Sarangkot: A Jewel of Pokhara

BY Ujjwal Acharya

The greed of seeing the sun rising as a golden ball is always an elusive offer and when there are mountains tops that are glorified by the early morning rays, it’s surely a life-time experience. And, that dreams became a reality when I had a chance to travel up to Sarangkot, a must-not-forget destination in the scenic city of Pokhara in Western Nepal.

Leaving the warmth of bed early morning, traveling the dwindling uphill road for more than half-an-hour and then walking for another half-an-hour for the agonizing wait for the sunrise in the cool breeze were all but forgotten when the outlines of the Annapurna Range with the famous Machhapurchhre Peak becomes visible on the north.

From Sarangkot, the Pokhara city looks like a sky with twinkling stars before the dawn and then when the visibility increases the mountains looks standing smiling – so near that I felt like I could touch with an extended hand.

The mountains were white and then glow in red as if there was a fire. And there were lots of clicks from the foreigners and Nepalis standing for long for the view. No body was speaking as everyone looked so engrossed in the view. “Will it turn golden now,” someone asked me. “It should.”

And I then realized I was so much looking at the mountains that I have forgotten to look east. There was half of the sun – as if floating – something that reminded me seeing the sunrise on the sea. The flickering sun rose slowly in the misty view and then the mountains began growing yellowish – and golden in color.

“That’s it,” someone shouted in ecstasy. And, it was probably the most beautiful scene visible from Pokhara – the Annapurna I peak at 8,091m and Machhapuchhre at 7,993m glowing in golden color.

From Nagarkot in Bhaktapur, I had seen a similar scene but the mountain tops looks so distant there when compared with Sarangkot and here the virgin peak shaped as a fish tail looked a beautiful girl modeling for gold jewelries.

[Originally written on Jan 18, 2007. I just forgot to post it then.]


Everything for Nothing!

(Or Maybe Something Irrelevant)

On Monday, May 28, 35,000 schools re-opened after 12 days of shutdown! For the records, 8,000,000 children across the nation were affected.

The reason behild closure, then continuation of closure and then re-opening were all but thrash reasoning. A kind of joke!

Let first have a look at the chronology of events:

May 13 – Institutionalized Schools’ Teachers Union (ISTU) began protests that demanding the salary scale equivalent to that to government teachers and appoitment letters

May 16 – ISTU, including the Nepal Educational Republican Forum (NERF) and All Nepal National Free Students Union (Revolutionary) – two Maoists organizations – annouced shutdown of schools

Private and Boarding School Assocaition of Nepal (PABSAN) and National-PABSAN (NPABSAN) too annouced closure of schools with PABSAN president Umesh Shrestha saying that the schools neither ask fees with students during the closure nor pay the teachers

May 17 – Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala expressed concerns

May 18 – Ministry of Education formed a talk team led by spokesperson (Minister Pradeep Nepal was in Maldives participating in the anti-doping conference), NERF refused talks with non-ministerial level team

May 20 – Minister Nepal returns and in harse words says he is not able to fulfil the demands as it not educational but political (however, during closure the demands included immediate annoucement of republican state)

May 23 – NERF says it won’t sit for talks until minister apologies for what he had said

May 25 – Police brutally beat teachers during their sit-on at the ministry, they immediately annouced two-hour of transports shutdown for the afternoon

Minister and state-minister express conerns and say they were not involved

May 27 – Valley was shutdown in protest with MERF and Revolutionary taking the lead

In afternoon, Revolutionaly annouces that on request of guardians, students and NGO/INGOs they ended the school shutdown giving one-month ultimantum to ministry to fulfil their demands or face more protest

Let me ponder on some questions:

  1. The shutdown of schools was called by ISTU, NERF, Revolutionary, PABSAN and NPABSAN. But when Revolutionary said the shutdown ended, it ended. How? Where were ISTU, PABSAN and NPABSAN?
  2. The protest began demanding something. But it ended without any demands fulfilled. Why the shutdown was then for?
  3. Why do we find Maoists organization involved in every protest against government? And, then they always put up pure political demand (mostly immediate annoucement of republican state) and ends the protest for nothing. Why?
  4. How come ISTU, the main body that began the protest find themselves lost in the middle of the protest?

I don’t have answers to all. The only thing I believe is the Maoists organization try to gain three things from such protest. First, they want to establish their sister organizations as strong ones, second they want to put pressure on the government for pure political reason and third, they want to gain faith of people by ending the protest.

I am opposing the idea of school re-opening but what I pondered is why are we seeing protests (affecting the everyday administration and people) for nothing!


Mount Everest, Sherpas and Foreigners!

Mount Everest lures every mountaineer – that’s not surprising. Every year, many foreigners reach atop the world’s highest peak, return their countries with fanfare and become heroes. Every year, a few films are made on Everest – and they are popular. Every year, a few books are published, and they are best sellers.

Among all these celebrations and buzzes around the world, there are quiet Sherpas. Every year, more Sherpas summit Everest than foreigner altogether. Yet, when they return home quietly, their family, almost always, ask them to stop because Everest is too dangerous.

I have heard people saying, if you have enough money to keep Sherpas happy, then they will virtually carry you to the top. Apa Sherpa had summated 17 times, Pemba Sherpa reached the top thrice within nine days this season, and there are many Sherpas who had climbed to the top more than five times.

Yet, Sherpas do not get credit they deserve.

In almost every films made, Sherpas are almost absent once they mountaineers leaves the base-camp. In every documentary, the role of Sherpa is to cook food and carry loads.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to hear Kami Sherpa – the Nepal Television cameraman who summated the peak for third time. The second Nepali journalist atop Everest (first being my colleague Ang Chhiring Sherpa who recently launched his book Dateline Chomolungma) looked sad on all these issues.

Who wouldn’t?

Apa Sherpa led an expedition this year with all Nepali Sherpa climbers called Super Sherpa Expedition and filmed a documentary. His aim: to tell the world about Sherpas and their contribution in each Everest expedition.

“Since we are a lot, we can’t hope much financial support from the government,” Kami told the journalists other day. “What we ask is the identity card as the Everest summiteers and insurance for Sherpas.” His demands are okay as government charged US$ 70,000 per expedition.

Let’s hope Sherpas get their credit and support!

Blogs & Blogging

The Buzz Catching Up

Two things I noticed during the last fortnight was pleasantly surprising – both related to Citizen Journalism.

First is the question paper of Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism of the Purbanchal University. The Advanced Concept of Electronoc Publication paper for the students of the second semester carried a question on blogs.

Explain blogs as an alternative journalism mean in Nepalese context.

The five-mark question is, I believe, a proof that blog buzz is catching up in Nepal.

Second incident was a few days ago during the Training Techniques for Experienced Trainers workshop organized by Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The course was meant for the journalists of various executive level in FNJ and was conducted by Jacqueline Park – the Asia Pacific Director.

I was there as the interpreter for Park and on the final day was a group project for the participants. One of the group comprising of experiened print journalists came up with the idea of citizen journalism. Although more of their session focused on how citizen can use the traditional media, I was impressed because I hadn’t hoped print journalists of that experience would came up with such an issue.

Their defination to citizen journalism: direct reach and participation of citizens in journalism which citizen use by directly sending news, views and opinion in the media.

They listed out benefits of citizen journalism. Some of the major benefits were active participation of citizen in journalism, citizen’s true feeling is raised, citizen’s love for media increases, newspapers do not need many staff reporters and increased sale of media.

Though throughout the discussion, blog was never mentioned, I loved the feeling of knowing that citizen journalism is not a very new concept and even the established journalists have begun feeling the need to integrate it for their benefits. Continue reading