[Inspired from the narrations of Mr. Sudin Rai, a local inhabitant of Pakhribas.]
My father says that Pakhribas Agricultural Centre was established in the 70s to reintegrate the ex-Gurkhas of the British Army. Its sole purpose during its establishment was to feed the Gurkhas with some agricultural sense so that they could spend their retirement being a bit more productive. Hence, most of the employees at the Centre were ex-Gurkhas, as I recall. There was one man (he is still here)…….everyone called him Operator…..he had been a radio operator during his tenure in the Queen’s Army and still everyone calls him Operator Baje(grandpa).Others had served the army as compounders, cooks and so on. They had wasted all of their youth fighting in the jungles of Malaysia or being posted in Hong Kong. Maybe their employer decided to give them some good time in their retirement; they had collected most of the ex-mercenaries here at Pakhribas.
Pakhribas, then was an entertaining place……as I remember. When we were children, we used to try our best in watching the movies which used to be shown in the Center and mimic them the next day. The films which arrived on dokos from Hile were much awaited by us. A circular used to be issued whether children and women would be allowed to view the movie…..Operator Baje was our informer. Especially, when they brought horror movies and movies with lots of sex scenes, we would not be allowed to view them. But they say prohibiting something is challenging the children to do that same thing, we, at whatever the cost, would be determined to watch that special movie, whether it was camouflaging ourselves with leaves or climbing over barbed fences….And the romance of every Sunday night would start, with the setting of the sun…..
The way we would be determined to watch those movies, just the same, the watchmen of the Center (they were in plenty) would be determined to keep us away from the Community Hall where the films were shown through a projector on a wide screen on the wall. Our hide and seek would start with the watchmen………to fool them we had to devise a lot of tricks……..we used to cover our bodies with leaves and grass (inspiration from the war movies we had watched) and moving stealthily through the forests and the office buildings, we would eventually be able to reach near the hall and wait patiently for the watchmen to disperse from the entrance. Then we would climb secretly on to the window sills and peek in through the curtains. Oh what an obligation! What an adventure that was!!
I think the movies which we watched in Community Hall used to be fresh releases from Hollywood. The film reels found their way to Pakhribas via the British Council at Kathmandu and then Ghopa Camp (now, BPKIHS) at Dharan Nowadays when I bump into those movies/scenes on the movie channels, then I get into the bittersweet reminiscence of those days. The difference now and then is, now the kids can flip through the channels lying on their couch whereas we had to struggle so much to watch those movies……not forgetting all the bruises and cuts we received while venturing into the jungles at night. There were no TVs in Pakhribas then and I feel there were only few of them throughout Nepal. Later, when we started watching Hindi movies on TV, we were baffled to see the hero knock out 10 to 12 villains with just one punch! But from the very beginning, we felt that Indian cinema was too dramatic!
I can never forget the night we had watched Rocky…..at that time our innocent hearts understood how much excitement lies dormant in the hearts of the grown-ups! For us(the children), that movie was just about a boxing competition but listening to the grown-ups whistling, clapping and shouting frantically behind us whenever Stallone punched Dolph………….we understood it was something else! They shouted with all their might, suggesting Stallone to hit and kill that bastard…..that night they nearly brought the house down with their screams!
During the kissing scenes in the movies, we just wondered like retards as to what they were really up to…….and whenever some scenes would get boring or the characters would get involved in long unintelligible chatter, we used to fret around or start making noises, then……………..always, a man would come up to us in the dark and start doing,” Sh…….sh….sh..sh..sh…sh….” If that man is still alive maybe he still makes others quiet with his hushing.
That Pakhribas was different, the employees got salaries converted from the British Pound, they played lawn-tennis on Saturdays, and they played basketball, volleyball and squash in the evenings. The squash hall must have been the first of its kind in Nepal. During lunch breaks, they entertained themselves with some shots at the dartboard. Offices used to start at eight, lunch break was taken from 12 till 1 and everything used to be over at 3. The timing was denoted by the blow from a whistle (previously there was a siren). Gyan uncle would go up the Helipad and blow at the whistle mustering up all the winds in his lungs. And then the everyday spectacle would begin……..people rushing from all around, afraid that they would be a minute late! Hundreds of workers would run along the village’s dusty road as if the sky was about to fall. Then, we understood what British time really meant! 8 o’clock was always the time for a stampede! Back then, we didn’t have the slightest notion about the number of people who worked in the Centre!
………………………..to be continued……………………………..