Nepali Times Asian Paints
Guest Column
Real Nepal



In the 23 years I have been a pilot, I have crisscrossed much of this beautiful land of ours. From the air you see the incredible geographic diversity of this country, how it is laid out like a staircase to the heavens. From the hazy plains, through the rippled blue-green midhills to the dazzling saw-tooth of the northern horizon.

And wherever I land, in Simkot or Dhangadi, Taplejung or Bhadrapur, I meet Nepali men and women who are living proof of how our varied topography is reflected in Nepal's ethnic mosaic.

During the war, the people I met had just one concern: peace. Because I wore a smart uniform and came down from the sky, perhaps, passengers thought I would know, so they'd ask: "Shanti kahile aunchha hola?" Today, four years since the war ended, they are confused, disillusioned and fearful about the future.

Rural Nepalis are not demanding. They are satisfied with the little they have. They don't have great expectations. Most wake up in the morning, just wanting to get through the day, working in the fields growing enough to feed their families. They don't expect much from Kathmandu, and have long stopped demanding anything from their rulers.

I am a typical Nepali urbanite, and like many of you reading this, I have grown more and more disenchanted with the so-called New Nepal. All I see around me is cynicism, negativity and despair. So when I got an invitation to attend the Chainpur Festival recently, I jumped at the chance to get away from it all. I am really glad I did, it restored my hope in Nepal's future.

We travelled by road from Dhankuta to Hile, along the spectacular forested ridge road to Basantapur and then down to Chainpur. High above, the pyramid of Makalu kept us company like an old friend. Chainpur was alive with the anticipation of the festival the following day, and despite the chilly night people from all classes and ethnicities mingled. The war and the memory of the fierce battle here six years ago had begun to fade. People from different political parties were working together putting up welcome banners.

That evening I had dal bhat, scented with pure Chainpur ghiu. Our host told us the aroma came from the herbs that the cows ate in the high altitude pastures of eastern Nepal. The old world hospitality and spontaneity towards total strangers touched me deeply. It reminded me of the sense of belonging that comes to me when I fly passengers wearing tika and marigold garlands at Dasain. I have always felt privileged to be the one uniting Nepalis by flying them to be together.

The next morning, Chainpur's quaint cobblestone lanes were filled with people dressed in daura suruwal, haku patasi, bakkhu, and the ethnic garb of the Tamang, Magar, Rai and Limbu. Whatever they were wearing, they were all speaking Nepali with a distinctive Chainpur lilt. That morning in Sankhuwasabha, I felt convinced more than ever before that it is our diversity that unites us, and it is the Nepali language that is the mortar binding the bricks of our nationhood. Chainpur that day looked like a garden, and the voices sounded like a symphony.

The procession ended at the Tundikhel. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal landed his formerly-royal Super Puma in a cloud of dust. People clapped. But a group of Maoist youngsters started waving black banners and shouting "murdabad". The entire atmosphere changed, people became tense, and started running helter-skelter. The riot police charged the protestors. When the ceremonies resumed, the carefree feeling had evaporated.

Till the politicians arrived on the scene, Chainpur was Nepal in a microcosm. No one saw each other as belonging to this or that party, or ethnicity. We were all Nepalis. We shared what we had with strangers without expecting anything in return.

Nepal Ama is broke, she can't give anymore. It's time for us to give back to Nepal Ama what she gave us. I thank the people of Chainpur for inviting me and for opening my eyes to the reality of the real Nepal that I had never seen from the air.

Capt Vijay Lama is a pilot for Nepal Airlines.

I'm a Nepali first, by Vijay Lama - From issue #328 (22 Dec 2006 - 28 Dec 2006)

1. NepalWatcher
Congratulations Vijay Lama for so eruditely illustrating to us where the problem exists in our society.

2. ramesh
Congratulation Mr. Lama . I really appreciated your feelings and thoughts. I acknowledged you  that first  we all are Nepali regardless of any castes or clans. If Nepal remains intact then only we will remain Nepali. If all nepali had  similar views as Mr. lama ,  we would have done many things. 

3. Sam
There is no one that can describe Nepal better than you do Vijayu Dai! Missed you when you stopped writing for a bit! Welcome Back!

4. Devendra Pant
Very touching article. I completely agree with Vijay that our unity in diversity is our greatest treasure and strength.  Our nation is beautiful and our people are humble and hard working. They are rich because their needs are simple unlike the ever power-hungry KTM elites. People are tired of hearing the high-sounding rhetoric and philosophies of our political pundits. Yes "it is time for us to give back to Nepal Ama what she gave us." Politicians  STOP INSULTING  THE PEOPLE and LEARN TO RESPECT THE NATION!

5. Arthur
Why blame the politicians? If MKN shows up in a cloud of dust to make empty speeches and the Maoists wave black flags and shout at him the festival could go on. Why not blame the riot police for ruining the atmosphere by attacking the protestors?

6. Mridul

This article should be read by everyone. I wonder how we can get everyone to read it. Maybe reprint it? Or maybe keep it in the college syllabus? Or maybee... whatever. But serious, dear editor and author, what could we do so that everyone (meaning everyone in Nepal) reads it?

Thanks for pondering.

7. May
Thank you Vijay Lama for such a heartfelt and genuine reflect of what a lot of us silent majority of Nepalis think. No one agrees with the loud politicians and their slogans for the ethnic fragmentation of the country, most Nepalis don't want that. Captain Lama please translate this article also into Nepali, but better still make a feature film like 'Nepali Ama' that you acted in.

8. L B Thapa

Congratulation Captain Vijay Lama for your well organized expression.


Your article obviously helps to unite among disintegrated thoughts! You are care free for dinner, mother, beloved wife and kids, sleepless nights along with your international flights before a social cause. It is helping to heighten to your destination.  You are synonymous to VICTORY. You can always win their hearts, soul and thoughts thorough your selfish art of work and expression above than your flight.


Congratulation once again many people are with you through your nayano karyakram


Yours truly,




Long live Nayano Karyakram ...........!!!

9. hange
This is, indeed, what makes us different from a nation like Bhutan.  While it has it challenges, we embrace our diversity and count all of ourselves as Nepalis.  This is in contrast to the Druk approach of, "if we don't approve of them, send them away," resulting in one of the world's most overlooked cases of ethnic cleansing.  For all of our blemishes, I am proud to be Nepali.  Nice article Captain Lama.

10. Satelite
wonderful article Vijay ji. It touched.

11. Vijay Lama
Thank you all for reading this article and responding so positively..I can see a better Nepal, ramro Nepal and a Greater Nepal in a very near future through your responses...If we all can only unite as one Nepali Family..I know Nepal will sail through this bad phase and once again peace will prevail..Long Live Nepal and Nepali Families! Let us join hand and move forward leaving back all the negative actions and thoughts for our Nepal Aama!!!!!
Vijay Lama

12. SSP

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your article, Vijay - brought tears to my eyes when you spoke of  "old world hospitality" and "sense of belonging..passengers wearing tika and marigold garlands." However, you're really not looking deep enough when you say it is our diversity that binds us. What has been the focal point that the people of Nepal have rallied around? It is tradition that goes back a long way, tradition that got started after Nepal's first ruler Prithivi Narayan Shah unified the country. Yes, there are places where you can still find tradition and harmony. Chainpur, like you mention, is a good example, but there are only a handful of such places remaining. Look at the rest of the country now, what do you see? Nothing but total chaos. The country has never been as fractured in its entire history. They want to divide up an already tiny country into  even tinier bits and pieces; and they want to do it in the name of the very thing you say is our our binding factor: ethnic diversity. Sorry, friend, you couldn't be more wrong. The only thing that brought a country as diverse as Nepal together was the monarchy, and, you know what we did with it.

13. Dan
Very touching article on how the Nepalese feel about the country. We are a country of great diversity despite the size of the population. The only hitch is that our leaders have capitalized on the asset to divide the country to gain personal interests. As correctly put the people no more expect ny thing from the Government except some kind of peace. This article should be read by great leaders of all colors in order to realize what state of affair our country is in. 

14. Devendra Pant
Amidst the oceans of cynicism, slogans, corruption, negativity, hatred, rat racing, 'hool-danga', dirt and stench, 'ranabhumi' of ideologies, selling and buying of souls and consciences (a real 'necropolis'?), there still survive few islands of serenity  such as Chainpur (an 'acropolis') where one can still feel the warmth of the primordial smiles on the faces of innocent people, where marigolds and tika welcome you, where fresh breeze from the Himalayas touches your brows like the blessing of your mother. Where people still greet each other in 'Chautari', where people still share each others' tears yet one lives for all and all live for one. Isn't that the Shangrila the world has been  envying for? Isn't that a transcendental moment! From a distant alien land I recollect the sweet memories of my Matribhumi. Once again, thanks Vijaya for stirring our consciousness! May peace prevail in the land of the Brave and the Buddha!!

15. akash sherung
I guess I missed  reading Vijay's previous one had told me Vijay Lama writes this well..I have watched his Black and White  on Image Chanel and the personalities he he presents is inclusive in nature..I admire him for not deserting NA for  higher paying private airlines and continuing to serve the rural Nepali folks left out by the private airlines..I have heard of his eatery at the Babar Mahal revisited and hoping to visit it for a hearty meal..

16. Sarah Giri
Vijay-babu, I can understand why so many, including myself, are deeply touched by what you've written. It's writing 'dil-se' or straight from the heart ..... simply sincere and true! I agree with you. Ruling systems, social changes can affect the speed and scale of growth and progress .... but potential lives on, silent, waiting to rise and soar. You've turned the spot light on this potential in us, the people of Nepal .... our potential to enjoy unity in diversity ... our potential to live with the priceless gift of 'contentment' .... our potential to keep hoping for peace even in the midst of turmoil. Thank you very much for this beautiful sharing and yes, I look forward to more .... we need it!

17. Shilpa

18. Dikshya Sharma
thank you so much so for expressing positive views towards chainpur ..keep it up. Dikshya

19. Sujay Lama

I am a bit biased because I am your little brother. I had tears in my eyes when I read your article.

Although  I am far away from my mother land, I am very much connected in spirit. Having an opportunity to reflect on your thoughts acts as a fuel that ignites the love and passion  for my country.

 Last December, I went for a hike form Lukla to Namche Bazar. I was so touched by the people I met along the way and how kind, compassionate and friendly they were. You are right brother, the core values of Nepalese people continues to live on.

The question is  how and if the leaders will find teh courage and wisdom to lead Nepal with those Nepalese values.

Thank you Captain. Nepal is blessed to have a leader and a visionary like you.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)