Like a monkey I sprang from one room to another. I was trying to decide whether I should take up a room in the building or one of the garden huts. I settled with the garden hut. The location of our resort in Chitwan, Nepal was excellent. Chitwan forest surrounded the entire locality, the Sauraha village — heart of Tharu culture. The homes of the Tharu people and the Rapti riverbank both were within walking distance from the resort.
I was casually walking about in the resort complex when suddenly my peripheral vision caught sight of something huge. I turned to my left and for a split second considered running away! An elephant was roaming around a shed adjacent to the resort compound.
Apart from the zoo I had seen elephants only in Kerala, India. I have also committed the shameful act of riding on the animal. Back in those days I was unaware of the implications of my act. I have promised to myself I would never do it again. But, I had never ever seen an elephant chilling around so close to human habitation!
The oddness of the fact encouraged me to know more about this particular elephant, so I followed the mud path which led me to the shed. The elephant was huge, free and there was no human around. I comforted my freaked soul. A figure emerged out of the hut near the shed. He walked straight towards the elephant and quickly rode over it. Ofcourse! He was the mahout! Another figure, this time a woman came out of the hut and started cleaning the shed.
I could not tell if the woman was still in her teens or 20s but she was extremely helpful, friendly and always smiling, just like most of the women in Nepal. She asked me in which city of India I live and gave a gleeful squeal on hearing Kolkata. It turned out that she had lived in Kolkata after her marriage for a few days before leaving for Nepal. From the gloomy click of her tongue I inferred her marriage life was unsuccessful; I quickly changed the topic.
The plan of the evening was finalized. The resort owner agreed that he will provide our huge group a vehicle which will transfer us to the cultural center for the Tharu Dance Show. Now I had already researched about this prior to my arrival in Nepal. The dance show is a must watch when in Chitwan.
The Vehicle And The Foreigner
As darkness descended in the forest, the vehicle arrived. Initially I was shocked. In my imagination I expected a car or atleast a jeep. Well, here we got a vehicle, something like a van with railings on the sides and the top covered by a plastic covering sheet. Getting bunked up on this van and treading on forest paths in the darkness is going to be fun- I thought to myself!
The last member to board the van caught my attention. She was definitely not an Indian. She had fair complexion, petite, short and had small, narrow eyes. In the van she seated herself next to me. Like typical Indians I bobbled my head to express “Pleased to meet you” and smiled. She bobbled and smiled back!
The lady was a solo traveler from China. She had traveled extensively in South East Asia and was now exploring Nepal. In India she had been to Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat. Her English was heavily accented and I made her repeat each sentence 4-5 times in order to understand (Yes! I am this lame at catching accented English). She was patient enough to tolerate my dumbness! From her I got to know WeChat is the WhatsApp of China, temperatures drop to zero in Beijing, the younger generation Chinese can speak English but the older generation lag a lot. I still had no idea to which generation she belonged.
Tharu Dance Show — A beautiful showcase of Tharu culture
The cultural center was full to its brim, full with people of diverse nationalities, races and cultures — this is the largest cosmopolitan gathering that I had ever been to. But, the best was yet to come!
The Tharu dance showcased the lives and lifestyle of the Tharu people. Locals living in the Sauraha village performed all the acts themselves. The girls were dressed up in black blouse, white saree and the boys wore white-red t-shirt with dhoti. Dhols and sticks were used prominently in many of the dance performances.
Each single dance had a deep rooted meaning. It showed how the Tharu people live in harmony with the wildlife that constantly surrounds them. I distinctly remember the peacock dance: A person, dressed up like a peacock danced to a beautiful music.
It is commendable how a tiny village tucked away in a forest can breed so much talent. The fire dance was the icing on the cake. Hats off to all the locals of Sauraha!
Now comes the best part: when the final dance was over, all the visitors enjoying the show in the cultural center were asked to come up on stage and dance together!
I sprang up on my feet and ran on stage to hit the biggest cosmopolitan dance floor of my life. I have no words to describe that feeling! I danced with strangers from far flung countries so different from me, nothing was choreographed yet the entire crowd of atleast 100 people danced to the tribal music in sync with each other. For those few minutes, we forgot our differences and celebrated the similarities we have. It was one of the best evenings of my life.
My Chinese friend turned out to be very shy a person. She preferred sitting with my mother and other group members instead of joining me on the dance floor.
As the van was rolling back to the resort I got an idea of my new Chinese friend’s age. She showed me happy family pictures of her husband and 18 year old son! So I had just made friends with a person double my age. Awesome! Isn’t it?
Trip Taken on — December 2014
Travel Agent Hired — Debi Tours And Travels (BiswanathGhatak- 9051806469)
Hotel Booked — Eden Jungle Resort (+977 985-5080071)
This is neither an advertisement nor a recommendation. I paid for my own trip.
Tharu Dance Show — Price (Nepalese Rupee 100 approx) ; Timing (6PM-8PM); Duration (45 minutes) ; Venue (Sauraha, Meghauli).
Bookings for the Tharu Dance show can be made via the accommodation you are staying at.
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