Jul 21, 2013

Vignettes of Dolpa

When Hanuman flew up to the mountain, he saw so many valuable medicines and beautiful flowers that he was dazzled, and decided to carry the entire mountain back to the battlefield. Just for a small piece of Sanjeevani that would revive Laxman. When I walk out of my tent in Jumla to begin the day’s walk, I am in a similar daze. There are blue, purple, white, pink, yellow and red (and shades of them that I cannot name) flowers on the ground, gently blowing in the breeze. Apart from being overwhelmed by the realization that I would literally walk on flowers all day, surrounded by miles and miles of land carpeted in flowers , I could not help but be awed by the magic of the place. This was the high alpines, home to the rarest of the rare herbs. Yarsagumba, the famed half-plant, half-animal Himalayan aphrodisiac, Chiraito, Panchaunle, and many, many other things that I cannot name. Each of them a Sanjeevani, in a manner of speaking. Any of them could be on the ground in front of me, gently blowing in the breeze,  and I would never know. Hanuman, I know exactly how you felt.



***

The houses in Dolpa come upon you suddenly, even though they had been there all the time. Once you do the inevitable double take and begin observing the houses, you realize why. They are made of the exact same materials as the surrounding hillside: the building blocks of the houses are of the same brown-grey mud that the hills are made of. And since there are no trees or grass to break the flow in this barren land (it gets little rain because it lies behind the Himalayas which monsoon clouds cannot progress beyond, hence the barrenness), the houses look just like outsized rocks stacked together. And in some areas (like Dho Tarap, human settlement in the highest altitude in the world) it doesn’t help that the major part of the house is underground, leaving only the roof, and at most a couple feet of the walls, sticking outside of ground. These underground houses are supposed to be weather resistant, and have an underground system of connection so that its residents do not have to come over ground in the extremely harsh winters that Dolpa can have.

Can you spot the houses?

Howard Roark only lives in the pages of Ayn Rand’s book Fountainhead, but he could as well have built the houses in Dolpa. Howard Roark dislikes glass skyscrapers, rejects false fronts on American buildings that pretend to give a European feel, and thinks Greek style palladiums should be made only in Greece. That is because he believes that buildings should be constructed for the environment they are in, made of local materials that are best suited for the locality, and only then can fulfill the true purpose of their existence. His odd-looking cylindrical petrol pump is the most convenient one that anyone has ever used, because it does away with all the frills, and is streamlined to be anything and everything a petrol-pump to be but nothing else. And when Roark builds a palace on the hills, he makes of the exact same red-brick material as the hills, at once indistinguishable and unique, that is the most comfortable living quarters anyone has ever made. Roark must have gotten his inspiration from traditional houses—such as the ones in Dolpa—built from centuries of experience and folklore that end up making dwellings that are best suited for their purpose, no more and no less. It is almost impossible to believe that Rand has never been to Dolpa!

***
All nine of the Nazguls on their thundering steeds, chasing a wounded Frodo gasping for breath on a lame looking horse. He is picked by the regal Arwen on her horse, and together they cross a slight rivulet, straight into Rivendell. Arwen turns to look at the Nazul, so near, in a triangular formation made for speed. She slowly mumbles a chant in Elvish, and suddenly, she summons up a flood.  Water higher than her came crashing down from a corner, surprising the Nazgul and blowing their horses, so that they are stranded on the other side.



Turn a corner in in the Far West. Turn any cover, and Arwen’s flood comes gushing out at you. As you follow the river Suli and Tila in Jumla, and Phoksundo (in Jumla) and you can watch them turn incredible corners, make incredible waterfalls. If Peter Jackson had decided to film Lord of the Rings in Nepal, he would not even had to digitize the flood. Because the far west of Nepal has every kind of body of water: slow moving rivulets, thundering waterfalls, gentle rivers, and even a deep, romantic lake that he could have used for Frodo’s departure to the middle earth.


And it is not just Arwen’s flood. Dolpa has the other worldly quality that just tell you that it is the home of fantasy. Kanjirowa that thunders all night with avalanches reminded me of the Mines of Moria where the Fellowship was trapped. Who knows what caves and treasures and Balrogs its hides? The bare beauty of grey hills, perfect for Mordor, home of the Dark Lord Sauron. The cheerful valley of Saldang that could be Rivendell, beauty amidst barrenness.

Peter Jackson, you really should have come to Dolpa. We have everything that could have made Lord of the Rings even more magical than it is.

***


Because that is one thing Dolpa does, make you feel like you are in a magical world. When you do not see a car, a bus, or a television for days, no wires clog your roads, and few plastic wrappers of food pollute the road, it is easy to believe that you are in a different world altogether. When the tinkle of yak bells accompanies you on roads, when in the midst of wilderness you come across gleaming monasteries with artwork containing demons, gods, and angels, it is easy to believe that the world is full of magic!

Published in Folio magazine
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3 comments:

Govinda Raj Bhattarai said...

serene great and awe inspiring exp. in a befitting words and syntax, all natural

Ruck Fules said...

So envious !! And the pictures !

Ruck Fules said...

I mean I'm envious... In case you didn't get it :P

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