I grew up in a very remote village in the Rolpa District of Western Nepal. It lies between Salyan and Pyuthan. The area is home to the Kham Magar tribes, of which I am a part. Perhaps 80% of the population are Magars.
The highland village is upslope perhaps 1000 yards from the center of Rolpa. The entire area is rugged and remote, surrounded by 3,000 to 4,000 meter (9,800 to 13,100 ft.) ridges.
Even by Nepalese standards, Rolpa is an underdeveloped area. People earn about $100 (US) a year. Life expectancy is 52 years. We sit at too high an elevation to grow rice. Other popular Nepalese crops like maize, millet and barley have limited success, so we have frequent food shortages. We practiced subsistence farming and make our living as laborers in other districts. Most of the people in my village are too poor to purchase food.
There were perhaps a hundred people in my village. I was born in one of the many barns scattered across our farm. I was the first-born son, with two older sisters. Ultimately I was the middle child, when my two younger brothers came along.
There were no baby clothes or diapers in our community. With each baby, my mother would sew new baby clothes by hand, from a lungi, the long, traditional Nepalese sarong she always wore.
When we went out for supplies, my parents would carry a basket on their back to transport food, water or belongings while my sisters would carry me. As I grew, I carried my younger brothers. Donkeys were the only other transportation in the village. We never owned one due to the expense.
The cold weather dictated much of how we lived. The family home was one large room with a fire pit in the center for cooking and warmth. My family of seven all slept around the fire, with no privacy. No one in the village had separate rooms because they are too difficult to heat. I never really understood the concept of privacy until I moved to the UK.
We have five seasons in Rolpa. Our farms were large and spread out. We would move the animals to different barns at different elevations every couple of months to plant different crops. Corn, potatoes, wheat, beans. I remember harvesting them all. We would nurture from the earth what we couldn’t purchase from a store.
Once a year, during the winter, the villagers that could afford it would travel to Gorahi in Dang to get salt, clothes or any other goods that weren’t available in the village. The trek took seven days on foot, carrying all our food and supplies for the round trip. It took another eight days to return, carrying our purchases. If we traveled at night, we used torches made of dry bamboo to light our way. I made my first trek when I was 10.
We would travel in a group to protect ourselves from animals and other risks. Camp would be out in the open. Sometimes it was rainy. Always it was cold. We would prepare our food and tell stories of prior treks as we whiled away the evening. Before and during our travels people would share tales of tigers, leopards and wolves someone had confronted. We heard about pit vipers and monitor lizards, and told how to prepare for them. Some of the elders even had stories of rhinoceros and elephants though those were rare even then and never a real worry.
On the 8-day return trek, I carried 40 liters of kerosene in a tin container on my back. That added almost 100 pounds to whatever else I had to carry. That 40 liters would last my family for a year or until we made the trek to Gorahi again. Still, I’m not sure I weighted one hundred pounds myself at that time.
As I remember, my family was the only one that could afford to buy kerosene. We used it to cook food and for a lamp we children used to study. There was no electricity in our village. Families relied on firelight if they were to do any activities after dark.
I would wake up at 5 in the morning to do my chores before school. I would cut or gather wood for the fire. Feed the animals. Gather leaves for our compost pile. Plough fields. Plant or harvest crop. Then I would scurry :45 minutes to get to school by 10:00.
Sometimes, like children everywhere, I remember getting distracted on my way to school. I would go halfway and realize I was going to be late. If we were late for school, the teachers were permitted to beat us. So I would play instead. Play all day, until school was over. Then I would head home. Sometimes my parents found out, and I was spanked anyway. Still, they didn’t always find out.
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It you would like to be part of the climb, check out our the Just Giving page started by Brigadier General Rigden of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. We can use all of the help we can get to put Hari on top of the World. The fact is, this entire undertaking is Hari’s way to showing the world that there are no obstacles the human mind cannot overcome. If you are a veteran, or part of the community that has lost a limb or an individual that has faced down any hardship – this climb is for you. We hope you’ll become part of the team.