A Home Stay in the Himalayas
“You’re sure you don’t want more?” our host, Arjun, enquired, looking puzzled as his son, Arpan, cleared away my half-finished meal. I insisted that I was full, and he shook his head, exclaiming “You eat like a bird!”
If ever there was a time I ate like a bird, this was not it. The day had started with roti (flat bread) and spiced potato. Lunch had been a heaped plate of rice, dhal (lentil soup), vegetables, and potato. Noodles had been served as a snack to keep us going until dinner, and dinner itself had been more rice, vegetables, chips, and beans. Each meal had ended with offers of second helpings and insistences that I hadn’t eaten enough, before our plates were cleared away and my offers of help flatly refused.
“You want tea?” Arjun asked. “Sounds good”, I replied. He turned to his wife, Pabitra, and spoke to her in Nepali. I felt the familiar guilt as she rose silently and went into the kitchen to make us tea. Like my offers to help clean up, my offers to make my own tea were always shot down.
“Anything you need, just ask”, Arjun had insisted, while adding “I want you to see us like family”. My family certainly wouldn’t wait on me like this.
I sat, with my cup of black tea laden with sugar and ginger, on the porch of the farmhouse as rain began to fall. We were staying with our new family in the village of Bahakot while filming schools in the Syangja district of the Himalayas. While certainly not treating us like actual family, they had been incredibly kind. Not only had they helped us immensely with our filming, they had taken us on treks through the mountains LINK , introduced us to their neighbours, and tirelessly ensured our every need was met. And this hospitality extended well beyond the family. That morning, as we walked through the village with Arpan and his friend Kasmit, we had been greeted by everyone we passed with a cheerful “Namaste”. People picking rice in the fields stopped to wave to us, and others walking past us with giant baskets of grass strapped to their heads turned to ask where we were from. One elderly woman insisted we stay for tea and biscuits, then insisted we have a second cup, and more biscuits, and maybe lunch, before we assured her we had to be getting back.
The farmhouse we were staying in was a simple building- clay floors, concrete walls, wooden shutters, and a corrugated iron roof. The interior was simple, with a traditional kitchen centred around an open clay hearth, and a pipe in the wall which futilely tried to funnel smoke outside. Smaller buildings were dotted around the main house. One was our room, containing a table and two rock-hard beds. Another was the outhouse, with one room containing a hose for the shower, and another containing a squat toilet. A partially constructed iron and wooden shed housed a fire over which sat a large pot of raksi, a homemade millet wine which was constantly on offer. Besides this assortment of buildings, no houses were to be seen. Instead, we were surrounded by farmland- fields of crops, rice paddies, and a lean-to for the goats and buffalo.
The family spent most of their time outdoors, whether they were working, eating, or resting. Even now, in the pouring rain, we remained outdoors on the porch, sipping our tea while reclining on a wicker mat. Despite the 5am starts, long days of non-stop work, and hours spent trekking up and down mountains, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly relaxed. Though, in hindsight, that may have had something to do with being waited on hand and foot.
Watch our video of a day in the life of Trishna, our host family’s daughter,
as she completes her farm work and teaching job and still finds time to party the night away,