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Saturday, July 3, 2010


Flying to Kathmandu was the first time I was literally flying. Excited, I got up at four in the morning and set about with my last minute tasks. My friend who was also attending the workshop picked me up at six whereupon we drove towards Paro airport.

It was a fun flight- floating above the clouds which spread below me like a mobile feather bed. I could see the changing landscape and snow capped mountains. As our destination approached, a whole new civilization sprawled before our view, welcoming us.

Completing formalities at the airport, we were received by a porter with a placard. After taking us to a waiting cabbie, he demanded a hundred bucks but wore a disappointed look as l shooed him off with just ten.

We reached the hotel and were shown to our rooms. I was praying that I would get an amicable room-mate. I need not have worried. My room mate was an extremely nice girl from India, originally from Tibet. We clicked instantly.

The next day, our workshop started at the Panos- South Asia office. Twenty three of us from various countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri- Lanka and of course Bhutan were present. Starting with introductions, we slowly broke the ice.

Classes were fun most of the time but at times it did get tedious. So we usually took breaks for merry-making. Stolen glances, laughter, yawns, howls and questions were usual in the agenda.

Among the resource persons, a talk by eminent environmentalist turned journalist Kunda Dixit was the icing on the cake. I was simply floored by his intellect and charismatic personality. “Wow!” was all I could think. Later, in the privacy of our hotel room, my room-mate and I discussed our secret crushes, giggling like school-girls.

Talking about crushes, several guys who attended the work shop were going through heart-ache. A senior Pakistani participant was divorced (maybe that was the reason why he could not keep his hands to himself when he was in the company of females), a young brain from Delhi and a soft-spoken guy from Bangladesh had just broken up with their sweet-hearts. But amongst us was a happy new father also who proudly showed us his baby’s picture.

We laughed at another Pakistani guy who always called me and my Bhutanese friend Cambodians by mistake. Then there was this guy from Guwahati who relentlessly and over generously urged us to visit his place back home where he said he would play host and serve us drinks. Another peculiar character was one of the Panos coordinators who asked me- “How are you?” thrice a day, everyday.

There were only three women in the workshop including me. Both the others were married. So I enjoyed the attention thoroughly! (Or was I imagining things?!)

One night, I mixed soft drinks with coffee and ended up with a bad tummy-ache. The next day I could not attend the workshop. In bed the whole day, I broke down feeling weak and home sick. But the concern my fellow participants showed was touching and luckily I recovered the following day.

Another night we had a dinner reception at a Russian restaurant. A cultural programme supplemented the free flowing drinks and sumptuous food. Much too happily, the guys downed countless little clay bowls of local wine. The excitement charged evening ended with a rowdy bus ride back to the hotel and intoxicated men bawling their lungs out.

Company and food were good. And shopping and travelling in the evenings were even better. We had a blast every day.

As the week long work-shop approached to its end, we exchanged our good-byes and shared gifts, time and tears.

This worth-while experience is something I will always cherish and look back at with fondness. I learned how little I really knew and it fired me with zeal to learn and see more..….it sure is a wide, interesting world out there.

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