People, “You are Newar!”
People: “You have not pierced your nose.”
Me: “I did it twice and both the times I got horrible reaction because of nose-pin”
People, “Madam are you from Darjeeling?”
Me, “Ah No, actually I am from…..”
People, “Ah ok Dharan!!”
Me, “No, I am a Kathmandunian, born and brought up here”
People, “So you are proper- Kathmandunian? But your accent is so Darjeeling”
Me, “Yeah I grew up with Darjeelingey.”
These are the two questions people randomly ask me upon chatting or meeting me in person.
If I like the first timers I am chatting with, I tell them the story of my roots of Gorkha. How my grandfather left his land to become an Indian Army, married his first wife and settled in Darjeeling. When his wife passed away after giving birth to their second child, he decided to return to Nepal, not to go to Gorkha but settle in Kathmandu after marrying his second wife (my grandmother), buy acres of land behind Nirmal Niwas at Maharajgunj, then reproduce few more children, 5, to be precise. My father is second born, Maila.
This story, however, does not justify why I look like Newar and do not have nose pierced or my Darjeeling accent.
Despite Gorkha being my ancestral town forever, November 2018 was the second time I landed there. I think my dad and uncles went there only a couple of times in their lifespan of 60 years. And I doubt my grandfather ever went back after his family feud with his older brother, not regarding property, but because of his sons. My granddad has 4 sons and his brother had none, only daughters. One day, my granduncle said, See Bhakta (that’s my grandfather’s name) I have no sons to carry my name forward and you have four, how about you give me one of them, and you have three, which is still plenty. Mr. Bhakta thought why not, my poor brother has all the rights to have a son too. He calculated who he could give away. Prakash, the first son, I can’t give him away because he already lost his mother at birth now he cannot lose his father too, bad psychology can kill my son. Pralad, the second son but technically first son from his second wife so I can definitely give him away. Amir, the third son, my wife is fond of him so he cannot go either. Finally Niru the last one, how can I give up my Kancho Choro (youngest child)? He was not ready to pass any of his sons on to his brother and this is how they stopped talking to or visiting each other.
Granddad built his own little world in Kathmandu leaving everything of Gorkha behind and so did his brother out there.
This is a perfect example of how the arrogance of two men can deplete/isolate families.
Two sisters traveled to Gorkha as a one-night and two days excursion there, probably after 20 years. Yes, we were school children when we went there as a family visit to our distant relatives after finishing our Manakaman trip during our winter holidays. Back then it was 4 hours hike up to the temple, no Austrian Cable-Car luxury. Then, walking uphill was fun, all six of us were competing with one another to reach the top first. Six meaning, mom, dad, and us 4 siblings.
I recall it was all stairway walking up and down and when we reached Gorkha we all suffered nausea upon seeing more stairs to reach our ancestral home. But this time it was either a Hiace ride or a Taxi ride to everywhere possible. Be it Kalika Temple, Gorkha Palace, Gorkha Museum or Aam-Danda.
We got off a stop ahead of Gorkha Bazaar, where my sister-in-laws’ relatives lived. She was waiting for us with lunch prepared. It was delicious and warm. We chatted for a while and then went off to Aam-Danda, again, my sister-in-laws’ relatives, grandparents to be precise. Aam-Danda got its name from Mango Grooves. Apparently, all the hills surrounding the valley are mango grooves and nobody there is fond of mangoes but only monkeys are. They eat them and drop them off all over the earth way before they are ripe.
It was the prettiest house in Gorkha that was perched on a hill and served the most magnificent views of all the soaring peaks of Annapurna, Manaslu, and Ganesh Himal, on any given clear day, and clearly, that day was not the day, because we saw cracks of mountains trying to peek out of clouds. (Too bad I didn’t make any photo of the house.) I can imagine myself living there all my life if there was access to the Internet and my Mac. You know I am a freelancer and I do not have to attend everyday office. This is the second place after Kuwepani in Parbat I was enchanted about. All the hills had clustered houses of 10-15 in number that looked like hanging on cliffs amongst the woods.
The next day, we bid goodbye to the family after breakfast to go to Gorkha Palace and Museum. Oh, I almost forgot about the important food that we had not eaten since we were children. It was Bighauti, condensed first milk of cow or buffalo. One of the buffaloes had borne calf early that morning, in fact before dawn. My sister despite being lactose intolerant savored bighauti.
We drove out of the beautiful Aam-Danda in the Taxi from yesterday, who had come to pick us up. We drove all the way up to the Gorkha Palace, which I clearly recall walking a never-ending stone-steps stairway snaking up to the hill, in our previous visit. After walking through a small forest enclosure “Kali ban”, we arrived at Prithivi Narayan Shah’s Durbar (Palace), and to my dismay, there was no palace at all. On the left side was, Kalika Temple, still standing, where a Pujari (Priest) was giving everyone tika and prasad while a group of school kids on their educational tour took selfies in what I call Durbar-remains. I politely asked priests if we could see Goddess’ face, he smiled and said, looking at Goddess was forbidden, only Kings of Nepal and him priest are allowed the scene, other than them would die upon beholding Kalis terrible image. Wow! As I maneuvered my eyes towards the right, there was nothing beside bamboo skeleton with tarp-blankets that was marked “Gorkha Palace”. It has been under construction or maybe under negligence since Earthquake-2015. Nothing in the country has seen any progress of restorations besides Bouddha and Gaddi Baithak of Kathmandu, although it’s almost 4 years since the earthquake shook us.
Same was the problem with Ram Shah Statue, for some reason he was caged as a protection measure from bird poops or maybe he complained about visitors being too tactile. Whatever the reason, it killed the beauty of the King sitting at his Chautara (a resting platform usually under a tree).
We then walked to Siddha Paila who everybody mistakenly called Sita Paila, which was on an adjacent hill. We saw the tarp-wrapped Gorkha Durbar and Manaslu range from there. What I like about going to hilly places is I can see mountains, not that we do not have a mountain view in Kathmandu. When one climbs road bridges at New Road, one can see Dorje Lhakpa Himal towering over the valley. And for me, if I climb atop the 4th storey of my house where the water tank is, I can see a few mountain peaks behind the Shivapuri hill. Siddha Paila “Feet of Perfected Being”, it is where one’s wish would be granted when followed a proper procedure of boon-asking and asked with sincerity. “Fold your hands into namaste, close your eyes, make three spins on the spot and guess target to place your folded hands in between lord’s feet” and that can bring all your wishes to come true. I wish I could show you demo here. I did, not just tried, and passed, now waiting for my wishes to be granted.
Gorkha Museum was our final destination before bidding adieu to the city, again we drove there. We walked around, inside, outside and explored every nook and corner of the museum with awe. What I generally love about these kinds of places is just about reading anything historical. I then quickly and fondly revisited the time I went to Kathmandu Durbar Square Museum in 2014, where I extensively learned about the three Shah Kings, Tribhuwan, Mahendra and our beloved Late Birendra as I was looking at things from Prithivi Narayan Shah’s period. I don’t miss any captions below photos and things, oftentimes correcting spellings in my head while reading them. There was a section within the gallery where there hung paintings from ancient times; the Nalapani war, Ram Shah giving his verdict sitting at his Chautara, Prithivi Narayan Shah with his courtiers etc. I mean there were a few paintings only but it took me quite a while to get out of the section because I wanted to soak each of them in my mind as photos were forbidden. How I wish I could bring all those paintings magically somehow and paste them on this blog to share with you.
I read lots of blogs and book sections on Gorkha before embarking on the journey. I wish we had more time on hand to hike the famous Ali Bhanjyang and Khanchok Bhanjyag like David Reed mentions in his book. Read a book sitting at the courtyard of my relative’s beautiful house at Aam-Danda while basking under Winter Sun. Take an evening walk with uncle, learn more about his village, and stop by his friends’ house for green tea. Learn to feed fodder to live stocks and sow vegetables and the bucket list goes on.