Monday, February 27, 2012

The Road To Phidim

After the gently rolling green hills of Aitabare-Fikkal it is comes as a shock to see the steep and fairly dry hills on the road to Panchthar and Taplejung, specially after Nepaltar. However one does get a great view of Kanchenjunga from Pauwa Bhanjyang which is about 30 km before Phidim and a drive of 90 minute from Ilam Bazar. Pauwa Bhanjyang on a saddle with a ridge separating two valleys gets a steady stream of wind 24 x 7 x 365. It is probably a good place to have a wind farm.

Images: Pauwa Bhanjyang (2550 meters above sea level and at N27.06779 E87.81385).
Top - with a view of Kanchenjunga
Bottom - steep hills around Pauwa Bhanjyang

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


25% of Nepal's land is under forest cover. While community forestry is lauded as one of the success stories I wonder if it has really curbed rampant deforestation in the country. Judging by the countless logs along the highways in Ilam, one of the most progressive districts in Nepal, one does not get the impression of that story being a success.

Image: Sawed Juniper artistically stacked at a tea farmer's house in Aitebare, Ilam district, Nepal. February 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crimson Glow

In my springtime garden,
on the path beneath the peach blossoms
radiating a crimson glow,
a maiden steps in view
and pauses for a moment.
- Otomo no Yakamochi 大伴 家持 (718 – 785) on 01 March 750.
From Man'yoshu anthology.

Image: A beautiful young Maiko san radiating a crimson glow of youth steps in view and pauses for a moment. Somewhere in Japan 2011.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Unlatching The Door

From outside my house,
only the faint distant sound
of gentle breeze
wandering through bamboo leaves
in the long evening silence.

Late evening finally
comes: I unlatch the door
and quietly
await the one
who greets me in my dreams.

-Otomo no Yakamochi 大伴 家持 (718 – 05 October 785)
Man'yoshu is the very first poetry anthology in Japanese history and Yakamochi who lived during the Nara period 奈良時代 was one of the compilers. He contributed several poems of his own.

Image: Shadows start to lengthen and the evening stealthily comes to this bamboo grove somewhere just above Nepaltar in Ilam district. Through the unlatched arched bamboo doorway I espy a teeny weeny channeled streamlet. A gentle breeze wafts through the bamboo leaves. And I await the the one who greets me in my dreams.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nepal Revolution

There is a sound of revolution in the hills of east Nepal and it comes from the small engine mounted on the back of farmer(s).

Unlike violent revolutionaries who invariably seem to turn venal, this radical literally put his money where his mouth is and is conducting a bloodless revolution. Bloody revolutions promise a lot but deliver nothing but sorrow and pain but this revolution will enhance the income and dignity of many tea farmers and in process improve the quality of tea.

Gyani Katuwal, a farmer of meager means and little education took a great gamble and spent a substantial portion of his income to buy a mechanical tea plucker so that he could counter the very low labour productivity and the constant humiliation at the hands of tea plucking labourers.

He even faced ridicule amongst his peers but stuck to his guns. He is the first farmer in Nepal to use a mechanical tea plucker and is better off for it. His plucking standard has gone up; his expenses has gone down (by 96%); the plucking productivity has gone through the stratosphere (by 4,500%) and he has more free time and most importantly he does not suffer constant indignity at the hands of highly politicised, unproductive and capricious tea pluckers.

I salute you Gyani. May there be others like you in Nepal. You have shown that you do not need a Ph.d or an MBA to make intelligent and wise choice. You are a true hero and an inspiration.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Winter Work

After the tea plucking season is over in November, tea season is not really over! Winter work begins and consists of maintenance of plant, machinery, land and tea bushes. Machines are repaired and readied for the next season; land is cleared and drains are cleaned and maintained and most importantly tea plants are either skiffed or pruned. Work is never really over even though tea bushes are in dormancy.

Image: Tea bushes in Ilam, Nepal showing two distinct maintenance cycles of pruning - skiffing. January 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bridge Too Far

The Qing River Meanders
against myriads of willow shoots.
The scene remains unchanged
as two decades ago....

This same old wooden bridge,
where I parted with her,
brings no news, alas
for today
Liu Yuxi 劉禹錫 (772-842) of Tang
Imgage: Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Friday, February 3, 2012

Three Towards Three Rs

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.
- Henry Reed (22 February 1914 - 8 December 1986) "Naming Of Parts"

Image: Three young students on their way to school early in the morning somewhere in the tea growing hills of Nepal.

In the beautiful hills of east Nepal surrounded by tea gardens, hopefully they WILL be as distracted as the young recruits in the poem by Henry Reed. One of the best mottoes for a school is probably Non Scholae, Sed Vitae Discimus, (We do not study for school but for life) meaning that we should gain knowledge and skills not for the school or exams or to please the teacher but to benefit our entire life.

Every morning in the hills of east Nepal you can see many young smartly dressed students heading to their respective schools. All seem to be very proud of their uniforms. Well almost all of them. No doubt they will be learning for life and not to just pass their yearly exams or please the teachers.

.......Camellia sinensis glistens like emerald in all of the neighboring gardens,
And today we have Three Rs....