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Travel Story by Ian Reynolds

  A Whirlwind Tour
Kathmandu, Nepal
 


Pramila & Devendra

The ride from Zhangmu on the Tibet/Nepal border to Kathmandu took about seven hours on a boneshaker of a bus.

Boy, was I glad to reach the familiar sights and smells of Kathmandu having been there on two previous occasions back in 1995 and 2000. Not much had changed although the infrastructure of the city’s roads had definitely improved and now there were traffic lights!

It took me a while to find my bearings and I managed to locate Hotel Metropolitan Kantipur where Devendra, the Deaf owner was waiting for me. Arrangements had been made to stay at the hotel after I learnt of its existence from friends. Unfortunately it was a whirlwind visit as I was flying home the next day after an epic adventure across Russia, Mongolia, China and Tibet. Still, that did not deter Devendra, as he was keen to show me as much as he could in the time we had available.

On arrival Pramila, his wife, made me some fresh lemonade, which helped quench my thirst. Devendra and Pramila were the first Deaf couple to get married in Kathmandu and probably, Nepal. They have been married for 22 years and have a son of 18 and a daughter of 20.

The skies were dark and there was high humidity in the air so it was no surprise when the heavens opened. This was the first sign that the monsoon season had started and it was a welcome relief for everyone after the high temperatures in recent months.

After dumping my rucksack in my air-conditioned room with an ensuite, Devendra and I went for a walk through the streets of Thamel, a magnet for backpackers. He introduced me to a Deaf friend who works in a jewellery shop on Tridevi Marg. Further along we stopped at ‘The Bakery Café’ where we had our evening meal. Many of the waiters and kitchen staff are Deaf. There are signs in the café, which highlight this fact and encourages customers to communicate with them via sign language.

While we ate, Devendra told me all about his life in Kathmandu how despite struggling at a hearing school he had changed his life by embracing sign language and working in a successful handicraft business as a carpenter. He was involved in setting up of the Deaf school in Kathmandu in 1986 and setting up education courses for Deaf adults. Visits to America and Gallaudet through US sponsorship inspired him further. With the help of family and friends Devendra and Pramila started building their hotel in 1993, which opened in 1995.

Back at the hotel he showed me the Deaf visitors book with comments and photos of Deaf travellers who have stayed there in the past. Quite a few of the names were recognisable and I was the 9th Deaf visitor from the UK to stay there. Deaf people from all over the world (e.g. Sweden, USA, Canada, Germany and Italy) had also signed the book.

We had an early start the next morning, as I needed to be at the airport for midday to catch my afternoon flight home. Breakfast was served at 7.30am and half an hour later we were whizzing down the narrow streets of Kathmandu on his scooter. While the traffic was as chaotic as ever it was a smooth ride.

First stop was Patan where we saw work in progress on building the Red Machhendranath Chariot. Men in precarious positions including a Deaf guy were hard at work on the tall structure.

One of the most important and spectacular festivals celebrated in Patan takes place between May and June when the massive chariot of Rato Machhendranath is pulled through the narrow streets of Patan to circle the historic city. The celebrations last for a few weeks and pay homage to Lord Machhendranath, the patriot deity of the valley, who is worshipped and revered as Karunamaya - the Bodhisattva of compassion by the Buddhists and Shiva to the Hindus. Religion in Nepal seems to be a hybrid of the two but it seems to work well as everyone gets along.

It was a constant hive of activity around Durbar Square in Patan, as preparations were underway and I would have liked to stay longer but time was of the essence. There was also an elephant walking in the streets, which brought traffic to a standstill!

We stopped off at a printers on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Raghav, who is Deaf, works there. He had attended the first ‘Deaf Way’ at Gallaudet in 1989 with Devendra. His command of English was good, much better than my Nepalese anyway! And he will be one of the Nepalese delegates (there will be three) going to the WFD Congress in Madrid.

Our final destination was the Nepal National Federation of the Deaf and HOH. I met both the Deaf staff members, Upendra and Bikash Dangol (the President). Bikash showed me around the building and the work that they do such as providing an interpreting service, improving education in regional areas and creating Nepalese sign language dictionaries/books and CDs/DVDs. Bikash will also be at the WFD Congress.

Both Raghav and Bikash’s photos can be found in Deaftravel’s flickr photo gallery in the highlighted web link.

The morning passed very quickly and a mad dash back to the hotel ensued followed by a round of farewells before catching my taxi to the airport.

I was very impressed with the hospitality of my hosts even though I was in Kathmandu for less than 24 hours. Devendra and Pramila made me feel really welcome and a stay at their hotel is highly recommended if you are ever in Kathmandu.


For more information visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38247343@N00/sets/72157600784487971/

Click on photo to enlarge


   


E-mail: ian@deaftravel.co.uk
Date Submitted:
11 Jul 2007


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