Nepali Times Asian Paints
Review
Durga’s journey




PICS: MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA

PASSAGE OF TIME: Durga Thapa (then KC) at a pro-democracy rally in 1990, again in 2006, and last week at Tatopani Customs on the Chinese border.

When five participants of the Edinborough to Everest Cycle Challenge Program got stuck for two days at Chinese customs at Kodari last week because of insufficient documents, an assuming Nepali official came across the border to help rescue them.

Durga Thapa may not be tall, she doesn't speak Mandarin, but it didn't take long for her to convince the Chinese officials to let the cyclists go. The five adventurers were on a grueling 10,000km tour from Scotland to Chomolungma to raise money for the Nepal Trust that is working to upgrade health posts in the Humla district.

The Chinese must have thought Durga was just like any other Nepali customs officials they have been used to seeing in the past. They weren't prepared for a determined, fire-breathing pro-democracy warrior.

Readers will be familiar with Durga Thapa because of the iconic picture of her taken by Min Ratna Bajracharya during the 1990 People's Movement. She is the student who leapt into the air with a double victory sign at a democracy rally at Asan. Sixteen years later, the same photographer snapped a photo of her during the April Uprising as she chanted pro-democracy slogans on the streets.

At 39 and the mother of a young son, Durga has been a customs officer at the Tatopani Checkpoint on the Chinese border for the past year. Having been a social worker with charities like Sahara Group, activism comes easy to Durga. That is why she took it upon herself to intervene on behalf of the cyclists.

"My parents always told me: be diligent in your work, always be ready to do more than is expected of you, respect your elders and have affection for those weaker and smaller than you," recalls Durga, and it looks like she is following the advice well.

But it is difficult for a person of integrity to be posted in a place that has become a hotbed for smuggling and crime. "I feel really sad seeing how people are exploited to become carriers and only the small fish ever get caught," she adds.

One year after the April Uprising, what does she feel about the democracy she helped win back? "I am not happy with the way our leaders are squandering our gains. For the country to be democratic our leaders have to practice democracy first," she adds.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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