The Feeling of Nationality Beyond the Boundary of Nation (Country)

Milan Rijal

© Copyright 2021 by Milan Rijal

Photo by Rach Teo on Unsplash
                                                      Photo by Rach Teo on Unsplash

The recent U.S. Bangla Aircraft crash in Tribhuvan International Airport reminded me of my trip to Thailand. It was a matter of pleasure and honor for me to have the opportunity to represent Nepal in the international forum as a young apprentice. It was back in October 7, 2017, I was making my first international flight heading to Bangkok. My flight had been reserved in the Thai Airways by the travel agent named 'Sunshine Travel Agency' of Jawlakgel.

The aircraft TG 313 took off onto the air at 11 am from Tribhuwan International Airport, Kathmandu. The passengers were heartily welcomed into the plane by the beautiful Thai air-hostesses saying 'Sawadikurp'. A mixture of happiness and wonder was in my head. I got my stipulated seat and placed my handbag onto the storage case. I sat down and fastened the seat belt and turned my mobile phone into flight mode. It was my first experience in the flight, however everything was going well. I payed attention to the instructions and demonstration being announced and displayed. I was so excited and taking selfie.

A little bit of fear grew in my mind as the aircraft was speeding at its highest preparing to take off. I experienced a bit of dizziness during the course of double take off. After some minutes, it was signaled that everything was normal and the passengers started to go to the restrooms. The crew (airhostess) began serve the food. I was excited in viewing and taking pictures outside the window, of clouds, cities, rivers, plains and mountains.

I witnessed the Thai cuisine for the first time. I enjoyed the Thai food a lot. I helped myself how to use the monitor (behind every seat) and explored almost everything in it. I enjoyed the Hindi movies and songs. Time and again, the signal and announcement to be cautious would make me scared. There was a sense of relief as soon as the signal of normal was displayed. I drank apple juice. Then, I went searching the washroom because my body was signaling the need of excretion and my mind was eager to explore and experience the washroom of the plane. I came back to my seat. The imbalance of the aircraft would make me scared.

As our journey was coming to an end, a beautiful night view of the city could be viewed from the window. The journey of about 3 hours was almost like a journey by a long bus in a graveled road. I was once again frightened at the landing of the plane. Our plane landed in "Shubaranbhumi International Airport", Bangkok. The local time was 6 pm then. It was raining and very hot with high humidity. The airport was so big and beautiful. I wished if our airport too was as beautiful and well facilitated as that of Bangkok. During the immigration procedure, I was a bit afraid with the questions of the custom-officer. I couldn't understand his language which made him angry (furious). Then, he started to add sign language as well. After enduring this session, I took my baggage and went out. A friend came to receive me who helped to get a hotel for the night.

Next morning I reached the airport at 5. I bought a cold coffee for myself while waiting for the plane. At 8:00, I began my journey to Chiang Mai, another famous city in Thailand which is about 1 and a half hour air distance from Bangkok. The sky was clear after the rain. The craft was comparatively smaller than that of international flight. During the journey, I enjoyed the Thai food and Indian music in the plane. I drank apple juice. I felt like taking more and I asked for one more cup. After a while, I started experiencing some discomfort. I didn't realize that AC was being operated at its lowest. I hadn't covered myself with the blanket. As a result, I became blue and nearly unconscious. When I saw the vapor of the cold air, I took the blanket and covered myself. It was more than that of a refrigerator. It took a long time for me to come back to the normal state.

I didn't notice when our plane landed. The plane had already landed and was preparing for parking. I wanted to drink something warm but was in dilemma whether to ask for it or not. As I got out onto the hot humid air, I was gradually recovering. I learnt the lesson to keep myself warm inside the plane. When I shared about it to my sister back home, she scolded me for being careless towards my health.

Then I headed to the venue which was the primary reason of the trip. I met the people of diverse nationality (nationalities/ backgrounds) in the conference. We got introduced to one another. Many of them were in their national dress representing their countries. It was like the global village but with differences; differences of culture, language, appearance, costume, ideology food habits and way of thinking. However, there was the acknowledgement of the respect towards the differences. I really felt honored to wear the Nepali dress which I hadnít valued much in the country itself. I felt that the feeling of nationality becomes extreme only outside the political boundary of the country.

After the conference, I visited the local markets and bought some Thai gifts for my near and dear ones back in Nepal. I enjoyed the local trip by taxi, tuk-tuk, metro, tempo and walk. The Thai king had recently died, almost a year ago. Hence, there was not much merry making and public celebrations. One can feel that the Thai people are very hospitable and always smiling. Their English is 'Thai-English" which was quite difficult and funny for me to understand. I found that many of them even didnít know that "Thai-English". I became steadily used to as I stayed there for some days and interacted with the people. I was astonished by the infrastructures, disciplined drivers and sanitation. However, I was shocked to know about the legalized prostitution. During the walk to the evening market I was lured and dragged into the dance bars and brothels. I said that I had no interest in such activity and pleaded them to leave me off. The outside temperature was so hot and humid. I could get relief only inside my room with AC.

After the stay of about a week, I came to Bangkok for I had to attend a marriage ceremony of my English friend who was to marry a local Thai girl. I sang a wedding song for them. During my trip from Chaing Mai to Bangkok, I encountered a passenger who seemed like Mike Tyson (with big eyes, black complexion and well built muscles). He sat by me. During the journey, I placed my arm at the arm-rest. But he looked at me with his Big-Big (widely opened) eyes. I was really scared. I retreated and placed my arm down. When the plane landed, the passengers began to board off the craft. I reminded that guy about his headphone which he had placed in the seat. But, he took it and wasnít thankful for it as if he hadn't forgotten that he had placed it over there. 

As I was wandering at a night market nearby my hotel, I heard some Nepali phrase. Firstly, I ignored them thinking as if it was just an illusion but as I heard that repeatedly I turned around to find its source. A Nepali couple appeared to my back (facing opposite to me). Normally, the British accent sounds pleasant to my ears. It was the second time when Nepali language sounded pleasant to me. It sounded so beautiful and fascinating in the midst of other languages in a foreign land. My first experience of this kind was long ago in Assam, India when I was feeling heart burn and the pain went off as soon as a Nepali girl who was beautifully attired in a Nepali costume served me a meal.  As I kept on exploring things in the market in Bangkok, I heard another person calling, "ke chhahiyo dai?" meaning "What do you need brother?" I went closer to him and asked about his origin. I came to know that he was from Burma and a number of Burmese could be found in the city. Although he wasn't from Nepal, there was a sense of brotherhood. I assume if I found any person speaking in Indian tongue, I would have the feeling of neighbourhood. I wonder how the Nepali language brought us closer. It was clear for me how the language can bring people closer. It has got a strong power in it. It is not just the mode of communication of the information and ideas but also the emotions. 

There was a bitter experience as well. Beyond my expectation, I found some Thai people inhospitable as well as fraud. As I was taking selfies as tourists(outsiders) normally do, I was asked by the business owners if they could help me. I inquired about the MBK Centre, one of the biggest malls in Bangkok, for it was nearest to my hotel but I was told that the market was closed for some days due to funeral ceremony of the former king. One of them offered to provide me the guidance to another market so that I could buy the desired goods. I crosschecked regarding the information with other passersby but found the information to be incorrect and fraud. I think it was with the business motive more than that of having me into a problem. After a while, I visited MBK. I found it so big to explore each corner within the same day. After my visit to different places in Bangkok, I prepared my journey back to Nepal.
My friend wasnít there. So, I had to do everything myself. Although I had no reason to be afraid, I was afraid about the language barrier and rude custom-officers. After the sophisticated custom check, I got into the craft, TG 319 heading to 'Tribhuvan lnternational Airport', being warmly welcomed by the beautiful air-hostesses. There were quite many Nepali passengers in the flight. I got my seat and began filming the scenario of the airport. The storage of my phone was almost full and not functioning well. I moved the files from my device to the pen drive so as to make some space so that I could take more picture and videos of the land and the air as well.

I was much careful to follow the instructions as the plane took off. I was aware not to repeat the mistake of the previous journey. I kept myself warm covering my body with the blanket. Although I was already fed up taking Thai food for twelve days and hated the smell of the food from the street stalls, I enjoyed the Thai food for it was the last Thai dish of my trip.

The sky wasn't clear. The craft lost its balance time and again. I was frightened so much. I felt like going to the restroom but the alarm was signaling the passengers to be remained at the seats. The crew and screen regularly announced about the outside temperature and wind. There was complete silence among the passengers. It was for more than 30 minutes, signs of fear could be seen in our face, red and pale cheeks and dry lips. People were wishing and praying for their safety.

I was recalling the instructions regarding how to wear the life jacket in case the craft has to make an emergency landing on water. I didn't want to die young. More than this, I didn't want to die on foreign land or international waters. It was okay (better option) for me to die on Nepali air or land. I could experience goose bumps thinking this, an extreme feeling of nationality and the wish to die and get buried on motherland.

After an hour the sky became clear and the Himalayas began to appear. It was okay for me then, even if I died on the lap of Himalayas. When the pilot announced that everything was normal, the signs of hope were seen in everyone's face. People began to trap the beautiful landscape of Mt. Everest in their electronic devices.

The craft landed safely in Nepal at 2 p.m. Although, the journey was delayed for an hour than the estimated time, it was a great blessing to remain breathing. I thanked God for his protection. I hired a prepaid taxi to my home. As I recall the bttrip, it was full of mixed experiences, lessons, excitement, and memories. This trip will always remain in my heart and memory. I anticipate that I will visit other destinations such as lakes, beaches, islands, national parks, cultural heritage sites, etc. in the next trip. I hope that there will be at least some infrastructural advancement in addition to the upgrade in the facilities and services at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

Rijal is a writer, teacher and music composer in Nepal.

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