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Hurried Trip to Avoid a Bad Star

Karnali

Hurried trip to avoid a bad star is an extract from the article "Karnali , Road less World of Western Nepal" which was published in the National Geographic 140.5 (November, 1971). It is based on the exploration of Karnali region which the authors M. Lilla and C. Bishop Barry did on foot for  15 adventurous months. This essay explains how Karnali Zone is economically linked to the lowland regions to the south.

During those 15 months the American geographers learned a lot about the lifestyle, social values and traditions of people of the remote area Karnali. Once when they were going to Nepalgunj with other villagers who were going to trade medicinal herbs, hashish, hand knit sweaters, and blankets to the low land pf Terai, they met a Chhetri woman of about 30 who requested them to inform her husband that he was needed there if they met him in the low lands. According to her, her husband had left to find work in Terai about 15 years ago. This indicates that the people in the remote areas like Karnali don't have much exposure to the outer world and that child marriage is still practised there. It also shows that young people are forced to move towards the Terai to search for employment opportunities.

Moving further down the hills, they passed a group of eight or nine men processing silajit around a small fire. They were going to trade it in the Nepalgunj. They told that when silajit is taken with milk, it boosts the immunity power and is also good for the digestive system. When they were asked why not process it before leaving their home valley of Sinja, they answered they they had to make a hurried trip so as to avoid the influence of bad star. This showed that the people of that region still believed in such superstitions.

As they descended to lower elevations, they passed through a strange forest of skeletal looking Sal trees. There had been massive deforestation and some women were still chopping the few remaining green branches to feed their cattle. This showed that they were only trying to solve the immediate problem and not searching for sustainable ways of solving it.

In Nepalgunj they saw that the Terai was more developed than the highlands. The people from Karnali sold their goods and then began to buy cotton clothes, spices and other basic stuffs. Karma was one of their fourteen porters and he bought only distillery equipment to make liquor and earn some money. As the Karnali region was one of the places with less fertile land, they had to depend on low lands for food. They were linked with the lowland regions to the south for employment, trade and food.

In their 15 months research project at the Karnali region, they had witnessed the round of the seasons and had seen man and the nature mesh in the often inhospitable western Himalayas. They suggested that the only way to make the lives of people in Karnali easier was by the cross flows of people, animals and goods over such dangerous footpaths of the region i.e, through development of the infrastructures of trade, tourism and education.