Saturday 12th June 2010: Arriving in Pokhara
I grabbed my bag and my guitar, said goodbye to Maa and Aji and caught the bus to ….where I would meet the others. When I arrived in Gongabu, everyone was already there, waiting for Amnesty´s micro bus to arrive.The one thing that actually caught my eye was Ram´s enormous cowboy hat. It should prove to be a constant source of joy and a further accessoire for the coming photo sessions.After a while a white and super modern bus collected us, we got inside and met the first activists of Amnesty International.The journey was really really comfortable and our conversations knew one main topic: football and the world cup!
We travelled through the wonderful landscape, had some kaja on the way and finally arrived Pokhara in the evening.We stayed at Lakeside in the Mountain Guest House and „nomen est omen“, we were able to see the Machhapuchre glowing in the light of the setting sun.
In the evening we all went for a short walk to the bank of the lake and had dinner together afterwards. Guess what, it was dhal bhat!
Sunday 13th June 2010: Adventures inside the Bat Cave and the first Performance
Again when we woke up in the morning we had the chance to see the mountains and a beautiful sunrise. We were really lucky. Then we all had breakfast, yummi honey toast, and went out together to see almost all sights of Pokhara. First thing we did was boating on Phewa Lake. We were brought safely to a small island with a temple on it, did puja, clicked pictures and enjoyed the place.
Back on solid ground we decided to see the Mahendra Cave. We took a bus and a taxi and there we went. I realized how comfortable it is to travel with Nepali people, or especially with Sarwanam members. No one complained, no one discussed, we simply enjoyed and everything went smoothly.
Visiting Mahendra Cave was nice. Those days it was already quite hot, so we were relieved to escape the sun. Inside the cave was lighted. A path led us to a priest sitting next to an elephant stone, a symbol of Lord Ganesh (Hindu God). The priest blessed us by putting Tika (red powder) on our foreheads.This spiritual act contributed a lot to the magic and strange atmosphere.
When we left, we were suggested to also visit „Bat Cave“. I was not exactly excited about this idea..just another cave I thought. But I shell be wrong.
Bat Cave was a totally different dimension of a cave. Firstly, there were no lights inside. Three of us carried lanterns. Then we heard strange sounds from above our heads, people talking and cheering. After some metres on relatively plain ground there was no way any more. It was extremly slippery and steep. We had to take off our slippers and climb barefoot to grab some hold. Next to us on the right side, there was an abyss, in front of us, there were huge rocks. The exit seemed to be hard to reach.
One thing that was funny though was the lady wearing a pink sari. Now that was absolutely unappropriate gear for such an adventure. She had to be pushed and pulled over a stone to reach the exit. We were waiting in line to leave the cave. The humidity was high, it took the help of at least two persons to climb out of the cave, the ground was muddy, I tried not to panic. This was an incredibly intense experience. Later on everyone described this as one of the most memorable moments. We all helped each other, held shoes and mobile phones, pushed and pulled.
The last metres were the most exhausting ones. Not only did you have to climb a steep rock, this was not the end. Then you faced a narrow! hole through which you had to pull yourself to finally reach the ground level and breath in some fresh air. Once I managed to climb out, I felt totally wearied. But at the same time I was also happy and proud that everyone had acted so professionally and helpful. This was definitely an efficient way to increase trust within the group. And in Germany it would be definitely absolutely forbidden to enter this cave!
The last place of our sightseeing tour was Devi´s Falls. It was nice, but it couldn´t compare! After this adventure we were very hungry and had dhal baat together. Then everyone prepared for the first performance in the afternoon. We had one rehearsal in the garden in front of our guest house. Afterwards we were all together with the human rights activists, the wite-shirts, brought to the place of our first performance.
Amnesty International prepared a rally first. Their members carried posters and marched along a busy road. Arriving the gathering place, Krishna Pahadi and some others gave speeches and announced the drama.
Located next to a big and noisy road, the first place was a bit difficult for a performance but the Sarwanam members did a good job. They captured the audience´s attention from the beginning when they sang the Sarwanam song, til the end when everyone knees in a circle in front of the audience. For all AI activists this was the first time, certainly not the last time, they would see the play and so they paid full attention. In the audience´s faces you could see a reflection of the emotions shown by the actors. They got excited, when the main person told about his decision and his joy to go abroad, they suffered with him when he was injured.
Ghanashyam, who acted the main part, got a nice feedback from some spectators. Another extraordinary thing was the beautyful airplane, consisting of a huge cloth that shifted the action from Nepal to some southern country. After the show Krishna Pahadi the playwright exchanged some chat with the artists.
In the evening we had our first internal meeting and reflected about the performance. And we all started playing „Secret Friend“. In this game, everyone writes his name on a piece of paper. Then you fold and mix them and everyone takes one name. This is the person that he has to secretly please now by doing him small favours.
I guess some watched football and some went to bed early because we would move at around 5.30am the next morning to travel to further places and perform the play there.
Monday, 14th June 2010 Performances in Syangjya and Palpa, it´s getting hot and a birthday surprise
On Monday we got up at around 4.30 am, which I thought quite inhuman, but what to do? We had a long way to travel today. From Pokhara we went to Bhairawal a southern town in Terai, almost India.But first we went to Syngia. I tried to sleep in the bus or admire the gorgeous landscape. The AI activists however were singing and playing madal all the time.
After having Puri Tarkari and tea for breakfast, all got ready for the show. This time, there was no rally and also no speeches. The actors pulled their costumes over their regular clothes on the street and started collecting audience. Therefore they played drums and sang. Some took the megaphone and shouted: „Aunehos! Aunehos! Aunehos! Sadak natak herne!“ Which means: „Please come and watch our street drama!“ After enough people had arrived, the play started.
Then we left and made our way to Palpa. Palpa is one of the most beautiful places in Nepal and also a bit windy and cooler, because it lies on a hillside. There the performance took place in the central square of Palpa. This place includes „Ghargat“an octagonal building from which I had a magnificent bird´s eye view to take photos of the play.
For the actors though, it was tough to perform in the middle of noon. Tika later on told me, that the actors always had to cool their feet with water after stepping off stage. We bought plenty bottles and managed to complete this show without anyone collapsing and without anyone burning his or her feet.
After the performance I was happy to meet my cousin, because my family is from Palpa. We ate ice cream and watched people playing soccer. The world cup fever spread everywhere!
We went on to Butwal for a short sugarcane juice break. We tried to beat the heat, half successful…In the evening we finally arrived in Bhairawal. There we stayed in a nice Jain Guest House inside a small garden and next to it a white temple.
As this was the first day that we spent mostly in the bus or performing, we all felt tired in the evening. Still the atmosphere there was special. After the sun had set, the sky turned deep blue, the heat escaped, a bit. There were many insects and palm trees. On our beds, there were no sheets, it was too warm. The flush of the toilet in our room was broken and flooded the whole floor, like a fountain. The building was spacious and reminded me a lot of trips with schools and stays in hostels.
Together with three guys from AI we went out in the streets to search for a place to have dhal baat and rotie. It was so nice to spend some time with them, because they were really interested in drama and also told us more about Amnesty´s objectives. So far, it had been like two separated groups travelling together. There gad been no introduction, but things were getting better.
In the night Sushma and Ghanashyam prepared a special surprise. The reason was Sulo´s bithday on the next day. We three girls stayed in the same room. At midnight we heard a strange noise at the door. Sushma got up immediately, shouting what happened. I followed her to switch off the light and then all Sarwanam members entered the room, cheered and congratulated. First, Sulo was really scared but soon she was really happy! She fed sweets the others had bought before to all, this is a Nepali birthday custom. We went to sleep.
Tuesday, 15th June 2010 It´s getting hot!!!!!! Two performances and a leopard in a cage
Early in the morning we got up, refreshed, some did yoga, as I heard. We took our luggage and. Waited. For the bus to come and pick us up. Luckily, we found a tea shop that filled our empty stomachs. Finally, they arrived and we went all the way back to Butwal. There AI had organized a special programme. After a rally, a subsequent mass gathering and speeches, the street drama was performed.
I guess, there was no real plan what to do next, because we ended up visiting a park. One nice thing were the frooties and the cake that were generously given to all particpants. One thing that was definitely not so nice was the park. There was not only green fields and flowers and trees, the park also contained some cages with different animals. The sight of the leopard was so pitiable, it almost made me cry. The poor animal was kept in a cage smaller than my room (and my room is not that big). It was strolling along the fence, absolutely apathetic from one side to the other and back. Most people made fun of the leopard, sticking their hands in the cage, touching its head to prove their absurd superiority that was only based on a ridiculous mesh wire fence.
But as we were just promoting human rights, wearing t-shirts with the slogan „Demand dignity“. I guess it will take a while until people also consider animal´s rights… We arrived Parasi in the middle of noon. The performance took place around 1pm. It was extremly hot. I really admired the actors´ concentration and discipline under these circumstances, though. Later Sushma told me one thing that impressed me a lot and taught me about the Sarwanam´s members commitment. She said she always had wanted to be a social worker and that when they perform somewhere, she doesn´t care about heat, or rain or any other awkward circumstances. She acts for the people, to let them know, to make them smile, or cry and understand things.
We moved on. In between, I only remember dhal bhaat, most probably and miles and miles on the road to Sauraha. We reached this place, actually a tourist area located near Chitwan National Park in the evening. In contrast to this exhausting day, we now felt like this might be some kind of holiday package, staying in a real hotel and paying incredibly high prices in the cyber cafe. All participants had open air dinner together, sitting on the grass at the backside of the hotel. The Sarwanam family gathered afterwards in the boys´ room to celebrate three occasions: Sulo´s birthday, the triumph of the German national team and the farewell of our three new friends, who would leave the next morning. Unfortunately, they didn´t find us. That was a pity, because we had had great conversations and really liked them. Anyway, it was a nice evening, Shyam played guitar and sang, sometimes Nepali hits, sometimes „Summer of `69“. Someone played tambourin or madal, we ate Sulo´s birthday sweets. Then we went to bed.
Wednesday 16th June 2010 encounter with an elephant, two more performances, another park, further south, finally rain and have you met „Fufma Foirala?“
In the morning, we were standing on the street, waiting for the bus again. This time, however, we were entertained quite well. A parade of elephant herders arrived riding on these huge animals. Some of them had a glass of hot milk tea on the elephants´ back. The beautyful and impressive creatures came quite close to us and of course, there are plenty pictures of us and this extraordinary photo motive!
We went to Narayangat for the sixth performance. I was happy that we also went to perform there, because one of my friends who lives nearby, came to watch the drama. She was one of the pleasant spectators. In this place, there was the highest number of stray-children and begging women, who either handed you over a sheet of paper with their sad biography or behaved totally „out of control“, dancing and begging our boys for money. Maybe this was just a clue to the fact that people in this region are poorer and their desperation to seek a better life elsewhere is high. So also the risk of exploitation increases and AI figured out a good place to raise awareness for the dangers of migration.
During noon, we went to another park, I think at least there was no leopard.
We hit the road again and made our way to Hetauda. During our dhal bhat break, I found it was time to give something to my secret friend. So I bought chewing gum and placed it together with the note“to Shyam, from S. F.“ on his seat. He only found the note, because someone else took the chewing gum, but nevertheless now the „secret friend“ fun started. Shyam was guessing and suspecting everyone around him, taking „S.F.“ for the initials of someone´s name. It wasn´t quite matching…we ended up making many jokes about „Sulochaina Fopali“ and „Fufma Foirala“. Finally, some were driven as far as to begin every word in every sentence with the consonant „F“. So a sentence like:..“timilai kasto chha?“… was turned into:.“fimilai fasto fha?“…….. It was going to be a running gag!
In Hetauda, there was another nice surprise: it started raining heavily. And since then, the temperature was okay. As I was responsible for the photo documentation of this tour, I had decided to take pictures according to one topic. In Palpa, it was bird´s eye view, in Butwal portraits and in Hetauda I took snaps of what was happening „backstage“. It was astonishing to realize how you not realize what is happening behind you, when you focuse on the drama: Changing costumes, construcion and deconstruction of the airplane, actors waiting, actors searching props, people passing by…An interesting new perspective.
Afterwards we went to the border town of Birgunj. I had just read some articles in the Kathmandu Post about the crime rate in Terai and regarded this place with mixed feelings. Despite this, I had to say that this town also has some beauty. There´s a huge temple/clock tower in the entrance of the town, at night, there are still more people on the streets, when there´s elelctricity the shops are lighted, showcasing colourful goods. I liked it. Besides, we had the best dinner in Birgunj. Along with the usual dhal bhaat we enjoyed different kinds of paneer and this was so so tasty.
Again we were staying in a Jain guest house. This evening many got busy with writing letters to their secret friends and placing them on their pillows. And the „Fufma Foirala Game“ led to new fits of laughter.
Thursday 17th June 2010 a special performance, the last performance and the last night
This day we were lucky to have the opportunity to sleep a little longer, because our first performance would take place in Birgunj so we did not have to move. Except for the short distance to the clocktower/temple. This time, I choose to portray the relation between audience and artists and take pictures of their mutual reaction and relation.
Per coincidence, this was quite a good choice. Because this performance was special. After staging one drama ten times, it is hard to remember and distinguish every single performance. Birgunj, however, stayed on our minds. When after the caravan tour I asked all Sarwanam members about special memories of one performance, Shyam, Shiva, Ghanashyam and Sulo mentioned the one in Birgunj. And that was because of the unusual strong reaction of the audience. The atmosphere was full of tension. They reacted immediately, their faces responded the actors´mime, the emotions on “stage” were equal to the audience´s emotions . One time the actors form a circle and start laughing. In Birgunj some spectators imitated the laughter, it was like an echo. And as drama is a two-way mirror, I felt that the actors also gave even more than before. And that is part of the magic of drama, and the reason why showing a movie will always be something totally different.
The very last performance in Lal Bandi also differed from the others. Not the whole drama, but one scene, when Ghanashyam, Tika, Sulo and Shyam enter the stage and depict the hard physical work in a factory, something changed. In every performance, there were sweat drops on everyone´s forehead, this scene was always exhausting and thus authentic. This time was more intense, I could see Tika´s and Ghanashyam´s muscles tighten, each movement looked more precise. Then it was over. As it had been raining, the streets were muddy and all washed their feet at a tab.
We stayed a while, on the main road, there was a marriage procession passing by. Accompanied by a mobile disco and a typical marching band. Bride and groom were looking pretty decorated, their aunties were all wearing glittering saris of course. I put a mango frootie on my secret friend´s seat. Actually, though I took a look around,I didn´t see that he was standing next to me, when I put the surprise frootie there. Even more funny was that he didn´t see me either. Then I found some chocolate in my bag.
We went back to Hetauda. There had been the plan to go to Biratnagar and Janakpur, but that plan was cancelled, because there was bandh (strike plus road blockade). For the last time during this tour we had dinner together. A big cockroach flew against my ear, but at least they served many potatoes along with the rice.
Friday 18th June 2010 back home, through the clouds and enjoyment and curd at Sulo´s house
We were returning to Kathmandu. After spending all these days mostly in the bus, which was exhausting sometimes, of course,still the thought of going back home, where you would not see the others all day long and from which you would not travel miles and miles every day, felt strange. I was already missing the others.
Again, we left quite early in the morning, taking an old road back to Kathmandu. I sat next to Om Mani-Ba. He told me this was the first road, connecting Kathmandu and India, constructed some 50 years ago. But nowadays it is not so frequently used any more. This is wonderful, because you almost don´t hear horns. Above this, the road leads through a terrific landscape, with deep cliffs and forests. We followed the road in a zig-zag, climbing up to 2500 metres. We drove through clouds, in the end, we were above them. It was magical.
On top of the hill we had dhal bhat again. This was the time when we finally confessed to each other who was whose secret friend.
Another memorable moment was Sulo´s pecial treat to all of us. Her parents welcomed all of us to take a rest in their house in the hillside. We had taken this road not only because of its beauty, but because it leads to Sulo´s house From there, the view of the valley was too beautyful to describe. And Sulo´s parents were so friendly, smiling a lot and offering us curd from their own buffalo. I had never felt this way before, but they gave the impression that living in the countryside and producing your own food is something that can give you immense satisfaction and peace. Especially when you are rewarded with such nature beauty. I was really sad that we could only spend one hour there.
We went on, we were surrounded by rice terraces, a landscape in folds, brown red earth and sky and clouds. We passed the check post. Kathmandu, noise and pollution, horns..how nice it was to return. In Kalanki, we split up and went in different directions. But we were sure to meet the next day.
|Saturday 12.6.2010||From Kathmandu to Pokhara|
|Sunday 13.6.2010||In Pokhara, first Performance|
|Monday 14.6.2010||From Pokhara to Syangja, Second Performance
Fom Syanga to Palpa, Third Performance
From Palpa to Bhairawal
|Tuesday 15.6.2010||From Bhairawal to Butwal, Fourth Performance
From Butwal to Parasi, Fifth Performace
From Parasi to Sauraha
|Wednesday 16.6.2010||From Sauraha to Narayangat, Sixth Performance
From Narayangat to Hetauda, Seventh Performance
From Hetauda to Birgunj
|Thursday 17.6.2010||Eighth Performance in Birgunj
From Birgunj to Lal Bandi, last Performance
From Lal Bandi to Hetauda
|Friday 18.6.2010||From Hetauda to Kathmandu, visit Sulo´s home|
About the Programme
In the middle of June, Amnesty International (AI) Nepal in cooperation with Sarwanam theatre group conducted a caravan (Bus –Tour) with the two major objectives: The first objective was to put positive pressure on the Nepal Government while the second is to raise awareness amongst general public particularly people planning to go abroad for the sake of work.
Sarwanam joined hands with Amnesty International to promote human rights through theatre.
Sarwanam Theatre Group and the activists including representatives of AI Nepal travelled 9 districts from Kaski to Sarlahi. In every districts from Kaski to Syangja, Palpa, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Chitwan, Makawanpur, Parsa and Sarlahi various events including rally, distribution of pamphlets highlighting rights of migrant works, submission of memorandum to Nepal government through the Chief District Officers (CDOs) and performance of street drama were held. In some districts, local AI Nepal’s Group and Youth Networks organized other programs including mass meetings and interactions.
(quoted from Amnesty International Nepal´s webpage:
During the caravan a street drama highlighted the rights of the migrant workers with the title “Marusthal Ko Yatra”, written by Krishna Pahadi, directed by Ashesh Malla and performed by Sarwanam Theatre Group. It was shown in every place. This play exemplifies the story of one young man who goes abroad to work and earn and finds himself in a nightmarish scenario: due to lack of education he is only offered imbearable tough work in a factory. Then he suffers bad injuries in an accident and is immediately fired.
The playwright and popular human rights activist and former prisoner of conscience Krishna Pahadi inaugurated the caravan on 13 June in Pokhara which was concluded in Sarlahi on 17 June.