Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Trekking Experience to Damodar Kunda, Upper Mustang, Nepal

             A Story of a Nobody Person From a Nowhere Place

Like elsewhere in Nepal too, if a man marries second wife he and his new wife can be punished as per the law.  However, only few hurt first wives dare to go through legal process due to still heavily man dominant reality of our society. For women from more deprived jana jaati (ethnic) community, it's even more difficult to go through complicated process of law to get justice in such cases. As a result, in our society, it's still not a surprise news if a husband ties knot with another woman and force his first wife to leave home and family. 
Bhomaya Poon with her colleague at Ghuma Thati

Bhomaya Poon Magar 52, current resident of  Pokhara is one of such women who faced the bitter consequence of being forcefully sent out by her own husband and left her to be nobody to go nowhere.  In the age of 24 with two young baby boys and husband who had job as Nepal Army man, Bhomaya also had dreams like many other young mom to up bring her kids, settle a better life with her family in the future.  However her dream was brutally shattered on one of the evenings, some two decades back while her husband came home with a new girl. Unexpected argument and quarrel amidst the neighbors and supporters of her husband, she found little in favor of herself.  Feeling lone and helpless she decided to leave the home in same evening with her babies.  Hurt, disowned and shattered, Bhomaya had no easy options except going back to her maternal home or take uneasy step of becoming a beggar or even prostitute or end her life forever. Even going back to maternal home doesn't become easy for a married lady in our society. However, Bhomaya became lucky on this one thing that her brothers didn't only accept her back but helped her to send her boys in local school.  At any stage after her husband disowned her, she could have lodged a case against her husband and obvious result would be to get her share of property and dignity back. She could have secured better life this way may be but she decided to live her life differently even though her choice was not easy.

In the course of difficult times, she came across a voluntary team formed in her native home in a remote village of Myagdi in west Nepal.  Smaller the team was their aim to volunteer was somewhat extraordinary in many levels. The organization named Damodar Kunda Anna Kshetra (Damodar Kunda Food Zone) had 16 families teamed up for providing free food to the pilgrims who travel to Damodar Kund (Kunda) one of the most far flung pilgrimage site in the Himalaya, situated in Mustang district of far north near Tibet border.  Through this unique little organization, as a volunteer cook,  to offer free meal for pilgrims, she had arrived in remote corner of the Himalayan mountains Ghumathati, probably named after old seasonal yak hut in the distance of at least one full day walk from any nearest human settlement. 

Lakes of Damodar Kunda
In pursuit to experience a new trekking trail and get away from an unease situation after the April 25 earthquake, on 6th day of this remote trekking, after long day's walk with tiredness and heavy headed due to high altitude and migraine, myself, two trekking clients, team of seven of us had arrived at Ghumathati where a blue tinned roof structure was standing with Bhomaya at its side.  'Namaste Bhai (brother), you guys arrived? I know you are tired. Please feel comfortable to have tea or hot water; here they are!' Bhomaya said with bright smile.  With little research and only horseman in our team having been trekked there before, none of us knew there was free tea or water offered to travelers in such a remote location. Her opening conversation alone eased my near headache.  So I changed my mind from resting in my tent to have detail chat with this charming woman which led me to this unusual story of her own and the unique social service started by her neighbors.  

Seven years back when she arrived at Ghumathati for the first time and offered meal and drinks to hungry and thirsty ill prepared pilgrims, most of them are Sadhus, she felt that she was giving life to them.  'In this kind of place, a cup of drink can give life, so I feel that it's not only a common social service but it's offering life to others (jeevan daan)' She said. What was more astonishing was since the first volunteering, Bhomaya has been serving there every year marking this one her seventh consecutive year of service.  Pilgrimage season last only about two months, through July –August given the harsh nature of the geography and weather in other times.  While first started the two moth program to offer food to the pilgrims, many people were attracted to volunteer in such 'wonderful' place but later they would leave the job being unable to stay in harshly cold, uneasy place with sometimes no other soul seen for days. Thus Bhomaya or the organization didn't find another person to take over the job. In addition Bhomaya herself vowed to be in service as much as possible for such wonderful cause.
A Sadhu on the way to Damodar Kunda, Mustang
Besides sharing her own story, Bhomaya told me about the importance of Damodar Kunda a group of three small glacial lakes which in general could be just another water source for yaks or wild animals. But these small lakes are believed where lord Krishna of Hindus in his childhood had landed after her mother Yesoda had tied him up to prevent more damage by baby Krishna stealing her milk and yoghurt.  Detail story of such act of Krishna and its association to Damodar Kunda is only found in Sanskrit texts like Baraha Purana but Bhomaya recalls what she had heard from learned Sadhus (holy men) who come to this ultimate pilgrimage site and had chance to eat food and drink served by her.  Damodar Kunda is surrounded by mountains such as Bhrikuti and small Kailash representing holy mount Kailash of Tibet.  We concluded our conversation with hope to meet again and exchange more extended story.  For me meeting Bhomaya was the highlight of the trek.  

In the Himalayan mountains while we trek, beautiful scenery comes to us without more effort and attention, but if we observe closely more cherishing part of the Himalaya comes to us via its people, culture and traditions.  In recent times many of the trekking trails such as Annapurna Circuit and standard upper Mustang trek suffer disturbance by road building.  Damodar Kunda, thus can be a beautiful alternative for those who do not mind strenuous trekking over the high passes, full of visible beauties like Bhrikuti Himal range and slightly invisible stories of like lord Krishna and Bhomaya Poon.