Travellers are full of stories. Everytime we visit a new place, we see and learn new things and who doesn’t like to share unique experiences? We all do in one way or another. I love talking to my grandparents to hear about their experiences, it gives me an opportunity to peek into the historic era they lived in. Unfortunately, I never talked with Baajya about his travel tales when he was in this world(and I don’t know why). But whenever I am with my Hajur Bua, I pester him to tell me about his travel tales.
One of the things I’m most interested in knowing is about his journey from my ancestral home in Dhading district to Kathmandu, which took several days to complete during those times. I have asked him many times to tell me about his journey from Dhading to Kathmandu and every time I listen to this story, it amazes me more and more.
My Jiju Bua, married his eldest daughter to a scholar in Kathmandu. After Thulo Fufu was married, it opened a door for my Hajur Bua to travel to Kathmandu. During those days, it was very common to send your children to stay at your relatives’ place to study. So, Jiju Bua sent Hajur Bua to study in Kathmandu city as the only modern school in Nepal was located in Kathmandu(Durbar High School).
The journey from Dhading to Kathmandu was made on foot. Usually a bunch of people who had to go to the city waited for a convenient time so that they all could travel together in a group. These people were traders who brought in everyday commodity to the village, students who studied in the city or people who travelled to visit their relatives in the city. A journey would typically start by Juju Muwa putting tika on Hajur Bua’s forehead and blessing him for the successful completion of the journey. Hajur Bua said that she would also pack a small bag of rice, a bottle of ghee and some dried vegetables for the journey. They would start from the hilltop and descend downwards to catch a road that would connect them to the capital city. I don’t exactly know if it was a “road” or just a walking trail because every time I ask Hajur Bua to describe the road, he would say it is not remotely close to the present day highway but it was a well establish trail which the traders and travellers would use frequently to travel from India and other parts of Nepal to the capital city. The descent from the hill was mostly the famous hilly terrain of Nepal in Dhading district. If they start the journey in the morning, by evening they would reach the lowlands which is called “Besi” in Nepali. They would have to spend the night at the Besi as travelling during night time was not possible. On this Hajur Bua said that during those days, it was very important to reach Besi before the sunset as there would be fear of wild animals after the sunset. On reaching Besi, they would request for “Bass” or shelter to the village people at Besi. The travelling group would then borrow utensils from them, fetch firewoods in the nearby forest and prepare their meals of rice, ghee and dried vegetables like Gundruk that they have brought along with them. I asked Hajur Bua if the village people asked anything in return for staying at their house, to this he said, they would leave the remaining rice/ghee if the journey was of one night and if not they would give a portion of the commodities to them. I was truly moved by this system based on understanding and basic human instinct of helping each other.
I also inquired if there were any robbers or if they were scared of anything while travelling. On this Hajur Bua smiled and said we didn’t know of anything called as robbery, the fact that one person could rob another person was alien to the people of Gaun and Besi(village and lowland). At this point, both me and Hajur Bua drifted into the conversation of how the people of Nepal have changed over time. Then he giggled slightly and said, there was no fear of one human harming another human but we were scared of Ghosts and Monsters. There were several stories of fire monsters who walked on forest after sunset called “Raken Bhoot” and some other monsters that he talked about which I do not re-call at this point. I slightly teased Hajur Bua and asked if he believed if they existed. On this he said smiling, I don’t know if I believed in them or not but our elders always shared stories of how they encountered certain Monsters and he was definitely scared of them then.
Going back to the journey, after spending the night at Besi, they would set off early at dawn and head to the capital city. It would take whole day for them to reach the main road that would link them directly to Kathmandu. Again, they would take shelter in some village, cook their food and spend the night there. The next day, they would start their journey early in the morning. On this day, they would meet many travellers/traders going towards Kathmandu. Most of them would be carrying different kinds of goods from India. Hajur Bua said with excitement, they even carried vehicles in large wooden logs during those times! Then he continued, the last few hours of the journey were the toughest as they had to cross several hills before they could enter the Kathmandu valley. Some would fall sick and they would find people resting as some of them had walked for many days at this point. Then by the evening of this day, they would reach Kathmandu valley crossing many hills and forests. And this is how my Hajur Bua came to the capital city to study. He further said that Kathmandu valley was nothing like what it is today. There was very less population in the valley and places like Maharajgunj and Kamaladi was a forest. Since Thulo Fufu’s house was in Thamel, he stayed there for some years to study at Durbar High School. Next time I visit Hajur Bua, I will surely asked him to tell me the story about his life in Kathmandu during those days :).
I love spending time with Hajur Bua to hear about many of his simple yet profound experiences of his times. I think my Hajur Bua was around 14-15 years old when he made this journey to the capital city on foot. After the story, he would say, how times have changed now and how everything is so convenient these days.
I leave you with this picture of Gorkha hills from the Facebook page “Ancient Nepal” and leave the rest to your imagination!!:)
Reference of characters:
Jiju Bua: My Dad’s grandfather
Jiju Muwa: My Dad’s Grandmother
Hajur Bua: My grandfather(Dad’s Dad)
Baajya: Maternal Grandfather
Thulo Fufu: My Dad’s Aunt/Hajur Bua’s eldest sister