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Upper Mustang History

Posted On:Monday, July 15, 2019

Upper Mustang History in Pema Wangdel.

Name: Pema Wangdel
Born: 1968, Lo Manthang, Mustang
Lives: Lo Manthang

Our forefathers built this great place, all we have to do is preserve it and the world will come to see.

Upper Mustang in the eye of Pema WangdelBorn inside the walled city of Lo Manthang, we never imagined anything existed beyond these walls. Only when I grew up to be a teenager, the realization of the outside world hit me. Whatever it was, we never felt under privileged and now I realize the core strength that comes within me is because we accepted and adapted with our nature.

Going to Pokhara is 13 days walk, so people from my village hardly travelled. Nobody knew the importance of education; parents were happier that their children grazed yaks and milked cows, worked in the farms, helped neighbors, collected wood (which was the only source of heat where winters are minus 20 degrees and summers are only 15 degrees). Trading was the only business and everybody did it. Youngsters would pick fossils along the Kali Gandaki river bed and sell it in Pokhara.

Only as late as 1991, foreigners were allowed to enter Upper Mustang region, motor-able roads has been here only for 5 years, so donkeys and mules were the only source of transport. I traded in mule business where I bought mule from China and sold them in Mustang. The houses in Mustang still used old traditional locks till the early nineties, while other nations were reaching moon, we were still changing into key locks.
Road made things easier, commodity prices went down but dust and dirt came up. Times are changing and our lives are evolving faster than we can cope, some changes are inevitable and some forced.

When we were growing up, trading Himalayan rock salt was big, but now NO MORE. Besides tourism, there is no economy. The younger Mustang generation are not staying here as they are going to big cities for education. This is the biggest fear I have as they are going to be disconnected from their roots and find convenience in foreign land. It’s easier to live in big cities with more friends, and more conveniences . If this generation does not come back, Mustang will be deserted.

Retention of original Mustang is the key to our sustainability, and it can be best understood by Mustangis. The outside people will only commercialize it. People here are adopting to new changes in construction and lifestyle, therefore we are losing our originality, heritage and culture. It’s easier to put tin roofs rather than traditional mud and wooden roofs. We know that if we cannot retain what we have, tourists won’t come and we will loose more in the future. I know it’s easier said and done, especially when the people here are so caught up thinking about their basic necessities that it’s difficult to think beyond.

Firstly, good schools need to be established, not just for education, but for the children of Mustang to grow up in their birthplace and strengthen their roots here. When it’s times to bear the fruits, it will be grow here and not in Kathmandu or foreign cities. The new generation must be physically, mentally and emotionally attached to Mustang and for this they must grow up here. Second, our culture and heritage is our biggest assets, this is what differentiates us from the rest of the world. Therefore, we must retain this and use it to our benefit and showcase it to the world. Our forefathers built this great place, all we have to do is preserve it and the world will come to see. This is our future.

The demands of people will never stop, so let’s not compromise our heritage for our convenience because a day will come, if we don’t realize this fact, we would have lost our soul on the way.