From WritingSikkim: On the Mail Route to Tibet

Shiva Kumar Rai’s “Tibbatko Hullaak-path”, translated from the Nepali original by Pema Wangchuk Dorjee.

This seems to be the only post/story on the website so far, but I hope to see more such translations of our literary heritage.

Here’s an excerpt (I like the Onomatopoeiac chirling ghontyang):

This story is not of the present times, it’s from before Independence; from a time when trade between Tibet and India used to move from Bengal’s northern border town, Kalimpong. Those were the days of the British; China had not yet been able to swallow Tibet. Kalimpong had developed into the focal point of the Indo-Tibet trade. The town used to receive bales of wool and rolls of carpets from Tibet and send up pulses, rice, salt, and cooking oil, in fact, all essential commodities, to Tibet. The mule trains moving out of Kalimpong would pass through Sikkim’s Rangpo, Gnathang and pass into Tibet’s Chumbi valley to reach Lhasa. When the caravans moved, the chirling-chirling, ghontyang-ghontyang of bells chained around the necks of the mules would float to distant dales, across ridges and hills. This story is from the time when, with one of these mule trains, Kuley arrived at the Sikkim-Tibet border town of Gnathang.

That’s right, his name was “Kuley” indeed. Everyone called him Kuley. But that is not how things began. The name given to him by the Bahun was Kul Bahadur Thami, but the Nepalese end up using only the quick and the short variations. Take for example what happens when the government, with the intention that the people may walk comfortably, cuts reliable, winding and wide roads; the Nepalese however steal shortcuts and where the journey would have taken two hours, they are already walking through in one hour! They would have already fashioned a chor-baato and broken down travel-time by half before anyone notices. A Chor-Baato is not called so because thieves – chors – use it, but because the road itself has stolen time. Kuley was a victim of this, very Nepali habit. As far as the Bahun was concerned, he had drawn out a Dhalaut, checked the date and time of birth, and the child having been born under the sign of Taurus, the Bull, had written down Kul Bahadur Thami as the name in his birth charts. But Kuley’s own father played dirty with him…. “What’s this Kul Bahadur Thami… a short Kuley will do the job just as well”. And so it was Kuley for the mother, Kuley for the elder sister, the neighbours and soon he was Kuley for everyone.

Read the entire story at the Writing Sikkim blog.



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