The problem with Nepal is that there are too many Nepals.
There is the capital-centric Nepal; there is another Nepal, countless Nepals in different levels within the bubble called Kathmandu; there is the donor driven Nepal where development and sustainability seems to go hand in hand; there is a progressive Nepal where people talk about development in ways that everything can be achieved.
But amid all these Nepals, many of us hardly tend to look at real Nepal. And every time I cross the peripheries of the city, I see bits and pieces of real Nepal—the Nepal that hasn’t been fictionalized.
I haven’t travelled extensively within my own country, but from what I’ve seen and experienced in these past years has certainly given me a sense of what actual Nepal is like.
So how do I define real Nepal?
Poverty. Illiteracy. Lack of infrastructure…and the list continues. And that’s true.
When you cross the cities, big concrete buildings slowly transform into small, muddy huts. The luxuries of modern transportation are limited to bullock carts. Getting to a hospital is a two-day walk.
As I travelled through southwest Nepal this time, I could see everything that constituted a real Nepal. In this small village of Badarpur, people smiled as they talked of their problems as if they weren’t any problems.
I met a couple who had just recuperated from a disease that they didn’t know about for five years. The wife was living with a condition called fistula that she developed due to long and obstructed labor. Fistula is condition that leads to a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention. (A story I did on fistula in May)
Her baby died for it took her more than 24 hours to get to the hospital, and even when she reached the hospital, the local hospital referred her to a district hospital, which again asked her to go to a bigger facility in the city.
As a result her unborn child died and for the next five years she lived with urine leakage because of fistula. She said she couldn’t get out of the house because it use to “stink.”
The couple talked about their problems and how they finally managed to overcome after they found about a free health camp that cured their woes.
This woman’s story is only a representation of what’s happening in rural Nepal—hundreds of women and newborns dying due to lack of awareness and also health facilities.
While situations as such gives a grim picture of what real Nepal is like, not everything seems dark and gray.
During the same trip, I met a group of young people actively engaging in the community. These young men and women, in their 20s, talked about sexual and reproductive health. As a part of a program called YPEER, a youth-to-youth initiative, they were involved in making their community aware about the issues—from sexual and reproductive health to maternal problems and how to tackle them. I also met a group of college students in Rajapur, few of them who talked about these issues without any hesitation.
And while talking to these young people, you can see their enthusiasm. They know what they’re talking about, and they’re clear on what they want to do.
As a section of the country is facing problems, it was good to see that a small part within the same community was trying to solve those problems in their own ways.
Information and communication is important to drive a community forward. And it was good to see some people, young people, involved in this regardless of any political of self-vested interests.
The real Nepal is full of problems and there are too many issues to be addressed. What I have addressed here is just a minute representation. But at the same time, real Nepal is also about a group of people in every community who are working to make it better and make lives better in their community.
Most of the times, we just tend to see the unreal aspect of the real Nepal, mostly clouded with crisis. We tend to overlook the changes, though very small but significant.
As I travelled, though the images of a grim, real Nepal was depressing. But it was encouraging to see young people at least making an effort from their side to make a difference in their communities.
Yes, real Nepal is full of problems, but at the same time, real Nepal also has people trying to solve these problems.