I’m looking out over Phewa Tal. A boy, maybe 14, asks if I’d like a boat ride. I would love one, I think, but I can’t stay by the water. At this hour the lake is peaceful and inviting, but I’m meeting Prem Nepali in a few minutes at Serenity Hotel. Prem is a freelance reporter who is tied with JMC’s network of Dalit journalists. He is the first of 16 Dalit journalists I will be visiting. We were to meet him at 7 this morning, but he’s having difficulty finding petrol for the two motorcycles we’re taking to a Dalit settlement 14 kilometers outside of Pokhara.
Our travels yesterday from Kathmandu went smoother than I was led to expect. Fifty years ago, before the construction of the Prithvi Highway, the journey would have taken us 10 days by pony. Although it’s 120 kilometers, the highway twists and turns back on itself across the Himalayan foothills, so the five hours it took us was considerably fast.
I turn and walk up to Pokhara’s lakeside main street. Most establishments in this section of town cater to foreign tourists. There’s a German bakery, an Italian ice cream parlor and even a wireless Asian cafe. The rooftop restaurants play Jack Johnson and Santana and everyone greets you with a hellohowareyou followed by a plea to buy their goods or eat at their restaurant. It’s tiring. Whether consciously or not, Prakash and Prem suggested we stay here. Perhaps they thought we would like being in this part of town, or perhaps they thought this was the nicest area to show us. In either case, I’m conflicted: during the day we are to visit settlements where 20 families share one water pump, and at night we go back to our room with hot water and color TV.
I arrive at Serenity Hotel and find Prem waiting.
Posted By Therkelsen
Posted Jul 8th, 2008