“Now everybody writes an essay on-Our Country Nepal in 300 words. For this! I will give you 30 minutes.” Watching at his wrist, my social studies teacher gave us the class assignment. I was ready with my notebook and ink-pen and started to write that cliché line “Nepal is a beautiful country with high mountains and hills. Nepal is also known as Mountainous country and an even highest mountain of the earth, Mt. Everest lies here…” To make it to 300 words, I would add about how Nepal is culturally rich and use lots of prepositions.
Trust me, My essay used to be one of the best essays to be presented in the class and I even used to complete it first but I never realized I was always neglecting the key part of Nepal in my line and that was The Terai. I know the highest 8 mountains of the world lies in Nepal and I also know their respective height but the only thing I remember about The Terai before visiting was “It is the granary of Nepal”. I pity those books who confined Terai as only the Granary when it is much more than that.
In those 8 days, we visited around 6 different districts of Terai Region and every time we met different people in each district. They were so accepting and were happy to help us know their culture and lifestyle. People were so friendly that when we stayed with a Muslim family in Rautahat we made so much noise by dancing and singing, we thought we will be kicked out but no they gave us so much love than we expected. Another incident at the same district, we had to facilitate a pad making session at Madarsha (Muslim School)which has a very strict rule. We were worried that girls there won’t open up about these things but when we took time and interacted, they were so engaged in the session and they were so happy to hear that we came from so far because outsiders don’t usually visit those places. I always used to be scared when I used to hear about Muslims but I now see them with the same care and love I received from them. Similarly, when we visited a Majhi community at Makwanpur, they provided us Majhi dress and we could also explore the tools they used for fishing which was very fascinating. They were very open-minded and interacted with us so well. “Chaath” for me was a two-day holiday but I realized its importance after visiting Terai. For them, it’s a Bada Dashain but the difference is it isn’t considered a national festival. For them, it is the excuse of buying new clothes and enjoying after lots of hard work in their farming. There are lots of sentiments attached to it and they celebrate with great respect and pride. They are also accepting and are happy to have us in their culture but the big question is Are we that accepting too?
The way my first line of essay neglected Terai, almost every individuals of Terai feels neglected by the rest of us and sadly it is the reality. Why aren’t we proud to say our Terai as much as we are when we say our mountains and hills? Sadly we are only known by our mountains and hills, not our lowland Terai which has such a diverse culture, high possibility of tourism, rich hospitality and hardworking and humble people. Madhesh Andolan wasn’t just because of some conspiracy of the neighbouring country but it was because rest of us weren’t accepting. Terai is the heart of Nation and we all need to understand us for creating better Nepal. That’s why we need to understand each other, explore each other and shouldn’t judge on the basis of assuming. Terai was way too different and way better than my stereotypical thoughts I was able to change my perspective through travelling and I would like to convey that “Travelling does make difference!”