So close, but so far: A trip to the ‘Village of Light’Pulimarang, a village that fascinated me as a child, is a far cry from what it used to be.
When I was a child, there was no electricity in our village. I grew up in Barlanchi, Tanahun, where as night fell, out came the kerosene lamps, or tukis. We would bring the tuki out once our grandmother would complete the kitchen work. The tuki would emit a swirling black smoke, which danced above the flame, and in its light we would spend our quiet evenings.
But south-east of our village, in Pulimarang, we would see electric lamps light up the hill each night. Seated in the lap of Mirlung, the tallest mountain in the area, the village came to life just as ours quietened for the day.
As a child, I could never get close to those bright lights, given the dense forest dividing us. During the day we couldn’t see the village, but at night it would flicker to life to feed our imagination—we dubbed it the ‘Village of Light’.
Some older people from my village would cross the dense jungle to go to the town during Chaitra Dashain every year. It would take them about two hours to get through the forest and its three small hillocks. On clear days, one could see Dharahara from atop the hills, some would tell us children. It was only much later that I figured not everything an older person says is true.
I, however, made the journey to the village only two decades later, in November last year, with my uncle. And although it’s been 10 years since our village got electricity, and kids are no longer doing their homework or reading by a kerosene lamp, the fascination I had of the village still remained.
So, on my Yamaha, I went—from Damauli to Kalesti Bazaar before continuing uphill on the snaking road passing through the forest. We reached Chakthok, which offered a panoramic view of mountains and hills, from where we could see a long bridge over the Madi River, which leads to Pokhara.
This bridge was etched into my mind long ago, for it was the first place I ever saw a bus. Chakthok used to be one of the most beautiful places. I had come with my grandmother and grandfather two decades ago, walking for over two hours. It was a journey that proffered layers of lush forests, mountains and blue skies. Imagine unadulterated views of Machapuchare, Annapurna, Lamjung Himal, and you might get close to imagining what I saw.
As we continued, the more we rode, the more we could feel the Himalayas’ embrace, and rhododendron trees framed the view. After half an hour riding over the road, we reached Katikey Chawor, a playground on top of a mountain, with a health post and few teahouses. Just below the dense forest, I could see my village Barlanchi.
We rode further east and reached Miyabari, a well known Gurung village. But, to my dismay, the entire place had been consumed by bushels, erasing the place from the landscape. The stone roofed houses and paved courtyards, one of the traditional measures of prosperity, were hollowed with moribund orange and mango trees out front.
We rode a further 25 minutes to Tutepani, another Gurung village. The fresh wind brushed against my face and the setting sun’s golden kiss made the mountains blush. Eventually, the sun left and night started to fall—we decided to stay in Tutepani for the night, even though I would have to return to Kathmandu the following day.
Tutepani, a distinct village that sits at 2,000-metres, not only further offers the Himalayas, but has many places to explore such as Thulo Dhunga, most significant stone and Siddha Gufa. There is also a park constructed in the name of late martyr Krishna B Gurung who fought to establish democracy in the country in 1950.
As we reached the homestay, we were welcomed with kodo ko sel roti, makkai, bhatamas, gundruk and homemade raksi. As the evening unfolded, locals even put up a dance performance.
After the dance, a dinner of rice with local chicken was served. Dil Maya Gurung, 57, our host, told us that she typically receives a dozen guests every day. In the weekends, she told us, there are so many people visiting the village that guests don’t get a place to stay.
As it is with villages across Nepal, there aren’t many young people home. Most are working in the Gulf, many are enlisted in Nepal and Indian Army, and a few are in the British forces. Of Dil Maya’s three children, two are abroad as well. She lives with her youngest.
Early next morning, after a warm breakfast of eggs, millet sel roti, bodi ko tarkari and milk tea, we rode east.
After a while, Pulimarang, the ‘Village of Light’, finally became visible. As we entered the village, we were greeted by smiling faces of villagers carrying water pots and fodder for livestock. Atop a viewpoint there, as I looked south-west, searching for my village, I thought to myself of how it took me two decades to finally reach the ‘Village of Light’, only to realise that many had already left the place in search of something more enchanting.