My host “older brother” was born in this house (pictured) like his father was. He played marbles on the ground, joined his father to make offerings to the Buddha statue behind him, and ran around with his friends to temples everywhere in the neighborhood as a kid. Rajendra and his wife were married here in this courtyard literally the same summer as I married Caroline in California 35 years ago.
Unknown to any of us, Caroline and I bicycled into town one day a few years later exploring the wonders of Patan. Here they were in their 450 year old family home and for years afterward they lived with inlaws and family surrounding them inside this historic treasure of architecture and tradition. But the newlyweds daily life was amazingly different back then. They cooked their food every day over an open fire inside the 4th floor kitchen with firewood carried up 4 ladder flights. I can only imagine the time required and the smoke ingestion every day. They carried all water from across the street at a public water grotto shared by hundreds. Baths, washing, cooking and drinking water had to be carried down the street for all family members. The neighborhood toilet was down the street. She washed once a week in a pan using carried water, a process that took an entire day of her time each and every week. His father hand wrote Buddhist scholarly texts upstairs at an open window by hand (no backspace key!). This incredibly (normal but) labor intensive life was uninterrupted by mobile phones, tv, or internet. I am amazed to think about the daily effort required without modern conveniences.
Fast forward a couple decades – not even a generation. Rajendra and family live across the street. They still known everyone on the street, still live with grown children and extended family, still Namaste and chat as they make daily rounds to make offerings at their 9,000 Buddha temple. But now there’s electricity, in house plumbing, filtered water, gas cooking, refrigerator, rice cooker, washing machine (albeit with air drying), a car, stereos and tvs, internet. It’s a miracle to think about how deep this change is for daily lives. It’s enabled Rajendra’s wife, who still works incredibly hard, to teach and become a principal and raise kids and solar dry amazing lemon slices to serve as tea for Dragons student visitors. It’s enabled him to make a good sized business and send all three kids to college with smartphones seemingly welded to their eyes (like millennials everywhere). It’s an incredible set of leaps Forward.
Rajendra’s mom says the most wonderful invention of all in her even longer lifetime is the TV. She likes that the entire world comes into her room on that magic box all day long . Maybe my mom would say the same. I don’t buy that it’s the BEST invention, but her view is her view. While many have not yet participated in this modern machine revolution and I see them at the public water tap 50feet from my house, Nepal has made leaps forward for many like my family … changes in productivity, convenience, and health that I and Rajendra’s children take completely for granted. We shouldn’t though – modern life is a miracle.
And now my mind drifts. Because just as much change will happen in my children’s long lives as the world fundamentally remakes EVERYTHING for sustainable carbon neutrality. Our lives will be equally better and equally massively changed by newly imagined modern conveniences. I wonder what it’ll be like…