I wish it was possible to capture the beauty of this place on film, to describe it adequately with words. But none of my attempts do it true justice.
Just looking up at the mountains alive and green; the intricate detail formed in a joint effort between man and nature. The hills, with sections carved out as a farming technique, look like a grand amphitheater filled with steps carpeted in grass, crops, and wild flowers. In the golden hour of late afternoon, the sunlight sets it on fire in hues of orange and gold. And sitting just above these hills, resting on the horizon, when the curtain of clouds gather to the side in order to expose its beauty: the Himalayan mountain range. Crisp, pristine, reigning above all.
I scan the foothills, just below, to see randomly dispersed specks of houses, their tin roofs gleaming. Even smaller bits of color shine through the sea of luscious green–pieces of clothing hanging on a line to dry outside each household.
I bring my focus in to my immediate surroundings, at the home of Dipesh’s aunt. Fruit and vegetable trees in abundance. Flowers growing vibrantly and wherever they wish—the deepest of purples, the brightest of yellows. Straw huts, buffalo, cows, goats. Greenery, so much greenery.
I look to the right to see a black bee buzzing frantically, angrily with its disruptive vibrations just a few inches from my face. But then it changes my perception completely: it comes to a beautiful, momentary standstill–suspended in mid-air, weightlessly levitating. As it holds my gaze, I feel its graceful stillness, freezing the world around it. A few moments feel like an eternity, but with a blink to break my stare, it speeds away, carrying on, moving life back into motion.
Around town, children are dressed in their school best: button-ups, trousers, skirts. Their foreheads blessed with tikkas, their eyes full of curiosity and intrigue as we pass by. One of the kids kicks an empty soda can along the road, starting a game with her friends.
“NAMASTE!” “HI, HOW ARE YOU!” Small children shout from their group of friends, gathered to the side of the road, likely exchanging gossip from another day of classes. When we respond, they erupt into laughter and reconvene to their circle of friends, chattering loudly in Nepalese.
Passing through the village, it seems that the women do most, if not all, of the work. Cleaning the dishes, hunched over, sweeping the floors with their small brooms made of local shrubbery. Cooking, making the tea. Digging, harvesting, chopping with a machete. Gathering mustard seeds, drying them in the sun, separating them.In the fields, lugging around huge baskets of crops.
These baskets they carry easily exceeds the size of their petite, frail-looking bodies, at least twice their weight. They are skinny with bulging bellies, but strong. They carry these baskets over their backs, held up by a mere, thin piece of fabric strung across the width of the forehead along the hairline, balancing just so on the head, suspended by the strength and positioning of the fragile neck. Whenever I saw this—done by both the men and the women, from middle-aged to well into their 80s—I wondered how they didn’t just snap their necks. But this way of transporting crops, this common practice which perhaps takes more grace and technique than strength, looked to be an age-old method.
And beneath the wardrobe in which they work, the traditional clothing of beautiful fabrics–bright colors and elaborate patterns–peeking out from underneath the different lengths which cascade from the neck to the ankles: bare feet, thick with dirt and callouses. Wrinkles fill the faces of the elders, etched by years of sun and hard work. Gold nose rings, earrings, jewelry radiant on their dark skin. Their natural smiles reveal missing teeth and pure excitement, though they would not allow it to be exposed when they posing for pictures. Then once the photo was snapped, the enthusiastic smiles would reappear as they rushed over to see the final product on the small screen.
As night falls, it grows dark as quickly as it grows cold. We bundle in as much clothing as possible, our hands wrapped tightly around small cups of Nepali chiya, the aroma of its spices filling our noses with every spiral of steam, the milky tea sweet and warm with every sip from our lips to our bellies.
And in the morning, the refreshing chill. The numbing, soothing, cool of minty air, stinging and reddening my cheeks.
On our last morning, I picked a spot to meditate. I wore a smile throughout its entirety. And when my slowly opening eyes were greeted by the 360 degree stretch of Himalayas—surreal and vast and overwhelming, a strain of the neck to attempt to take in its panoramic view all at once—the ends of my smile curled higher. Truly a sliver of bliss.