Part 1: Travel and arrival. July 28, 1983
Imagine marrying someone from a different country from your own, and for 12 years they are not allowed to return! The reasons are extremely complex and nothing to do with family and everything to do with politics. My wife, Dr C, was the first ever woman from Nepal to get a PhD in 1971, the year we were married. Yet despite her being granted British citizenship we were told that the Nepal government “wanted her back”!
Now skip forward to 1983, we have two children, 7 & 5 years, have saved enough money for the air fares but have no extra money at all, so …….. Sod it, we’re going and to hell with the Nepal government!
These are extracts from a daily handwritten journal I kept. No photos from that time …… we didn’t even have a camera of our own!
After almost 24 hours of travel, my first time flying and first time out of the UK we arrive at TIA Kathmandu. Leaving the plane we were thanked by hostesses and captain, our passports and visas were examined and stamped within a few minutes, and our cases were personally brought to us! (Is this normal?)
The meeting between Champa and her parents was extremely emotional as you’d expect after 15 years apart. Her youngest brother Dr Madan had a taxi for us which he guided through the streets of Kathmandu on his motorbike. All a bit Hair raising since the driver only gave way to cows standing or sleeping in the middle of the road. Everyone else was scattered with a beeping of his horn.
I had been warned about the state of the city and the poverty, though many streets were no worse than parts of old Glasgow where we had met at university and married. But at last Swayambhu came into view, fantastic, I had dreamed about and looked forward to seeing this for years, but a full visit would come later.
We were now in Chauuni and turned off the main road by a military barracks down a narrow lane. Lots of family waiting for us by the gate of Champa’s oldest sister, Nanta’s house. Champa’s mother performed a puja …… an urn of water on each side of the gate, water used to wash her hands and mix with a red dye which was placed on our foreheads, the traditional tikka. Now we could pass through the gate and were welcomed by and introduced to the closest family members, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and one or two nephews and nieces.
So far this has been quite overwhelming and there is no doubt we are fantastically welcome, Champa is the returning hero as the most educated woman in Nepal, but they are all worried about me and my expectations in such a different environment. We have been fed with so much food in the past few hours and Madan has just returned with a fridge to keep in our bedroom! Unusual to say the least as most folks in Kathmandu don’t even have electricity!
As the day ends we reflect also on a quick walk up Swayambhu hill, not a single temple on its own, but a dome like stupa surrounded by Hindu shrines, Buddhas, and a monastery too. But everywhere there are wild dogs, vicious monkeys and people living in the most appalling conditions that would not be tolerated in Britain. And the smell! Also it’s monsoon season and the mosquitos here take lumps out of you so beware!
Time for bed ……. Physically and mentally drained.
Do look out and follow us for Part 2, Champa and The Merchant!