REAL Men for Rural Transformation at Ghandruk

REAL Men for Rural Transformation at Ghandruk

by Radha Paudel
Kisam Gurung and Devi Prasad Paudel at Gurung Cottage, Ghandruk

Kisam Gurung is Role Model for rural Transformation, Eco Tourism, Community development, Sustainable development and Peace building. He returned to his organic village after graduation from Gandaki Boarding school 20 years back. He is the first person who started the tourism in Ghandruk. See below story for more details.

Kisam’s wife, myself, Kisam and dad 

Devi Prasad Paudel, my dad, 80 years old  never ever school going old man with same level of energy. He sent his six children by doing his labour work, he was poor by money but rich by passion and commitment. He was orphan and worked as cook man in government employee. He is so wise that he equally distributed his property to his late wife, married and unmarried daughters, son and himself. He is honest, never tired to fight against discrimination no matter whether he is alone or with supporters. He is still very active in farm, grows three seasonal crops in a year though he is taking three types of medicine for his lungs, stomach, eyes, and feet. He lives in Chitwan but travelled many districts of the country including Bangkok.

Kisum, his wife  and me

Miteri: A mutual Love and Respect Beyond Blood and Marriage
Jan 9, 2016, I am at Gurung Cottage, Ghandruk which is owned by Kisam Gurung. I never ever met him physically but I am so bonded with him while he called me after reading my book `Khalangama Hamal’ about 2 years back. I considered him as my MEET brother as envisioned by Action Works Nepal or a mutual love and respect beyond blood and marriage. He found my contact through the popular singer and artist Amrit Gurung who is his school class fellow when he was studying at Gandaki Boarding School Pokhara.  Indeed, Ghandruk is one of my dreamed destination since long but it was not made due to various reasons.

Means of Trust and Communication with Dad:
Even this time, I am here very accidently. My dad is getting more sick since 2013 when he had swine flu and spent 2 weeks in ICU. He has other chronic sickness since long and also have depression after death of my mother 2009. But he is not much expressive specially with me. I only listened but not neither support nor argue while he was sharing the family matters. In most cases, I remained always passive listener. Further, he doesn’t trust me more due to my voluntary work or he thought that I couldn’t do anything because I don’t have any income or support (single). Even I telephoned him rarely. In the beginning, I called him rarely because I am travelling too much in such areas where I hadn’t have connection. Even during my international trip, I can’t telephone him and he hadn’t had internet so I tried to cultured him in less connection.
Now days, I myself feeling depressed for long time, I don’t like to share anything and also didn’t find anyone whom I trust and help me out. It is fully associated with my organization (Action Works Nepal).  Sometimes, I showed concerned while my sisters talked about dad specially from Samjhna. I always felt guilt that I amn’t paying attention on him and always promised for improving my habit. Again, my working areas and commitment, I unable to make it as I promised. When the time came, I always thought that I am not only his daughter, he has four daughters but I have hundreds of dads and daughters. I told same to my mom when she was alive.

When I returned from Dandapari, Kavre, post-earthquake relief work, Jan 6, 2016, I had called him. It was already 10 days of not communicating. Even I didn’t call him in English New year 2016. Earlier, I had called even during valentine day in order to break his silence as well as educate him with all sorts of cultures. My mobile hadn’t have connection but I didn’t use other phone which was used by other colleagues that was purchased by office. He responded, oh ho, where were you ? How much busy you were? I was just hurt and felt so bad and decided to go home. I couldn’t speak much, I said, I would call you later, I had another urgent phone now.

In very unplanned manner, I left Kathmandu. I was initiator of Vigil for demanding Meaningful Dialogue and Peace in Maitighar Mandella, it was started from Sarlahi during my Madhes trip (Dec 7, 2015). I decided to gave up it this time. I was at home (Gauriganj) during dark evening. There was power cut. I directly went dad’s room but he wasn’t there, no one saw me though I went with Micro bus up to home. Later, when I greet him, he was so surprised and happy, I observed. I was also happy for a moment. I observed all his activities, treatment to him by family members as I always as passive observer.

Now days, he didn’t ask me on how long I would stay with him, because usually I came at night and ran away next morning. He was used to with this. But I stayed home, chat with him, ate along with him but I didn’t speak. I didn’t have energy to speak, I had very deep hurt and thinking about AWON, my life and all. Often I cried but who knows?

When I was lying down on bed at the middle of the day, dad entered his room. I was confused and suddenly I asked, did you like to ride elephant? He didn’t say clearly but he wanted to go. I didn’t talk further. About 2 hours later, when he was again entered in his room, I again asked, let’s go Pokahra. I also didn’t go since long, I think….. you went to Pokhara in 2000 when I was working at Fewa City hospital as anaesthetic assistant nurse with Dr Basanta Panta. He went there to see Dr Pant.  He again showed some sorts of interest for Pokhara. Then I confirmed tourist bus ticket for Pokhara and imagined the places where should I brought him to see. Suddenly, I remembered the invitation of Kisam Gurung from Ghandruk. I contacted him. He was also so excited but I didn’t tell all plan with dad.

Trip To Pokhara and Ghandruk:
Jan 8, we went to Pokahara, unfortunately, we had to wait an hour due to accident of other tourist bus for their technical reason but he enjoyed much by observing his lovely Bandhipur. He came there several times while he was doing shopping from his maternal cousin’s house (Mamaghar) called Palung. Later, he also associated with Bandhipur due to test examination of Bindu sister (my second sister). Indeed, she was failed in test examination at Prembasti High School and she attempted exam again as private from Bandhipur. Then, she continuously passed all examinations and doing teaching in Universities and school. He was saying these all stories with proud. He further continued, “I hadn’t had money, I  knew about it from neighbourhood (ganga bhauju who just passed away due to cancer ) from her husband because her husband’s younger brother also had same situation as your sister and he knew this info as teacher. I took a pair of ear ring of your mom, she was wearing these rings that were only one jewellery of her. She also always committed for girls study. The rings were second class category and very lighter so I  took loan Nrs 2000 and applied for your sister’s exam. Your sister made it in many ways…” He wanted to see entire Bandhipur, because  he was asking about timing, places etc. with nearby shopkeepers, he made friends very quickly. He is always open and honest so people usually trust, respect and love him.  I was following his conversation.

About 4 Pm, we reached lakeside. We dropped off our bags in hotel mountain house, no one there due to about 5 months blockade and off tourist season. This hotel provided only wide, clean two beds room. We walked through lake side, but very few faces of foreigners.  Hotel hadn’t have many options as mentioned in menu due to gas crisis. I explained about markets and all. We did short boating and he also played with fishes, pigeons, photography, worship in temple. While returning to hotel walked through bank of lake side. There are so many fancy restaurants, bar with Hukka and various types of wines in cheaper price but no tourist at all. We stopped by Chinese restaurant. He enjoyed Chinese green tea, homemade vegetable tofu and meat noodles. We did simple shopping for next day but he didn’t know about plan. While I was talking with hotel owner about the various locations, he was repeating the sun rise things of Darjeeling. He was saying, it was all gossip of sun rise. In Darjeeling, we went to peak by putting alarm at 4 am, there was so crowd, everyone shouting coming …coming .. but it wasn’t come. The hotel owner was suggesting for not going Sarankot due to bad weather as well as not managed vehicle, as well as I asked earlier.

I founded that dad had deep interest to go there, he was repeating story of Darjeeling time and again. I had talked with Kisam dai about timing, locations and vehicles to go Ghandruk. He was following my conversation but constantly reminding me Darjeeling. About 1.30 am, he called me and asked, let’s go now if you like to go there otherwise we would miss. Again, later he awoke up at 4 am. Finally, we left hotel at 5.30 am without disturbing hotel owner. We had already discussed the about the potential plan and did payment too.  It was Nrs 1000 for room only.
It was dark though we were walking bit with my mobile. I saw a taxi was parking on a road and asking about possibility of sunrise, price and all. Finally, we went to Sarankot by this taxi in Nrs 1400. The rate for taxi was expensive due to about five months blockade and #Teraiprotest. It was so cold, bit raining and super cloudy. We waited and waited but couldn’t see neither sun nor mountains. It was so sad moment. Dad again talked about Darjeeling even with other travellers. Most of the travellers were in couple, quite young or with daughters, living in aboard or foreigner though he was making followers over there. Again only two foreigner faced noticed. The tourist sudden falling down. I was silently following their conversation and took photos sometimes. Then, we went to Harichchock as Kisam dai suggested then he knew that where we were going. We spent more than 2 hours to ride the Jeep from there and no places of eating, we just ate fast food. Sadly, our jeep broken at Naudanda and wasted another 1 hour. We dropped off at the bus park at 2.30 pm.
A young hotel owner, called Bina, suggested to leave the bags except essential materials because it would take more than hour for you and porter is expensive here. I suddenly lose my confidence with dad. I remembered his walking speed while doing for Muktinath in 2006 and his deteriorating lungs.  I liked the idea, I did same but I did mistake that missed dad’s warm pants for night.

Ghandruk a Clean Village:
The foot trail is very clean as more than Pokhara, we met few girls who were carrying firewood, women who carrying fodders and few young boys who were returning from aboard. Everyone so lovely, clean and cheerful. Even the women who were carrying firewood and fodders, their clothes were so clean, they used boot shoes. I was so impressed. I asked about Gurung Cottage about 100 times due to dad’s sickness. I got responses against each enquiry with warm welcoming. It is all about commitment, community harmony, unity and strategic leadership.  Gurung community no matter whether it is in Ghalegaun, Lamjung or Ghandruk are so sweet in each perspective and I found Ghandruk is the cleanest and the community with harmony in my journey as if Jan 2016.

Dad had problem while climbing  up. Sometimes, he talked but most of the time remained silent. He remembered the Samjhna’s Ghandruk’s trip and broken her legs about 15 years back.  He also remembered the trip of Muktinath. It was 2006, when I was working in CEDPA Nepal and my mom was alive. We rode bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, next day flew to Jomsom and walked up to Muktinath. Dad was blue while we were in Kagbeni due to cold and he fallen in floor while clmbing up the Kagbeni towards Muktinath. He said, his legs got so lethargic while stepping up. I was bit anxious due to his lungs, had have tuberculosis, swine flu and other illness. I was thinking that I did wrong decision. I was worried about my siblings that they will kill me if dad would have something wrong. He is already 80 years old. Finally, I darely asked, let’s returned, nothing would go wrong if we will back. But he didn’t agree.

It took 3 hours to reach Gurung Cottage, where as Kisuam dais said 30-40 minutes walk. He is true and that is for him not for me and dad.  Kisum dai is popular in village, everyone directing us to reach him. He wasn’t there but we started to take rest on garden and I started to take photo of village, garden. I also ordered veg soup for me and mutton soup for dad to regain energy. After a while, a lady came and greet us and asking about us. I replied, I was sister of Kisam dai, she was confused, I noticed. Later, Kisam dai came, we hugged though we met first time physically. I brought few items as souvenir for him from Pokhara. He said, I don’t care about amount, but I do care the respect and value you made. We all smiled at least a moment.

Gurung Cottage at Ghandruk: A connector for peace building
Gurung Cottage served us very nicely like princess and king. Dad got special treatment due to my dad and as well as his wife also from Chitwan. We founded double forms of mutual love and respect as we practiced as MEET. There were many guests in group, few were in family. The parents brought their girls where boys came without parents or with their gang or group. We had dinner along with them and started to watch local gurung culture based singing and dancing. 

It was so amazing. I also joined in dancing though neither I am good in it not my legs allowed me to flex well. Dad was also loved all performance but he had living in veranda with warm blankets. I noticed that the local people were representing only elders and children which reflected that young generation should be either in Pokhara or Kathmandu or aboard for work. In Nepal, usually Gurung community loved to join British army since second world war.

Other guests were interested to do camp fire along with drinking and dancing. But Kisam dai negotiated with them and not allow to do all. He was dealing very gently. He is from Gurung ethnicity though he is non-smoker, non-alcohol user or exceptional one. He also very strict in the hotel where he doesn’t allow to drink much, no quarrel or any unsocial words or activities.

The weather is cold but the blankets were so warm, I felt sweat at middle of the night. Dad awoke up at 3 am and he had very bad cough and sounded his lungs was swollen due to infection. I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried about dad’s health and my siblings. It was very wrong decision. I simply took 30-40 minutes after Jeep but I didn’t check the altitude 1940 meter, cold and others. I must bring some emergency medicines which were used by dad and also would better If I had company for emergency. I was trying to figure out the health post, stretcher, jeep …… A health worker was in our jeep while we were coming to Ghandruk but I didn’t speak with him, just guessed that he was bringing stretcher and some medicines. While walking in Post-earthquake areas (in boarder to Kavre, Sinduli and Makwanpur or Banakhuchaur), I met many patients were carrying in stretcher, same as in Jumla or other remote areas but not here. I didn’t see any person look like sick or sick.  Dad was using two blankets and I had given balm which was in my bag for my legs. I had very hard time to sleep with my legs almost every day and more while I was walking in mountains. But I didn’t tell to anyone because they didn’t like my way of working or restriction on my mobility. I wanted to do whatever I can. I saw many people in village that they were working with broken legs or other sickness and taking care of their husbands, children and entire family. They are my an inspiration, I must have done if they can. Additionally, I have feeling that I have to do more due to not having biological babies.

Dad got bit better, I was counting his heart beats and respiration. He was saying that I would be ok, nothing to be worried. We both slept in the morning. We had enjoyed with three mountains Annapurna, HimShikhar and Fishtail. Annapurna and HimShikhar had snow but not at Fishtail. I had continuously watched Fishtail from 1990 to 1994 when I was studying in Nursing Campus Pokhara. It was my source of inspiration, love, hope and all. I was sad when it was covered by cloud when I open my door at first in the morning in my dormitory.  I saw these mountains couples of time by very near while I went to field trip to Baglung and other trips nearby districts. Dad started to sit in kitchen where boys preparing breakfast. Due to boarder blockade, Gurung Cottage also started to use firewood which was against their regular practice. Kisam dai is the idea master who able to motivate to all hotel owners and villagers to protect forest for sustainable tourism and development. I was very busy to take photos of other guests. I hadn’t have camera, I just used my second hand mobile it is not much smart as others. I was directing the pose while taking photographs, I really happy while being at the yard of Ghandruk where I was feeling that I was playing at the mother earth specially mountains.

We had very tight schedule, I liked to get down as early as possible to bring dad in safe place but we weren’t chat much with Kisam dai and Bhauju because they were working all the time. Along with cooking boys, they were working everything, there was no discrimination at all. Kisam dai was running instead of walking, smiling all the time, no wearing much clothes and sounded very strong and healthy where as he is 50 years old.  After breakfast, he had managed some time to chat with dad where as I was busy with chatting a Korean math teacher who came Ghandruk three times already and have a plan to come next year as well.

Later, we took photos with Kisam dai, his wife. I loved to wear Gurung dress. It was really very lovely moment in my life time. From Kisam dai and his wife, I learned so many things for my life, work and nation. He is really great role model for many of us for social entrepreneur, tourism, community development and peace building. Today, the village is being empty but Kisam is returned to village 20 years before when he graduated from a very renounced school called Gandaki Boarding School. During these day, he was bad son for his parents and society due to not joining British army. His wife and in laws got so many blaming and discrimination due to returning to village and starting to very unpopular business called hotel for tourism. The place like Ghandruk might like by all visitors for a day or week but not for years to years. Kisam and his wife chosen the most challenging way of life.

In Ghandruk, Kisam was first person who started to operate Gurung Cottage by focusing both Nepali and foreign tourist which was organically started from second world war from the friends of VC from this community. Due to not having hotels or place for accommodation and food, they came with so many porters and brought all materials for tenting, camping and all which was not easy at all. Kisam was following these practices since childhood. One day, he was so determined to returned back to village and started tourism in very sustainable manner. He replied when I asked about his motivational factor, he might earn bundles of money in Pokhara or Kathamndu to aboard as like his relatives and friends but he equally potential to get second level of status. In his words, yo paji bhote na ho paisa kamayer thulo hunkhochha (he is finally from Ghandruk community, no matter how much money he earned..).  He worked so hard, walked here and there, didn’t sleep well, eat well. He was so busy to motivate villagers, bringing materials, arranging money, building trust within family, community, bringing tourists and serving the best service to them as guest is god.

Gradually, he is flying with color. Villagers follow him. Many youths are returning to village and started to build new hotels. He mobilized the community people and come up the ways on how to remain clean and why should we remain clean. He added, Ghandruk community are the best people in the world so many people come to see them so they have to show their clean faces and dresses. This is how the community started to wear Gurung’s traditional dress all the time in clean manner. Likewise, he leverages the resources from district development committee and facilitate to construct toilet in all households who were poor without any political color. He also able to manage to declared the open field defecation village where none of the political leaders involved.

Kisam, promoted the local culture through singing and dancing. If the guests were interested, the local singing and dancing made by the mother’s club where they also benefitted financially. They got the entire money from the guests. Hotel are only mediators. Kisam is always worried about sustainability of the tourism and development so he able to organize and mobilize all hotels which has same level of price and quality. All hotels take ownership towards guests, there was no any signs of pulling and pushing of guests.  In order to improve the income and enhance the ownership among villagers who have not hotels but producing local materials, they sell the materials directly to the guests. As local norms, guests usually walk around the villages, home stay, museum, interaction with people and also get the opportunity to buy local materials from the producer directly. There is no chance for middle person or broker. He also accommodates young girls and boys who discontinued their education due to some reason for training and help them to start their life and business. During our stay, two man came and discussed about the broken of wooden bridge. He fixed the issues by mobilizing people. He often organizes the meeting to discuss on how to maintain cleanliness, how to avoid abuses and harassment to guest and entire community, how to develop more sustain development models, how to increase more guests etc. Because of his efforts, the Nepali guests also get equal status and care in Ghandruk which is not usually not common in Nepal because everyone so profit oriented. He added, now the community realized that the Nepali folks are the best for sustainability. Now the country is in very difficult situation since last about 5 months but the hotels were fully occupied by Nepali folks.

By considering all activities of Kisam and his wife, they are great source of inspiration, role model, organic experts for tourism and sustainable development. More importantly, he is hidden hero of transforming rural model. My deep respect, love and bundles of salute to him. I encouraged him to write book which would very crucial for all and specially for tourism and hotel management. I really serious to preserve his knowledge, skills and inspiration by writing his bio, making documentary and connecting him with universities, NGOs for resource person. He had made so much now the time to multiply and felicitate him. The Bagmati Cleansing campaign activists including immediate chief secretary Lilamani Poudel also have to learn from Kisam on mobilizing local people, building them as leaders not themselves for sustainable development.
He has three daughters and two sons (twins) and studying in Pokhara. Two first daughters are doing hotel management. He invests his income to his children’s education. I brought $1000 to his first daughter Alisa for her tuition fee. He is very caring dad, husband, friend, REAL Man and my MEET daju.

Jan 10, 2016, dad and me left the Kisam dai and his wife about 10. We visited Gurung Museum so quickly and rush to catch the bus. Dad walked more fast as compare to yesterday. He liked steeping down but I hate due to my legs. We met so many young boys on the way to bus park. We had very quick local lunch and returned to Harichock, Pokhara at 3 pm where our taxi driver was waiting to us. Dad wanted to see more places. He loses his confidence. He was telling to Kisam dai and Bhauju to come to his hometown when they would come Chitwan. He couldn’t come to see them because he is getting weaker and older, he added. I saw first time in my life that he is giving up. Dad is getting pressure to returned early to Chitwan for his second grand daughter who lives in Australia. He replied with strongly, no need to go back with hurriedly, very hard to come again due to money, time and all. I didn’t like to verify again. He was spending the money in the beginning but said at Gurung Cottage, I had only Nrs 1500. I smiled and said, I had money. Though I hadn’t earn a single money since long, have money for you. Kisam dai denied to take money for all services. Indeed, it was priceless, I couldn’t pay what they extended. They get dad, I get brother and sister in law.

My mobile off due to power. We went to Bat cave, Mahendra cave. I showed him K I Singh bridge, Manipal Hospital, PN campus. We stopped by at Mahendra bridge to see Seti river and showed the place where I always walked through for making phone call for dad while I was studying at Pokhara nursing campus. We also went to Nursing campus. It has same buildings but sounded very old and ugly. During my days, it was so decorated always like newly bride. Dad enrolled me nursing campus by considering the hardship in forestry. Without knowing anything, I studied nursing but it remained my strengths and pride always in each national and personal crisis. I went to dormitory, met few staffs, showed all my rooms, Kitchen and mentioned all process. Dad came to nursing campus to admit me by walked from forestry campus 21 years before. Then, we went to hotel lonely planet via taxi driver, found very regular. We were only one guest sadly due to again petrol crisis and blockade. We walked though lakeside, dad had dinner at Thakali Kitchan but I hadn’t had anything except water. I felt tired and overwhelmed with all experiences.

In hotel we neither get hot water at bathroom not for drink, and few more no in lists. We left hotel at 7.30 am and went to Gupteswor Mahadev, Devis Fall and International Mountain Museum. All were first time to me as well. I found museum more impressive and inspirational. We left Pokara at 11 am and reached Gauriganj at 7 Pm and called to Kisam dai that we reached Chitwan safely.

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