Category Archives: Photo Gallery

City lights

There are countless hours of power cuts throughout the year. Evenings are usually dark and dismal. But then there is one night, the darkest of them all, when the city lights up. In that moment, we forget the darkness of the past and the numerable hours of load-shedding to follow in the coming days. We light the lamps, lit up the city and cherish the moment.

Let us enjoy the festival of lights. Let the lights reign over darkness. Happy Tihar.

DSC_0132

Tagged , ,

Photos: Training to become a Gurkha

Last June, while I was in Pokhara, I met some passionate young men who were training to prepare for the British Gurkha recruitment camp. Thousands of young hopefuls apply for the British Gurkha Army every year but a selected few are chosen after a rigourous recruitment process. I spent two days with these men who were giving their 100 percent to become the chosen ones. These photos are from an assignment in 2013. [Story link]

In Nepal, hundreds of young hopefuls have started to join pre-recruitment training institutions for the British Gurkha recruitment process. The training academies are like a mock-up of the actual recruitment camp, says Rahul Pandey, founder of Salute Gorkha, one such academy.

In Nepal, hundreds of young hopefuls have started to join pre-recruitment training institutions for the British Gurkha recruitment process. The training academies are like a mock-up of the actual recruitment camp, says Rahul Pandey, founder of Salute Gorkha, one such academy.

Rain or shine, these men believe in discipline and a strict training regiment, which they say will bring them a step closer to achieving their ultimate goal.

Rain or shine, these men believe in discipline and a strict training regiment, which they say will bring them a step closer to achieving their ultimate goal.

The British Gurkha selection process involves a number of physical activities that includes heaving, push-ups and the doko race among others.

The British Gurkha selection process involves a number of physical activities that includes heaving, push-ups and the doko race among others.

Hundreds of young Nepali men apply to join the British Gurkha every year.  In 2012, 6,134 men applied for 126 positions.

Hundreds of young Nepali men apply to join the British Gurkha every year. In 2012, 6,134 men applied for 126 positions.

Himal Shrees Magar from Rupandehi says he wants to be a Gurkha for the opportunities and benefits that comes with the position.

Himal Shrees Magar from Rupandehi says he wants to be a Gurkha for the opportunities and benefits that comes with the position.

 

At Salute Gorkha, about 150 men are undergoing a six-month training session. These men are applying for the British Army, as well as the Indian Army and Singapore Police.

At Salute Gorkha, about 150 men are undergoing a six-month training session. These men are applying for the British Army, as well as the Indian Army and Singapore Police.

They start their day from 5am and includes a rigorous, all-day training session.

They start their day from 5am and includes a rigorous, all-day training session.

As a part of the training, the men who are contesting for this year’s recruitment process do long and short distance run as well as cross country and speed distance running.

As a part of the training, the men who are contesting for this year’s recruitment process do long and short distance run as well as cross country and speed distance running.

Many young men say they are attracted toward the British Gurkha because of the good pay scale, prestige and the long-term benefits that comes with the position.

Many young men say they are attracted toward the British Gurkha because of the good pay scale, prestige and the long-term benefits that comes with the position.

The trainings are intense but these young men say they are ready to give their 100 percent and do whatever it takes to become a Gurkha.

The trainings are intense but these young men say they are ready to give their 100 percent and do whatever it takes to become a Gurkha.

This year [2013] will be the fourth and final attempt for Deepak Gurung from Tanahu. He says his hard work will pay off this recruiting season.

This year [2013] will be the fourth and final attempt for Deepak Gurung from Tanahu. He says his hard work will pay off this recruiting season.

Hundreds of young Nepali men apply to join the British Gurkha every year.  In 2012, 6,134 men applied for 126 positions.

Hundreds of young Nepali men apply to join the British Gurkha every year. In 2012, 6,134 men applied for 126 positions.

Tagged , , ,

Meeting the Living Goddess

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kathmandu is supposedly where the gods and goddesses once frequently visited. Locals say their presence is still strong in this city crowded with temples and shrines — the deities that once toured the valley now dwell in these temples. And to be precise, this modern metropolis that once was a fabled bed of civilization, is still home to the Living Goddess, Kumari.

A few months ago, my friend from London called me to know more about this tradition. She was interested in knowing about the relationship between goddesses and girls, and if worshipping these divine female forces empowered them.

Through another friend I managed to get the number of one of the former living goddesses, Chanira Bajracharya. I called her up. I wasn’t expecting a prompt or a positive response, but she agreed to meet.

A few days later, I walked through the busy inner street of Patan leading to the Durbar Square, trying to find Chanira’s house, which also used to be her temple. I called her four times maybe – I was a bit worried that I was already annoying her. But she was helpful in providing me with the directions. I later find out from Chanira that it’s difficult for her to give directions considering she didn’t step out of the house as a goddess until the age of 15.

Her younger brother greeted me at the door and led me through the dark staircase to the living room. It was dimly lit but the collage of photographs from Chanira’s Kumari days were strikingly visible on the wall.

As I was scanning the room, Chanira entered the room and smiled. She sat, kneeling on the floor. I explained her about my visit and soon we started talking. My friend from London was on the phone – she asked a series of questions and I added my own set of curiosities.

We talked about her days as a Kumari: how she felt as a goddess, did she feel some sort of power, if she had a connection with the goddess Taleju, who she is considered to be a manifestation of.

Sometimes she was quick in answering. At times she paused. She spoke softly and mostly fidgeted with the tip of her shawl or her fingers as she answered.

We then talked about her life after she retired as a living goddess: the transformation, the challenges, and most importantly how it was to be a mortal, like almost every one of us.

As we continued to talk, she eased herself. Then we chatted about school, her classes, friends, and her future. Currently, she is pursuing her undergraduate in business studies. She wants to become a banker.

Chanira told me that she was preparing for her exam the next day. I just thought it was the right time to wrap up the interview. I wished her luck with her studies and asked what would be the best way to contact her.

“You can call me or email,” she said giving her her email address.

And then she said: “You can also find me on Facebook.”

 

Here’s a short profile on Chanira I wrote for the South China Morning Post. 

Also, Isbabella Tree’s new book, The Living Goddess, is an insightful read. It not only details the history and culture of the Living Goddess in Nepal but also provides a good context to the subject starting right from the formation of the Kathmandu Valley to the future of Kumaris in the modern Nepal and everything in between. 

Tagged , , , ,

Nepal’s Female Community Health Volunteers

Kulsum Darji from Banke district is one of the 52,000 Female Community Health Volunteers who have helped relentlessly in improving the country's  key health indicators.

Kulsum Darji from Banke district is one of the 52,000 Female Community Health Volunteers who have helped relentlessly in improving the country’s key health indicators.

They are the unsung heroes of Nepal’s health sector.

In the last two decades, these women have supported in improving the country’s health standards from a community level – a cadre of 52,0000 Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHV) have actively aided in bettering the lives of mothers and children across the country’s 75 districts.

In its 25 years now, the Government of Nepal started the FCHV program in 1988 with support from international development agencies like USAID, UNICEF and UNFPA along with local non-government organizations. The main objective then was to have a representative from the community who would work for their community.

After more than two decades, these Female Community Health Volunteers work on the very principle of serving their community. However, their roles have expanded over the years – they’re not only health promoters but in some cases also health providers. From counseling young girls on sexual health to would-be-mothers on safer motherhood and healthy nutrition and contraceptives to treating and referring cases of pneumonia and acute respiratory infections to local health facilities, the FCHVs have played a vital role in saving lives.

What started as a community-based program is now a national pride.

Speaking at an event commemorating the silver jubilee anniversary, Minister for Health & Population Vidyadhar Mallik said the FCHVs have “helped the country in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and out Nepal in the global map of success.”

According to Dr. Kiran Regmi, Director of the Family Health Division that administers this program, FCHVs have contributed from the grassroots level and are working actively in places that are cut off from health facilities. She also credits them for helping the country to reduce the maternal, infant and under-five mortality rate.

According to Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011, infant mortality has declined by 42 percent and under-five mortality by 54 percent over the last 15 years. The maternal mortality rate has also seen a drastic slowdown between 1996 and 2006, from 539 to 281 deaths per 100,000 births.

This progress has made Nepal one of the few countries that are “on track” to meet the Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal and child mortality, as per the MDG Progress Report 2013.

However, as goals are being achieved, the grim realities of deaths and despair are still prevalent across the country – far many women are still dying of causes that are preventable, and still one in 22 babies die before the age of one, and one in every 19 children before their fifth birthday.

With FCHVs mobilized across the country, and by banking on this trusted cadre in the community, with more information and education, Nepal can set a post-2015 goal in not only decreasing maternal and child mortality but also other sectors.

For a majority of FCHVs, it’s the impact of their work they see in their community that motivates them to continue their voluntary service. The respect and recognition they have in society further pushes them to do what they’re doing.

In course of time, these women have emerged not only as homemakers but also one of the pillars in strengthening the country’s health system; they’ve also inspired and encouraged another generation of women through their work alongside. And that’s what sets them apart.

STORY:  South China Morning Post

VIDEO: Nepal’s Female Community Health Volunteers: Saving lives, empowering women

Photo feature: Republica The Week E-paper (Page 8 and 9) 

Tagged , , , ,

Up toward Everest Base Camp

In a two-day’s notice, I had to leave for Everest Base Camp. My colleague who was on assignment to cover the Everest Marathon couldn’t make it and so my editor passed on the duty to me.

Excited is the first word that comes to my mind if I were to define that exact moment — just four months into my first journalism gig, and I was being sent to EBC. And excruciating is how I would sum up the trek; but every little step I took toward the base camp of the world’s highest peak and all the running I did  to meet the deadlines is worth remembering.

As the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first ascent to Mt Everest by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary, the climbing season has been marked by a number of conquests and controversies — from the world’s highest brawl to the world’s highest agreement on that brawl, the world’s highest garbage site, the world’s highest traffic jam … and not to forget the deaths and notable human accomplishments.

Every year people come to climb the mighty peak. Each year records are made and also broken. Here’s a paragraph from Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea, which I think subtly summarizes mission Everest.

“Everest is a harsh and hostile immensity. Whoever challenges it declares war. He must mount his assault with the skill and ruthlessness of a military operation. And when the battle ends, the mountain remains unvanquished. There are no true victors, only survivors.”

Personally speaking, it’s a treacherous but a rewarding trek. With every meter, you’re stepping into a higher territory without knowing if you’ll be able to resist the altitude. However, it’s always comforting to reach the stop for that day, to be welcomed by a different peak and a sight to remember.

For a majority of us, Everest is a remote though – well, it’s not even a thought perhaps. And for most, I think base camp is the closest we can get. I’m glad that I did it but quite not sure if I’ll ever go up there again.

So when I say ‘a trip of  a lifetime,’ I think Everest Base Camp is what I would actually be referring to.

Here’s a collection of photos from my 2010 trek to Everest Base Camp. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tagged , , , ,

Instagramming Kathmandu

I’ve been on some sort of a writing break – haven’t really wrote anything or even have had the thought of writing anything.

I spend my days soaking up the warm winter sun in Kathmandu, mostly. Once bored, I usually go for walks – sometimes planned and at times just random.

As I walk, I usually complain about most of the stuff I see – no proper sidewalks, ill road manners, the stinking mountain of garbage, the dust, the smoke, this weird spitting habits of people …

But at the same time, I do appreciate the beauty of this city. And here are some shots taken from my cellphone, and of course Instagrammed.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Greetings from Kathmandu

ktmSo I have moved to Kathmandu, once again- back to my roots. This Nepalese nomad is on a temporary break from all the travelling, at least for a while.

Now, since I’m in this amazing city, this space will be home to my life and times in Kathmandu – this will include the good, bad and the ugly side of my hometown, and more.

Meanwhile, I will be continuing my reporting endeavours from Nepal. And of course, I will be on a lookout for another adventure in some part of the world.

For my past posts on Nepal, you refer to Notes from Nepal

If you’re on Instagram, you can follow me there: bibek_bhandari 

Tagged , ,

Snowin’ in London

photo (1)

It’s the first snowfall of the season in London, the first snowflakes of 2013.

As the temperature hovers around 1 degrees Celsius, and some parts of the UK blanketed in snow, it’s lucky enough to be stay indoors, sipping some hot chocolate.

I know it’s just another cold day in London. But coming from a place where it never snows, the white flakes are something of an excitement; it’s thrilling if I were to exaggerate my feelings. But as the ground gets covered in snow and soon the white surface turns muddy and dirty, it might just be a different thrill then.

For now, I’ll enjoy the snow while it lasts.

Read my last year’s post, including the photo gallery ‘Let It Snow.’

Also, from the archives, here’s a short piece I did for Westminster News Online.

Tagged , , ,

London Sunset

London Sunset

 

The Little Black Jacket lands in London

In “Lagerfeld Confidential,” a documentary about Chanel’s creative director and design head, Karl Lagerfeld talks how his interest in photography germinated: He wanted to break away from the prototype, be in control of the shoots and moreover present an artistic side in his photographs.

Lagerfeld’s photo series titled “The Little Black Jacket” currently being exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in London proves just that.

The subject of the photo series is Chanel’s little black jacket — and yes, it’s just one jacket. But the jacket has been presented in more than 80 different ways; in every photo the jacket jumps on your face but in a different way.

Models, actors, actresses, musicians and designers have worn this Chanel classic in a striking fashion: American actress Dakota Fanning pairs it with a white evening gown while Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t even wearing it but rather waving the jacket, and Dutch model Mark Vanderloo perfectly couples the jacket atop his boxers, revealing his bare chest.

Among other celebrities who have effortlessly ensemble the little black jacket with their designer wear are American Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, fashion designer Alexander Wang, musicians Theophilus London and Kanye West, and one of the most prominent one, Waris Ahluwalia in his striking beard, turban and the jacket, of course.

But while the celebrities make a visibly prominent appearance in the photos, it’s the little black jacket that steals the show.

One piece of clothing from Chanel, countless looks and very camera-friendly celebrities — that sums up the experience.

If you’re in London, highly recommended; the exhibition runs until November 4.  If not, the “The Little Black Jacket” is on tour.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: