Botes call off gold quest to celebrate Maghi

Madan Wagle

Kumaltar (Tanahun), 16 January:

Most of the Bote people of Kumaltar in Byas municipality-5 today returned home to celebrate Maghe Sankranti (Maghi). Earlier, they and their children had been sifting for gold in the Trishuli river at Kurintar in order to pay back loans they took during Dashain.

Forty-eight years old Harka Bahadur Bote said he abandoned his quest and came back to celebrate Maghe Sankranti. Harka Bahadur said he had borrowed Rs 5,000 for celebrating Dashain. “Four of my family went to look for gold. We succeeded in collecting a tola,” a delighted Harka Bahadur said. “In addition to paying back our loan, it is sufficient to cover our expenses for some time ahead. We will plan another expedition later.” Harka Bahadur lost both his hands in 1988, but not his enthusiasm. He has been supporting his family of nine by hunting for gold and fishing in Trishuli river.

His 41-year-old wife Biba Maya Bote said she assists her husband by mining the sand and gravel for gold. A goodly amount of gold can be got if one labours hard, she claimed. Min Bahadur Bote, who also went in quest of gold, returned with gold worth 40 cents. “I have brought half a tola of gold. I am not sure how far it will go to support my family of 12,” he said. “Our life is bound with the river, be it gold sifting or fishing. Poverty forces us to endure the cold and labour frantically in the water.” Dhan Bahadur Bote’s litany of woes is similar to that of Min Bahadur. “We are unable to save money though we labour so hard,” he said. He said he collected gold worth Rs 5,000 this time but his wants remain far from fulfiled.

The Botes don’t hunt for gold from choice, but out of compulsion to exist and support their families. The ever-growing number of family members pushes them to continue to remain in this profession.

Poverty and the lack of awareness about the need to educate their children have forced them to carry on the hunt for gold.