hairy beast had left an indelible imprint upon his memory. It was only later – after about half –an- hour- that lakpa round the right path again, more be luck than by judgment.
He continued on the fading light, fast tiring. But the thought of the comforts at home spurred him on. It was unbelievable but he had seen a creature closely resembling the Yeti. What a story it would make with his circle of friends.
Would anyone believe him and take him at face value?
No matter, he had seen it and that was all that mattered.
A life-long ambition to set eyes on the beast had been satisfied. He would forever and a day record the observation minutely in his memory.
The lights of the houses beckoned to him as he tiredly walked the remaining distance. He was more tired than ever in his life. With a weary sigh he crossed the threshold of his home and relieved himself of his bags.
But the story of the Yeti was burning inside him waiting for release. He knew he would not rest until he had recounted his adventure with the snowman.
And so his room was filled with excited and curious listeners as he told them of his meeting with the half-beast, half-man creature.
Of how he had lost his way and been blessed by the sight of the most wonderful of sights. Soon a collective sigh swept through the room as the rapt audience responded.

Coming Home For a Visit

HAVILDAR Sudeep. Got off the dusty bus and set foot on ground once more, after many hours of travel. He was tired, unusually so since it had been days, nay years, when he had done a bit of travel. He manhandled the bedding and trunk and set out the last few miles to the village. To the waiting arms of the villagers and his ageing mother.
The way wound over a rough path, beaten down by countless feet. He whistled as he moved along. The countryside was blaze with greeneries and a riot of colours.
The last bid of the land, to snatch some life before winter set in. It had been a long time, before he had followed the road that led to the village. Now memories of it came back to him. It seemed all so familiar.
He stopped by a stream, cold and pure. With sigh of contentment he relaxed by a big rock and set his baggage down. Thirstily he gulped down the water and wet his face with a sopping handkerchief.

He glanced, at the mirrored reflection of his face and grinned wryly. Somehow he had learned to be himself again. A man with an ordinary, commonplace name. And not as havildar with a squad of men under his command. These were two parts of himself that he recognized.

The main highlights of his life came back to him, in a wash of memories undimmed with age. He recalled the first day at school in shorts and shirts, slate and chalk clutched in one hand with a group of boys and girls. The head master, a towering figure who threatened punishment at every slight mischief. The years at school bad been good enough with passable grades.
Then an additional three years at a boarding school in the city, with a life vastly different than in the village. He had managed to scrape through. That year his father – a most respected figure had died, leaving him most sad. College was now out of the question. He elected to join the army. Then it seemed he was at the height of his powers.

It was a decision that served to continue the tradition of active service in the armed forces. An act of service, which his father had pursued throughout mush of his years. Now he was ready and fit, to carry on the honoured role of serviceman.

And now, after the completion of training and years of service, he had matured into a full-fledged soldier. The epaulets, which he wore on the shoulder, had been earned by hard work. And sacrifices too numerous to be recounted. On and off duty, he kept in mind the time bound duties of fighting man and always ministered his energies, to be on call 24 hours a day.

Lost in thought, he walked along, mindful of the sights and sounds of the countryside opening up. Here could be seen the play of sunlight among the leaves of a tree, there the splash of wings as a bird took flight. The impression of sounds were also there, sometimes muted, sometimes distance – a presence all its own.
Somehow, a part of his mind was alert, directing his tired footsteps. And he sensed that the trail was nearing its end. He would be back among the circle of friends and family. He wondered vaguely where all the years had gone. Years of toil and sweat, of fun and frolic and service and work …

Youth was gone and what was there left, but manhood. Proud and defiant, the years had been good. He had been able to support his mother on the monthly paychecks, which he sent regularly. Devotion was the keynote.
Sudip negotiated the last bend and came in sight of the village. News of his arrival spread like forest fire and he was surrounded by brown faces and sturdy bodies of men, women and children.

The village had changed alarmingly. There were many more houses and more strange faces. He felt like a stranger in their midst. But the barking of dogs, added a welcoming note and his hesitation soon vanished.
Soon a stream of visitors came to his house which was double- storyed , ochre-coloured and had a verandah. There was his brother, the belle of the village and headman himself. The last made a honorary speech on his behalf. The soldier, unused to such civility, flushed with embarrassment. He presented a richly embroidered shawl to his mother.

Soon the days passed by in a hive of activities – swapping experiences with friends, being entertained by the folk singers and visiting old haunts.
The conflict, which had raged within his breast, was almost forgotten as he completely immersed himself, to pampering his self. But the end of the furlough came, only too quickly. It was the last day of his stay and he was with a group of admirers. Then after receiving the blessing from his mother, he again lifted the baggage to his shoulders and walked away to rejoin his unit.

An indelible impression

An indelible impression ‘ is one that repeats itself in the minds’ eye long after the event.  Familiar examples of such a case are watching the sunrise and sunset from a vantage point, viewing the works of an artist in a gallery and a graphic scene straight from a racy novel. These are the kinds of images likely to remain as a prelude to other imaginings.
The view of the sun rising at dawn or setting at dawn afford a scenario not to be missed.  These are after all the works of nature seen at appropriate times.  The rays of the orb sending out feelers to mark either the birth of a new day or capture the dying throes of darkness, Coming as it does in set times and inexorable and complete.  The riotous colors forming a pattern in all its glory.
The works of an artist can also be viewed in an exhibition when it opens for the general public. The oil paintings or sketches are framed and gives an inkling into the inner sanctum of the artist.  There is nothing ordinary or mundane about it but somehow explores the mysteries of life at its best. It is at once a presentation with the rough edges glossed over.
The account of a scene in a setting can be read and remembered in all its details. An episode that is carefully constructed and which marks the genre of the novel.  Every aspect comes to the fore and makes one turn the pages.  It is skilfully wrought and allows for a graphic moment to take over.  The words are fine tuned to an exactitude that is apt and fit.
Indelible impressions makes itself felt at odd moments of one’s life and adds to the picture. It justifies the impression created without being too garish or loud.  On occasions these marks out what is to be a clear-cut image.  And provides an insight into the working of a divine or human nature.
Suffice it to say whenever something strikes one in all its earnestness then there is a rationale behind.  And becomes caught up while  forming a complete whole. It takes only a moment to capture the essence and the underlying rhythmic beat to burst forth.
The naturalness of an impression  enraptures and becomes one with the rest. The central theme is exposed to anyone who is ready and willing to give it at a go. And the chances are an individual will see it in all its entirety.  It is set aside to make way for an understanding that strips away the outer layers to reveal the core of an indelible experience.

A Journey Across The Sky

Every child is taught in the primer that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west – a fact which can be observed. When the sun rises at the crack of dawn it sheds its first warming rays across the land. The mountain ranges stands limned as if cut out from a picture postcard and stands silhouetted.  Nothing seems so glorified as this period in infinity.
Life springs to life with birds twittering and chirping amongst the branches of a tree and the rustle of small animals in the undergrowth.  This is the  moment everyone is waiting  for with bated breath and in a hushed silence.  The golden rays of the sun heralds the dawning of a new day – fresh, lively and full of verve.
As the orb progresses across the sky the temperature climbs with each passing minute.  There is increased activity as man and beast search for food and water.  And there is not amoment to lose but everything to gain by taking advantage of natural light.  Photosynthesis takes place in every leaf blade to sustain the growing needs of a plant.
The celestial body reaches its zenith at high noon which sees a brief cessation of activity for this is a time to rest and take account of the surroundings.  For some its siesta or dozing off under the heat which soaks up the moisture.  The formation of clouds plays a hide-and-seek game with the golden halo of the sun – a presence at once visible and with nothing to hide.
As the sun gradually tillts towards the west and its strength and intensity wanes so does life on the land decelerate its activities.  As if to further its role in the solar system every second is stretched out – not only to prolong the life of both flora and fauna but of man as well.  With the fading light everyone who is able takes a last fling of the remaining light and prepares for darkness.
The sun sets in a blaze of glory throwing the last of its dying rays.  Here today but to come again tomorrow and renew its pact with earth – after its rotation across the vast expanse in space.  Life however does not come to a standstill whilst furtive movements take place in the most unlikely nests and burrows.  Birds and animals returning to the warmth and safety of their homes made out of twigs or a hole in the ground.
With a promise to rise up again the sun dips down and is gone for the next several hours. This rendezvous is not a chance meeting but a pre-destined one in orbit.  The surface ground also gives off its captured warmth to the coming chill of the  night.  The biological clock in man sets off the natural timker and  for some its an early start to an evening.
Night comes to a close and artificial light is turned on to shed illumination.  This is the time for clandestine meetings of lovers out on a date, to close business deals with a firm handshake and sing lullabies to babes in their cots.

Missing Children

Its sad but true that a number of children go missing every year in the metropolis.  Whether they find their way home or are apprehended by benefactors is largely a matter of speculation and doubt.  When the young ones disappear into thin air then the electronic and broadcast media comes alive with their pictures and descriptions.  Cases of a find go unreported and may not be registered with the police station.
In this dismal scenario what is to be done?  First of all its the parents/guardians responsibility to see that their charges do not go off on their own and wander the streets.  And if they do leave home to see that they are properly escorted.  Its easy to imagine the state of mind of these youngsters who suddenly find themselves on  a dark street and no one to take care of them.  Terrified and frightened they wander hither and thither until some unscrupulous fiends comes along to take advantage ofl their sorry plight.
Even when the absence of a young loved one is notified to the concerned authorities nothing much can be done except to hope and wait.  To mount a search in such a case is not feasible apart from alerting the nearest police posts to be on the lookout for such and such a child wearing nondescrepit clothes and with sneakers or slippers.
Its not unusual for young school age children to leave their abode due to parental neglect, domestic violence, abuse and a hard life.  Preferring to live a life on the streets where they can claim to a freedom of sorts and do as they please.  But little do they know the horrors awaiting them or realize the implications of their actions which amounts to a death knell.  Life on the streets soon turn soft pliable children into hardened individuals who are  ready to sniff glue and live off  leftovers and forage for scraps in the nearby dumps.  Hoe of  a return home diminishes with each passing day and contact is lost to be replaced by a grim and die-hard attitude.
Even if they do not land on the streets where do the missing children turn up? Certainly not in the hands of a friendly person who has their interest in mind. And there are any number of dark places where they might find themselves.  Chances are they couldl be hired by strangers to do menial work and subjected to a harsh and cruel treatment.  Or caught by a gang of knaves who prey upon the young and the innocent to reap a profit in the process.
The state of anxiety and foreboding associated with a missing  case is underscored by gloomy looks and nail-biting suspese.  Particularly of parents who often take on the blame and close kith and kin who can do nothing except offer cheer and extend sympathy.  To see one of their loves ones no more in their presence and out where they are lost in the milieu makes for a sad scene.
The case becomes a matter of criminal investigation if foul play is suspected.  Then the branch of police force charged with the case swings into action.  Locals are questioned and suspects arrested to await questioning and possible clues of the whereabouts of the child looked into.  The matter is often made public and co-operaton sought from all quarters.

 The Kite Flying Season

       During the kite flying season kids can be seen buying kites and the necessary accessories from the nearest shop.  Thus  equipped they make a beeline for the rooftop terraces to engage in a kite flying contest.  In this the thread which has been strengthened with broken glass ground in a fine paste is used to deliver a coup de’ etat.
Taking advantage of the fine weather and the gentle breeze kites soar high above the ground – wheeling and diving and making other fanciful turns.  There is nothing like the thrill of flying a kite and he ensures that it stays in the air as long as possible.  To be sure a bit of skill is required to make a kite fly and a vantage point is  recommended – the higher the better.
Made out of thin lightweight paper and two slivers of bamboo these contraptions are easily torn if not used with care.  And the life span of a kite maybe a day or  two at the most and so has to be replaced with others.  It it has been in a fight it may be let loose or even torn to shreds.  So these are priced accordingly to suit the pocket of the kite flyers.
In small but meaningful ways
By Uday Lama
The youngest member in a family, the lowest employee of an organization and the least important person in the social hierarchy have something in common.  They contribute their mite in small but meaningful ways.  These affect others in the immediate vicinity so that it takes on a new found meaning.
First of all in the family the child engages in chores, run errands and do odd jobs which require only nimble fingers and a quick mind.  There is nothing amiss here and their role cannot be downsized to suit those who would not have it otherwise.  An activity that is linked to the occasion and the need of the hour and meets with expectations.
Whereas in an organization the peon holds the lowest position in the rank-and-file and does corresponding duties. But this only goes to belie his importance as a messenger, cook and helper. He goes about his work with dignity and nobody can lift a finger or raise a voice because he is humility personified.  Officials in the corporation may come and go but he stays put making himself useful in more ways than one.
The vendor in the marketing scenario may seem insignificant but, nevertheless, makes for a loud mouthed, aggressive bunch.  Even though the volume of business is small and negligible and profits meagre he will not back down from a job only he can fill. No one can take away his right to support a growing family on the proceeds of whatever he has managed to earn.  And nothing troubles him so much as being disallowed to ply his wares in the pavements.
The cases cited here proves what one can do even if its an itsy-bitsy role to play.  In the wider context of society it may not amount to much but there is no way in which they can be short-changed. Occupying positions in a commercialised, helter-skelter world can be termed tenuous but their importance cannot be underestimated.
Because of this factor alone there is a need for their contribution which is real, concrete and measurable.  They should not be judged by any standard and encouraged to do their best.
In the comings-and-goings of the workplace they give their level best and are undeterred.  And make it a going concern with a maximum effort according to their interests, abilities and chosen field of endeavour.  Although there is little to show yet they go about their business without making a fuss in the process.
That their contribution can be measured is to be stated openly without fear of ridicule.  Moreover, the question is how this happens- in the absence of any method to learn a lesson from them.  But a net gain is almost always felt and no pretensions about it – a point only they can testify and vouchsafe time to time again.

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