MIDWAY : Engulfed in fear

It was middle of July and Nepalgunj was very hot. Monsoon rains were inadequate to push the mercury level down. I wanted to fly back to Kathmandu as quickly as possible once my work was done. Unfortunately, and it had to happen with me, Buddha Air informed me that the afternoon flight had been postponed for the evening that day, which meant I had several spare hours on my hand and had to invent ways to kill them. Finally, I made up my mind to get out of the hotel and explore the town, although I didn’t think there was anything exciting near by. I knew it would be unfair and I wouldn’t be satisfied if I spent my time reading my book in the hotel lounge instead of visiting the town. So I ventured out and called for a cab. The driver asked me where I wanted to go. I told him to take me where he thought I should go.

As per the driver’s advice, we headed southwards to a small town across the border called Rupardiha. We reached the town without any heavy interrogation or checking at the border. However, moving out was not that easy for many other people. There was a long queue of poor hill men waiting to be interrogated at the immigration before setting foot on the Indian soil apparently for jobs or security or both. Someone told me there were some 500 notable exit points along the border and thousands moved out everyday. I found Rupardiha to be dirty, dusty and hot. The place was crowded and did not have any decent restaurant or hotel. Despite all these, local businesses were high. The vendors were extremely busy with the customers. Everyone was cheerful and happy. No fear of a bomb going off or someone getting shot at, unlike in Nepalgunj. The Nepalgunj residents were sad and worried. There was no business, no excitement. Nepalgunj was indeed big and beautiful but it was engulfed in fear and hopelessness. The whole town looked like a war zone to me especially when I saw the security fortification on most of the traffic islands. I still keep thinking to myself – why are we ruining our own paradise? Why were those hill men forced to move out? Why was there so much of excitement in Rupardiha and gloom in Nepa-lgunj although they were only a few kilometres apart?