The city of Pokhara was just about to wake up from its sleep when we caught the bus (the only one for the day) to Salme Bhanjyang. A woman with her malnourished child, a farmer with his tray of hybrid chicks and a number of villagers who had had been to Pokhara for smallest of their matter were to share the journey with us.
We, eight high school boys, with boxes of new books and three sets of computers, were into a mission of establishing a library in a school in Pas Gaun, aremote hilly village. As the bus was ascending the steep hill through the bumpy roads, our excitement and enthusiasm and had no limits. We were calculating in our minds, ‘within three hours the bus will make it to Salme and we would start our five hours uphill walk to Pas Gaun.’
But our calculation was soon to be proved incorrect. To our dismay, the driver had no choice than shutting the engine of his rustic four-wheeler in response to the landslide ahead. There was no chance for us to continue our journey until and unless an excavator comes to our rescue. The passengers were recounting the experience of the past landslides where they had to spend a whole day waiting for the excavator. The crowd was busy over speculations but our team could see nothing than those late nights effort to write the proposals, manage sponsors and negotiate with our teachers and parents to get the permission all going in vain.
We were completely hopeless until a young guy in the crowd came up with an idea of working together in removing the debris. He saw that the vehicle had few pairs of shovels and axes with which we could clear the debris. He asked if everyone there could stretch their helping hand. The people had neither wanted to spend the whole night in middle of nowhere nor wait for the excavator which could take days to arrive. One by one the passengers took the tools and started their mission. Dejected we were, but seeing the crowd working tirelessly to make the way inspired us to put the effort. As the shovels and axes did their job, the roads started appearing again. Finally, after five hours of struggle, the wheels finally rolled over the road again to take us to Salme.
The dawn was approaching when we finally reached Salme. We were tired after hours of travel but the overwhelming welcome from the group of students and teachers encouraged us to continue the journey. As we walked step by step, it started getting darker. Few torch lights and the flash light of our phone running under the low battery were only hopes for us in the gloomy night. Situation would not have been so worse had there been no rainfall. However, the heavy downpour made the road so slippery that we had to be careful of every steps we walked. Additionally, the leeches were there to add misery among the pact of eight helpless young guns whose only aim was to set up a library in a long-forgotten village.
Our condition was unimaginable when we set our first step into Pas Gaun. We were exhausted and hungry and badly bitten by the leeches. But the whole village was waiting us eagerly. It was almost midnight but they were patiently waiting in Thati (a public gathering place) to welcome us.
We spent three days in the village and we arranged the library with our books and computers. The students were eager to read the laminated books and operate the computers. As much as the kids, their parents expressed gratitude towards us. They shared their stories of hardship and the tales of their life. Despite the remote settings and being deprived from so many of the modern facilities, they were content. In absence of proper road, the village had to face many problems mainly during monsoon. On one of the conversation an old-man from the village said, “If someone has serious medical emergency during monsoon, we have no option than chartering a helicopter. “
The difficulty that we went through while reaching there seemed trivial to the happiness and satisfaction we got. Within few days of our stay, we could feel some kind of attachment towards the village. The cultural night they had organized for not only gave us chance to observe the Gurung culture but invited us to dance in the beat of Salaijyo. At the time of bidding goodbye, we couldn’t hide our tears which they understood as a promise to return again.
It has already been more than two years since I visited Pas Gaun. Personally, Pas Gaun journey wasn’t an end for me but a sweet beginning. The garlands and the hugs from the people of Pas Gaun were motivation to continue traveling and learning from the experiences. The journey taught me very important lesson: “Once you travel, it isn’t only the nature you explore, but the life of wonderful and loving people who are there to make your journey memorable.”
Prashant Bhandari currently studies Economics and Mathematics at Kenyon College, Ohio.