I’ve lived in Kathmandu all my life and staying in Chitwan has been a revelation. At the river banks of Shivaghat where CREASION’s regional office resides, you wake up to the cool breeze of Narayani before the sun comes up before the heat reminds you that Chitwan isn’t all romantic after all. Besides the heat, there is less to complain. Frankly, I didn’t get to explore much of the city so comparing these places wouldn’t be fair. But at least on the outskirts in Bharatpur, the wide roads seem endless and there are more green fields and trees than houses and people.
What I observed was that there were lots of kids (and even adults) playing in the fields in their leisure. The children and youth come out from their houses to play football, volleyball and cricket as the sun makes its way down the hill. Sunsets are another beautiful part of Chitwan with golden fields as the heat dissipates when evening comes calling. At a local park, some get together for cardio workout and others for karate. Then there are some like me who aimlessly cycle and find a shore where I rest and gaze into the free-flowing Narayani. Though I spent most of my time by this river, I was mostly engaged with kids that reside close to the Rapti river.
Towards the West are the youths of Kasara and on the East are youths of Sauraha. The lives of these school children have fascinated me as it is a complete opposite of Kathmandu. Youths in the capital ride motorbikes but here they ride bicycles. It was heartwarming to see them slowly and steadily peddle everywhere often giving their friends a lift in their back. As I interacted with them, I found some to be extroverted and others to quite shy but what’s common with them is their inquisitiveness to learn new things. Even though I only spent only a brief amount of time with each group with workshops, they have learned much and are ever hungry to learn more.
These kids live on the outskirts of cities and their natural way of living is much more sustainable than their consumption driven counterparts in the cities. Over here, they farm food in their own fields. While I was explaining them about waste segregation, plenty of my efforts felt redundant as they have always been doing it. Some even sort the recyclables and non-recyclables waste for better waste disposal. But despite the collective efforts of many to keep their place clean, the negligence and leniency of some mean that the surroundings are littered with unwanted debris.
Residing close to the buffer zone, the children wholeheartedly understand the importance of keeping their surrounding clean. They frequently and voluntarily conduct cleaning campaigns and plant trees. The children understand and empathize that the health of humans, the biodiversity and the planet are intertwined. After all, they’re often visited by their neighbors: the rhinos.
They teach what they have learned to their juniors. There is fire in their bellies when they talk about keeping our planet clean. When they talk, some might listen, but when they perform and everyone can see. The children aren’t just a hope of the future but hope for the present. They might not be in a position to make the major decisions but they do what they can from their position. They are the young guardians and I have faith in them as the guardians that will protect their home.
Chitwan, like every other place, is going through rapid transformation but I hope they never lose the essence of the place: the greenery, the river, and even the heat. I hope the children will always remain cheerful and the children of today will pass on the same conservation values they have instilled in themselves.