Nepal: Its Breathtaking Extremes, Resilience, and History of Tolerance

Nestled between China and India, cradled by a wide swath of the Himalayas, lies landlocked Nepal, a country of stunning extremes.

Eight of the world’s tallest mountains lie within its borders, the most famous peak being Mt. Everest. Nepal is also home to the world’s deepest gorge ( Kali Gandaki Gorge), its highest valley ( Arun Valley), and a significant number of snow leopards, Bengali tigers, exotic birds, and flowers.

The spectacle doesn’t end with its natural beauty. Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha and the only country with a living goddess ( Kumari). Despite having over 80 ethnic groups and 123 languages, not a single drop of blood has ever been shed over religious or ethnic differences. Nepal has never been colonized and is the only country in the world whose flag is shaped from two triangles. An interesting spectator sport in Nepal is elephant polo.

Tragedy

In a country of extremes, nature can also be cruel. In April of 2015, two earthquakes killed more than 8,500 people in Nepal. The country is still reeling from this disaster. Damaged by the quake, Kathmandu’s famous pagoda, Kasthamandap, collapsed. Built in 1596 by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla, the two-story structure was made entirely of wood, and used no iron nails nor supports. Legend claims a single tree provided all the timber needed to build it.

Additionally, a political problem between the people of Kathmandu and those who reside in the south of the country has resulted in a blockade of critical goods from India, further affecting those trying to emerge from the aftermath of the earthquakes.

Unexpected Reunion

For months I tried to locate a contact in Nepal to interview for this blog. I got close twice. Then, as often happens, someone appeared in my life when I least expected it. This time, it was someone I had met a long time ago. His name is Amjol. Earlier this year, I wrote about our surprise reunion at a local cafe.

Amjol kindly put me in touch with Manmohan, who graciously agreed to tell me about life in Nepal. Thank you, Amjol.

Manmohan

Manmohan, Amjol’s father-in-law, is a retired civil servant. For twenty-five years, he worked for the Nepalese Forestry Department. He currently lives in Lal Colony Marg, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Interview With Manmoha

Please look out your window and tell me what you see?

Other than trees and my neighbor’s home, I see the Palace Wall that surrounds the Royal Palace. This was the home of our once King of Nepal: King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya.

Were you in Nepal during the earthquake? If so, can you tell us about that experience?

I was at my home in Kathmandu during the earthquake. The trees and buildings were shaking and some of the buildings and temples had collapsed. My two-story house survived the quake because it was built with concrete. Unfortunately, our brick gate that surrounds our house had collapsed.

What worries you the most for your country?

The political instability and gas scarcity due to an embargo by the southern neighboring county worries me the most for my country. Currently, the black market is selling petrol gasoline. Recently, my daughter informed me that there was a two day wait at the gasoline station.

What gives you hope?

The preaching of Lord Buddha. Great suffering can be followed by great compassion. I am hoping that this great calamity will be followed by a more modern Nepal in the near future.

What makes you most proud to be Nepalese?

The fact that Lord Buddha was born in Nepal makes me proud to be Nepalese. Furthermore, Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world lies in Nepal.

What is the most unique thing about life in Nepal?

The verities of ethnic people living in the small country are the most unique things about Nepal. For example, Newar, Rai, Limbu, Magars, Sherpas, Gurung, are just a few names of the many ethnic groups in Nepal.

If I came to your home in Nepal for dinner, what would you serve me?

I would serve Nepalese food for dinner. For example, rice, dal (lentil soup with spices), and tarkari (vegetable curry). The tarkari can be anything from spinach to potatoes. Also, we would eat momo (steamed dumpling) with acaar (tomato, spicy condiment).

Who or what inspires you?

The almighty God inspires me.

What is your opinion of the United States? Chicago?

The United States is a freely developed and democratic country. I went to graduate school at Michigan State (1968–1970). I learned that Americans often express their freedom locally through town hall meetings. I noticed, however, that many Americans are ill-informed about the world outside the United States.

What myth or stereotype about Nepal would you like to set straight?

Superstition prevalent in the rural community in Nepal should be removed.

What do you want the world to know about Nepal?

I want the world to know that Nepal is a mountainous and developing country. The people of Nepal value the simple life free from unnecessary stress and anxiety.

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Originally published at http://www.chicagonow.com.