The Old Man and the Road (with video)

Published On: April 25, 2017 12:00 AM NPT By: Khilak Budhathoki

Pasang has one wish - to be garlanded and taken around Kathmandu city
KATHMANDU, April 25: Five decades ago, a young Pasang Sherpa  reached Lukla airport. He was glad to find work there as a trekking guide. But the foreigners whom he met were not all praise. They  had their complaints. The trekking routes were like death traps. They would take forever passing through the narrow pathways. They hardly ever smiled. That touched Pasang to the quick and it got him thinking. He helt further prodded when the tourists told him that what the place needed was a road. If someone took the initiative for that, whoever came passing through  would gladly donate some money, they said. 

 Pasang wanted to see the visitors more happy. He wanted to improve things. That way the local folks would also have an easier time of it through the narrow mountain passages. Hapless souls  would not keep slipping off the cliffs, nor would their sheep. Pasang decided to take up the challenge. All by himself he was prepared to open up a road through that deadly stretch of the Khumbu. 

He lived at Kaku, a remote spot five hours' walk from district headquarters, although he later moved down to Khumbu. "I started opening the road track from Feriche," he said. 

When exactly he started on his Herculean endeavor he does not know. He may have been 25 or 30 at the time, he believes. He is now 79. So it's not hard to figure out that it has been at least four decades since  this dedicated man started breaking up the rocks for his  road. 

He took permission from Sagarmatha National Park before staring. At first hardly anyone noticed him. With time however, people began to see the lone figure doing something 'impossible' and they felt compelled to pitch in. "Some foreigners said I was doing a 'great job' and they would dropped me some money," he said. 

Pasang would be at it from morning to evening. Some of the visitors would place some rupees or even a few dollars in a drop box at his side. 

The track which he opened from Firechi has now reached Kyanjum. It's going to reach Namche very soon, he believes. Many mountaineers headed for Everest have used his road. Whoever does so knows him and appreciates his work. 

"The road is now good enough for vehicles, especially the lighter ones," he said adding, "Even young people are starting to lend a helping hand now." There are retaining walls on both sides of the road. It is assumed  the 35 kilometer stretch from Fariche to Namche will be fully joined up before this monsoon. 

The old man is better known  as 'SamaSeru'. He has a wife but no kids. He has not kept any accounts how much people have given for the road. He is only interested in seeing the road materialise. There is nothing lacking in  transparency about Pasang, people say. So any misuse of funds is quite unlikely. 

"An old man, a simple man who has nothing to hide. The only thing he does is work on  the road. How can we have any doubts about him?" says Pem Dorji Shrepa, a Kumbu local.
Nawang Karsang, another local, calls Pasang the government of Khumbu. Since the real government did not care, Pasang had to step in and build the road, Nawang makes  clear. 

Youths like Nawang and Pem Dorji are among Pasang's fans. There are many more. Foreigners love to bear-hug him, dirty clothes, sweaty body and all. Pasang is revered like a deity in the lap of scienic Khumu. 

After his story featured in the media, it has become easier to gather funds through social sites, Nawang said. Hopefully, the road will be complete in a few weeks.

Pasang these days does not do the road work himself. He stays at the roadside watching everything. "I am old. I cannot work like the young," he says with a smile. 

Pasang has only one expectation of the government. His dream is a very sweet one. "I made it easy for the tourists. I would be happy if they garlanded me and took for around  Kathmandu city," he quipped.  

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