It was the month of October. I was walking alongside the bank of Karnali river with Deepak Sharma, a guy from Nawalparasi and my travel companion, whose first name happened to be same as mine. Apart from the two of us, we were accompanied by porters (who were in turn followed by asses/mules with heavy loads packed in their backs.)
We were travelling from Manma of Kalikot to Nanikot V.D.C. Nanikot falls on the Northern part of Kalikot and is a three day’s walk from Manma. Despite the long walking distance and heavy backpack, I was feeling glad. The lifestyle of the local people of Karnali, the clean and fresh environment was compensating my tiredness and making me feel good.
On the second day of our journey, we came across a small boy of around 7 years old who was carrying his small brother. I began conversing with him. After the thorough interaction, I came to know that the boy was going to school which was one and half hour walk up the hill, and it was his daily schedule. He covered this walking distance every day with his brother on his back.
I was astonished by the way this boy was taking such a huge responsibility from such a small age.
The boy made me compare the differences in lifestyles of this boy and the boys of the same age in the sophisticated cities like Kathmandu. The meeting with the boy made my heart heavy, but we had a huge distance to cover and we didn’t have time to linger. Thus, we moved forward without looking back.
After covering a good distance, we came across an elderly man of around 75, walking down hill with a herd of Chamba goat. The conversation with him began instantly. To our question regarding his destination, he said he was going to Manma to fetch daily materials like salt, oil, rice etc. He was a porter whose job was to deliver these materials from Manma, the headquarter of Karnali to the Himalayan regions (near Humla). This old man, who is supposed to retired and be at comfortable home, was struggling for his day to day meals. The meeting with him increased the load in my heart and we parted with greetings.
We stayed in Kalikot for 20 days . I found many other stories similar to the elderly man and the boy we met on the way. Most of the youths go to India for employment while the children and old people are left to struggle for survival in the lesser known parts of Karnali.