Bhimkala, 42, was born in Nagaland, India, where her father and his two wives moved when he joined the Indian police force. Sadly, Bhimkala’s mother died when she was only 10 years old. Bhimkala’s father then married his third wife. We asked how Bhimkala felt about her father having multiple wives. She said when her mother died she didn’t particularly like it, even though there was never any jealousy between the wives. “I never saw either of my two stepmothers as my own,” she said. In total, Bhimkala has eight siblings; two of which are her full brothers.
Bhimkala lived in India for 15 years, until the family finally moved back to the Gorkha region of Nepal when her father retired. Bhimkala was educated from the age of seven up until the move. She married at the age of 17 – an arranged marriage. Bhimkala and Huk (her husband) appeared happy together during the interview – suggesting it was a successful match. They have a son and a daughter, aged 17 and 20 respectively, who are both studying in Kathmandu. Her son is yet to complete high school and her daughter is doing a degree in English. They are able to visit Chapthok twice a year. Their daughter has a part time job and the couple sends money to help support them as life in Kathmandu is costly.
Huk works as a stonemason and they top up their income through brewing the local alcohol, raksi, from millet and selling it in the village. Bhimkala’s daily routine consists of feeding her goats, working in the fields and cooking twice a day. Unfortunately the crops they grow are not enough to sell on because water is scarce during the dry season. Therefore they do not get any income from farming and have to subsidise the food they eat by buying it from local shops.
There is only one water source in the village which has dried up for eight months of the year previously. Bhimkala says this is the biggest problem the villagers face as they must walk over an hour to reach the next closest source. Most houses within the village have a large acorn shaped concrete tank that collects rainwater, costing 10,000 rupees to install, this was provided by an organisation.
“My hope for the village would be to solve the water shortage so people could sell their crops to a committee and make a sufficient living from farming.”
In light of this situation, we asked whether Bhimkala thought life in Chapthok was sustainable. She said she was certain the water source would dry up again. Apparently there are organisations willing to help but this isn’t a long-term solution. Many residents of the village have been settled here for too long and they don’t want to leave. However, it’s clear by the demographic of the population of Chapthok that this is only true of the older generation.
Bhimkala hopes that once her children have completed their education they’ll secure good jobs in Kathmandu. Her daughter is willing to consider working abroad depending on the opportunities. Bhimkala said she would “consider moving to Kathmandu to live with her children before I become too elderly”as village life involves a lot of physical work which will become challenging when the couple ages.
Finally, we asked Bhimkala how she felt about the young volunteers in her village. Being the generous lady she is, she wants to give something back and feels guilty for receiving money for the dal bhat she cooks for us. “I am happy to have you here and am impressed by the fact you are doing a labouring job which most of you have never done before.”
Words: Sarah M and Tess
16 April – end of Phase 3; return to training centre
18 April – ‘endex’ (end of Expedition); Venturers depart
22 April – Volunteer Managers depart