Not long after I came across an offshoot project called Stories of Nepal. As visitors to Ekostories might know, I’ve written a few pieces on my trip there in 2012, and even though I was in the country for all too brief a time, the people of that land have remained dear to me. Reading through some of their stories, one in particular resonated with me during this tail-end of the holiday season and calendar year. With the permission of photographer and translator Jay Poudyal, I would like to share it with you a passage by a farmer named Dulal Baje:
“There was no animosity during our times. We were farmers. We were strong communities. We were families. No politics.
Do you understand? We did not seek employment. Our earnings were the crops that we grew by our own hands. Do you understand? But now, a different kind of age has taken over. No one is equal and no amount of money is enough to satisfy our greed.
Do you understand? In our times, we really didn’t need money. Why would we need such a thing? The only thing we needed to buy was kerosene and salt. Do you understand? There was no buying and selling. You grow and you eat. During winter we ate homemade ghee and potatoes and yam from the fields.
Do you understand? We raised animals. All of us. For milk and for fertilizers. And we were strong men. Not like those men of today who have pregnant bellies and boast about strength. They eat bad chicken and drink. Everyone carries some kind of disease. All of these diseases have names. You tell me babu. The thing is we, after all the hard work, walking distance that you won’t believe in, would make it back home before sunset, and before calling it a night, drank the purest of milk. The next morning we felt so light that we could fly.
Do you understand? I don’t have any disease. Now money, when will it ever be enough. For a hundred you need a thousand, and then a lakh, and then a crore. And they started farming buildings instead of crops, in this fertile land. They all forgot about nature. We all forgot about nature. Do you understand?”
-Dulal Baje, Manthali Bazaar, Sindhupalchowk. (Reposted with permission)
Baje’s story is a lament for a simpler past. It is a clarion call against the trappings of modernity, the corrosive nature of capitalism, the growing disconnect to the rhythms of the land, the pitfalls of desiring more for more’s sake. These things we in the west know in our bones. The things I explore in my writing.
What makes the piece powerful is in the telling. Told in the oral tradition and shared in a conversation, Baje’s story demands to be read aloud, heard aloud. Whether the account was transcribed word-for-word or translated into its current form, his short statements and fearless use of repetition gives the story shape, heft, and urgency. Do you understand what it felt to be alive with joy? Do you understand what is now being lost? Do you understand the road we are going down?
I think I do.
For more portraits and conversations, check out Poudyal’s work at Stories of Nepal.
- Tao Today: A Sage’s Take on Modern Society Part 2
- Narrative in Art: The Changing Countryside
- Ursula K. Le Guin at the National Book Awards
- Reflections of Nepal: The Tharu of the Terai
Featured image reposted with permission.