“Imagine all the people living for today… Imagine all the people living life in peace” – John Lennon, Imagine
Everyone knows the experience of having a song, melody, or beautifully sung lyrics inextricably linked to a moment in time within their brain, such that whenever they hear that song sweet memories of the past, pictures playing to a soundtrack in the consciousness, a warm-fuzzy feeling, well up from within to infuse the present. After a two-day trek and overnight stay in the small ridge-top village of Chisapani (“cool water” in Nepali) with my brother Paulo and our five new Nepali companions, the song Imagine, by John Lennon will be added to my memory’s soundtrack forever.
The boys, ranging in age from 18 to 23, had been showing us around their home of Kathmandu for the past two days, and inspired by the Nepali custom that they, “treat their visitors like gods,” were eager to please and protect us as they introduced us to their country and culture the best way that they could. They continually asked us what we wanted to do, and knowing nothing about our surroundings, we continually deferred, not wanting to try to control the experience. They knew that we were here to wander in the mountains, and so they planned for us this trek through the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park to the idyllic little hamlet where they said we would be able to watch the sunrise over the himalayas and drink Nepali rice wine, or chyang. Some of the boys had been there before, but the other ones conceded that this eight mile journey was the farthest they had ever walked in their entire lives. It made for a fantastic combination of giddy “leaders” excited to show us their favorite place and local “tourists,” as out of their element as we were, although in an entirely different way.
It may have been the fact that these city boys were faced with the complete and total silence of the natural mountain environment for the first time and therefore sought comfort in the sound of music, or simply that they were teenagers enamored with the gadgets of capitalism and global media at their fingertips, but this posse found it totally impossible to walk through the forest without blaring some tunes out of the crappy speaker on their phones. And inevitably, even if another song was playing, Sujan (pronounced Suzan), the youngest and best English speaker, could not go ten minutes without playing Imagine. We listened to it probably 50 times, so thank god it is a good song and mercifully not one of the wailing and endlessly repetitive Hindi songs that infused our seven hour mini-bus ride to the town of Pokhara the next day.
By day two it started to become a little much, and brother Paulo and I would intentionally speed up on the trail or else linger and fall behind the raucous group of boys to avoid hearing Imagine another time. But now that I ponder it some more a few days later, sitting at this cafe and watching para-gliders lazily spin through the sky in front of the snow covered needle peak of my childhood dreams – Macchapuchare – which rises around 20,000 feet above where I sit to its summit less than 20 miles distant, I can’t help but think that Sujan’s obsession with Imagine is anything but pure beauty…
Imagine a world where an 18 years young Nepali boy’s favorite band is the Beatles – a band who broke up 24 years before he was born. Imagine life growing up in Kathmandu, a world of paradox. No such thing as a trash can, litter and refuse color the world; no jobs and therefore future to look forward to after graduation. Imagine him needing a face mask to step out onto the street in front of his house because the diesel fumes and road dust will make you choke. Imagine intermittent power and rarely any water because the Maoist controlled government is unable to provide these basic necessities to its population, despite the fact that there were no shortages six short years ago when they took power. Imagine no car to drive, and petrol shortages anyway with lines stretching around city blocks, endlessly honking in frustration. Imagine living with all of this, and at the same time using Facebook and Google, wireless internet and Youtube, a cell phone cheaper and nicer than the one I use at home in the US. At one point Binnay, Sujan’s cousin and our other stellar tour guide, looked over towards me and said, “We know that there is no guarantee of tomorrow, no future, so we live how we want to today.” And they do. Sujan has a dream, the same dream as every boy of Kathmandu – to come to America – and his favorite song goes, “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too… Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”
You could say that he’s a dreamer, but he is not the only one…