The Rallapalli Foundation continued to fund projects and work with Mahabir Pun, in the Nangi area. In 2004 a fish pond was created to provide a source of protein and income. The same year they funded the remodel of an older building into a science lab and provided the equipment. During these years the Rallapalli’s developed a deep respect for Mahabir Pun’s work ethic. They completely trusted him with the funds and his choice of projects, although they regularly required project reports and financial accountability.
Harvesting fish from the Nangi ponds. The fish are divided among villagers and the extra sold.
One final project is still a dream. In 2005 Mahabir attempted to start a hydro project in the Nangi area that would generate enough electricity to support the school and earn income by selling excess electricity on the grid. A feasibility study was done by a Nepali engineer but the Rallapalli’s thought there were too many potential problems and unanswered questions concerning actual construction. They decided to commit partial funding of $20,000 USD. Mahabir and the village would have to either borrow or raise the equivalent. Actions, such as challenging a community to invest in a project, does test merit and committment. The money is still available but Mahabir has not pursued building the hydro plant, although it is still on his dream list…
Mahabir’s dream for a hydro electric plant has grown to a larger scale. in the last two years he has made a proposal to the Nepali government to build a hyrdo power plant in the Kathmandu Valley and use the gains to fund public projects, specifically an Innovation Center. More about the Innovation Center in future posts, but for now Nangi has benefited from smaller solar electric projects using battery backups which provide a steady source of electricity for students in the school and a single 25 watt light bulb in their huts.
Join me next week for more about Mahabir Pun’s many projects and a look into his strategy.
Here the story gets fuzzy because no matter how many ways I asked either Ommaya or Mahabir to describe their courtship it was difficult to get facts…Ommaya would look puzzled or shy and Mahabir changed the subject. Trying to match ages with dates and transpose those dates with the English gregorian calendar and the Nepali Bikram sambat calendar is difficult because they do not match day for day or month for month. It is also difficult because the dates do not matter to either party. The marriage occasion occurred, but it is not further celebrated or remembered. Further complicating the matter is my limited understanding of the culture, even though I worked with Mahabir for 12 years, read and study Nepali customs…fact remains it is not my own culture and my vision is shortsighted by my own prejudices.
Ommaya shops for vegetables outside her home in Pokhara. 2009
Ommaya was from Kaphaldanda, which is a small village a half day walk from Nangi. You can see it from Nangi, halfway down the far hillside, just beyond Ramche village. Her parents are farmers who raise potatoes, millet, corn and vegetables on the traditional terraced fields. They still live in her home village and she visits them about once a year. She has two older brothers, Nandabahadur, who teaches in Kaphaldanda, and Himbahadur, who is a guard in the Congo.
The families knew each other because Mahabir’s mother, Purbi, came from the nearby village of Ramche. Ommaya’s father is the son of Mahabir’s mother’s father’s cousin sister…yeah…try to figure that one out. Simple to say they were very distantly related. The marriage followed the usual procedures for social intercourse with a few adjustments. According to tradition the family of the man must meet the woman’s parents to formally ask for permission to marry. Mahabir’s father had died and his mother lived far away in Chitwan, unable to travel due to her health. Mahabir’s relatives in Nangi performed the necessary arrangements for him. Shortly after Mahabir took Ommaya to Chitwan where his mother gave her blessing in front of his family.
Join me next week for more about the social intricacies of Nepali marriage.