Life expectancy in Nepal is around 72 years as of now. Crossing this age long ago, Ognath Nepal now is 100 years old. Nepal was born on October 25, 1920, in Sindhukot, Melamchi-5, Sindhupalchok.
He is a living witness of a whole century. His experiences and observations can be a matter of interest for many youngsters of this generation. It is interesting to know what his time was like, what customs and practices were then, and what the food and clothing culture was like.
Onlinekhabar met him on the occasion of his 100th birthday, asking him to tell us about his times, society and culture then, and differences he observed over the years.
You just completed 100 years. How are you feeling about it?
Yeah, I have got this old. I got to know about this only after my grandchildren reminded me. By now, I am weak: my senses do not work well. I have to be reminded even of my age.
What should I even feel like? I shall work and do my chores till I can and the aftermath, it’s the same– remembering the god and chanting ‘Narayan’. It is all up to the almighty and time.
One hundred years have passed; you have had the opportunity to witness the society of the past and the present. Can you recall what the society was like then?
Time brought these changes. Every time, something is changing. However, to bring a change in your life, one has to do it for oneself. Be it any kind of political or governmental change, these changes have always been for the bigwigs of the society only. For the general public, it has always been the same; the ‘haves’ have been always exploiting the have-nots. Until and unless you work hard, you can’t earn a living. And, if you can’t work hard, you will have to stay with an empty stomach and suffer.
Many forms of governance have come and gone since the time memorable, but none of these changes has affected me and my life.
No doubt, there have been other changes like many roads. Vehicles and goods have reached almost everyone by now. At my times, I got to see a vehicle for the first when I went to Kathmandu while I was an adult. Look, as of now, there are five to seven motorcycles in the yard of my house.
Was it difficult to manage basic needs like food and clothing at that time?
Indeed, it was very difficult to manage food and clothing at that time. Only a few had good food to eat and clothing. Other than them, all others had this problem. Only after working our fingers to the bone, we used to manage some food.
I myself have ploughed the field without even eating anything for four days. While eating after four days, I ate dhindo made up of one pathi flour along with gundruk-lapsi achaar that I begged from others.
I had a loan then. So as to repay that loan, I went to Calcutta in around 1954. I stayed there for around 18 months, and then, I came back home. Though my employer had asked me to return to work saying he would also pay for the days I am at my home, my family didn’t let me go. That is why I stayed here only.
After coming back here, I was able to repay the loan. After that, I didn’t have to worry about any debt; I was debt-free.
However, the daily burden (routine) of farming and raising livestock for farming was and is still there.
In my times, there was no practice of selling milk as it is now. Rather, I used to make ghee from milk and sell it at Ason and Indrachok in Kathmandu. People who didn’t know how to read were cheated by the traders. In the past, even after farming, raising livestock and selling ghee, we could hardly manage enough flour to eat. However, people, now eat rice by raising only one buffalo.
At that time, we used to thresh rice with the dhiki (a traditional home-made tool) and sell it in Sankhu and Sundarijal of Kathmandu. After a long time, a mill was established in our village. Even after the mill came, we used to thresh rice with the dhiki and sell it. By now, they sell rice from their fields directly; one does not have to worry about threshing and carrying sacks.
How were the festivals celebrated in the past?
Just as it is celebrated now… Those who could afford rice used to eat rice, and the others would eat what they normally used to eat.
They also used to bring sheep and goats from outside for Dashain. I too have tasted lamb once; it was a bit sour. I didn’t like it that much. Since then, I ate only goat meat. Goats were raised by the people themselves.
In general, people used to celebrate as per their standard. If they had good food and could manage to get new clothes, they used to celebrate by eating tasty food and wearing new/good clothes. Others who didn’t have good food and clothes used to celebrate with whatever things they had.
And, today is no different. It is the same as before.
Do you know any secret to a long life? How can one get such a long life?
Well, I have done nothing to get a long life. One should do one’s work, shouldn’t deviate from one’s ethics and virtues and shouldn’t harm others. That is all that one can; the rest is all up to gods. It’s not something that happens by itself.
One should keep on doing one’s best, always keeping one’s heart and soul in charity, virtues and good deeds. Then, life will be long on its own.
How was your daily routine then?
Looking after the cattle, going to fields and working there, going to and fro between the village and the city… There used to be at least one work at a time. At that time, there were no vehicles, so we used to walk on foot up to the city.
That’s all was my daily routine. I did nothing to improve my routine.
What kind of food you used to eat?
Whatever was grown in our own field… At that time, there was not any practice of buying food like it is now. And, neither was it available. One used to plant and grow vegetables and grains in their own field and the same used to eaten by them. I ate cow’s milk, curd, honey, ghee and also ate corn, millet, wheat and rice threshed in a dhiki by ourself. I didn’t eat the ‘outside’ food.
In my youth, I used to smoke cigarettes and marijuana. But, once I went to Kashi, I promised not to smoke cigarettes and marijuana any longer and threw away my cigarettes and marijuana. At that time, I was probably 25-30 years old. Since then, I have not smoked cigarettes or marijuana. But, I still consume tobacco a little bit.