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Nepal
 
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Shuvalakshmi

(NEPAL 32)

Sex

Female

Age

60

Identity

Tamang

Occupation

farmer

Location

Kavre district

Date

2002

 

transcript

Section 1
What is your name?
My name is Shuvalakshmi, from Kavre district. I married 40 years ago. I got married on turning 19. I am 60 now.

You planted only corn earlier, isnít it?
Just corn. I will plant rice if there are some paddy fields.
[Her sons rented out her paddy land to others, so she has none left.]

What else beside corn?
Wheat and barley. I sow wheat or barley after harvesting corn. Just that, isnít it?

Was that sufficient for the whole year in the past?
It wasnít enough. Not enough.

Not enough even with so much land?
Many family members - no grain - how could it be enough?

Then how would you survive when there wasnít enough?
Buy and eat, of course.

And money to buy?
[He] brings money, of course. [We] earn and eat.

All the males would go out (migrate for work), isnít it?
Yes, they used to go out. It is only because there are sons now. Earlier when the sons were young, the father used to bring [money]. We earned, shopped, ate and lived. We survived on whatever was there in the house, and if there wasnít enough, bought food to eat.

You said the yield of corn increased after the use of chemical fertilisers?
It increased after fertilisers were used. Chemical fertiliser wasnít used in the past, we used only animal manure. If a lot of animal manure is used, there will be a good crop. If there isnít enough manure, the crop will be poor. Since the introduction of commercial fertilizers, purchases [of food] have to be made only once in a while. Otherwise, there is enough.

Is the corn from that same field enough to last the year round?
Yes, from that very same field, none other [is needed].
Section 2
In other words, the yield was poor [in the past]?
Nowadays we have to make purchases only sometimes; otherwise there is enough for us to eat.

Besides maize, you used to grow soya bean and beans in the past?
Yes. Soya bean, beans, masyam (kind of lentil) were plentiful before. They donít do well now.

Were they destroyed (badly affected) by chemical fertilisers?
Destroyed. Soya bean doesnít grow since we have been using chemical fertiliser; nor do beans. Otherwise, there would be green beans, a lot of soya beans. Now there is hardly any.

How much soya bean would be there in the past?
One muri (measurement for cereals, equals about 20 pathi), about 20 to 25 pathi (one pathi equals about 3.2 kg). We took that to sell. We used to carry that to Thimi to sell.
YOU CARRIED IT ON YOUR BACK?
Of course, on our backs. There werenít vehicles then, like now. Itís easy these days. Wherever you go there are vehicles. People working in Singha Darbar (location of Parliament and government offices in Kathmandu) had to walk to get there. They would walk from here and return on foot. Now vehicles are required even for short distances. There were no vehicles in those days.

People of this generation have become spoilt?
They have become spoilt - even I canít walk now. Previously, we used to walk on this road to reach Patan in the morning and return in the evening. We used to do that. Itís impossible now. My husband used to wake up at six in the morning and reach Singha Darbar in time for work. And he would return home from there. Do people walk like that nowadays? People these days are cheats, donít work, and are not like people of the past. All they do now is eat good food and wear good clothes. Thatís all. They do nothing beyond that, the people of this generation!

People today are not physically strong. Not like people in the past?
No, no, theyíre not like in the old days. A few can do a little bit [of work] but those who do not, donít even do that much.

What do people of this generation want to do most?
They want to be fashionable, act smart, eat well and wear good clothes. What more? They donít want to work hard. People used to work hard in the past. We struggled so hard. People donít do that these days.

How did you struggle?
I had to look after cattle, cut grass and work in the field. With the husband at work, and children very young, I had to do everything. But I donít do anything now. All by myself, alone, I had to raise the children. I had to do all that alone. I used to get up at 4, 5 oíclock and do the household chores. Went for fodder and animal bedding, then came back to cook and eat. Fed the children and then set out to work.
Section 3
What kind of work did you set out to do in the morning?
I had to get up and cook cattle feed. I had to get fodder and bedding for the cattle, had to clean the animal shed, bring water, and feed the animals. So many chores!

And what about during the day?
I went to work for someone if it was required (ie for wages or if repaying labour which had been given on an exchange basis). If one didnít have to go, then one went out to collect fodder or animal bedding. Things like that.

Where did you have to go for animal bedding?
I went to the forest.

Were there leeches there?
Ah, the body would be completely covered by leeches; the type that are on trees. We had to remove so many leeches to carry the loads of fodder. I donít go to the forest so often now.

Oh, there were leeches of that kind?
Oh, they are there even now in that forest. If you go now leeches will come out.

Did you go wearing shoes or barefoot then?
Barefoot, of course. Who would wear shoes to go in that forest? People didnít know how to wear shoes in those days. People in those days were not like people today Ė they would walk just like that (barefoot) on peaks like this.

You used to walk barefoot, too?
Oh my, walked a lot in bare feet.

You went barefoot into the forest in winter and summer?
Yes, to collect fodder. How can you wear shoes to do something like cutting grass? Oh, leeches are everywhere in summer. Winter is cold so there are no leeches. If you go to the forest during the rains now, it will be impossible to remove the leeches. They climb all over the body and cover it completely. They suck all the blood.

Then arenít you afraid of leeches?
Even if one is frightened, there is nothing one can do.

Maybe you get used to it?
It was only because you get used to it. Now I get frightened and I canít go there. It isnít possible to go to the forest now. There are leeches around in the small streams, and more in the forest. When the rains come, leeches begin appearing just like that. Leeches appear from from Chaitra (March/April), Baisakh (April/May), Jyeshta (May/June) and are around until Asoj (September/October) and Kaarttik (October/November). Well, we havenít died yet [laughing]. We havenít been killed because of those leeches. They suck and go. Maybe they become stronger. At least we arenít dead even though theyíve sucked so much of our blood. Itís been many years now since Iíve been to the forest.

How many years has it been since you went to the forest?
Itís been more than six or seven years. Iím old now and canít go. I didnít have the time [for anything] in those days Ė I had to cook, eat, then had to look after the animals, feed them. I had to clean the cattle shed, cook animal feed and feed them. I had to milk the cows, if needed. I had to take the milk to sell. It was like that. Itís easy now. I donít do anything.
Section 4
Is life for women today easier than in the past?
Women today who want to do something are still doing just that. They rear buffaloes, look after their needs, milk them, take the milk to the market. Even now there are many who are doing this, while those who donít, live comfortable lives. Itís a struggle for those who are still working. Itís difficult to rear buffaloes in our village. The buffalo has to be fed well, fodder has to be brought, the animal has to be milked and the milk has to be taken for sale. It is hard work, really hard work. It is hard for those raising buffaloes.

For those who donít rear buffaloes?
Those who donít have buffaloes donít have to milk, donít have to get fodder and animal bedding. Itís easy for them, isnít it? Women today donít go to the forest much. Those that do go, do so - but not as often as in the past. In those days, we didnít even have electric lights. We used to light kerosene lamps. Now thereís electricity, we are comfortable. If we have to go anywhere, there are motor vehicles a short walk from our house. Thereís television, too. People sit and watch television in their homes all morning, the whole day. In the old days, we couldnít buy clothes on time and went around wearing tattered clothes.

Most of the males of this village are away now, isnít it?
Many are away. Some are abroad, some are in Kathmandu Ė those who could go, those who have employment. The few, one or two, who do not have work, are around.

Have your sons and grandsons from your house gone to Kathmandu to work or study?
One grandson goes. One grandson is staying in Kathmandu to study - her brother [pointing to her granddaughter]. She goes sometimes. One grandson goes to boarding school.

How many grandsons and granddaughters are there?
Three from the eldest son. The son of the youngest one is very small, not yet three. He will be three in Asaar (June/July). Both the sons work in Kathmandu. One works as a driver and the other is employed in an office there.

If the men had not gone out, there might have been no money coming in, isnít it?
Of course not, where would the money have come from in the village? It has to come either from the sale of grain or milk. How else can it come?

There is no other source of money?
No. You have to be able to sell, or where will the money come from? Men have to go to the city to earn money. Staying at home wonít bring money. Itís like that.

Is there a difference between the boys working outside and the ones staying here?
Naturally, there will be differences. The ones living outside are different and the ones struggling at home will be different. The dress and eating habits will be different. Will those earning be the same as those not earning? Itís like that.
Section 5
Was your husband also away from the beginning?
He was away. He was a gardener in Singha Darbar. He would plant and weed in the gardens. Like that.

How many years was he employed?
He worked for about 30-32 years. Father-in-law wasnít employed. He was a farmer. While he was away all those years, I looked after the household alone. He would come home from Kathmandu only once in a while.

You raised four children all by yourself?
Not just four. Many of my children died.

How many died?
Two daughters died after growing up. Three sons died young.

Five died?
Out of nine, five died.

Why do you think they died?
In the past there were no such injections (vaccinations). There was nothing. There were no hospitals that gave injections regularly as they do now. So they died before their time. Not like today. It was not because there wasnít enough to eat; they died before their time because they did not get medicines.

What had happened to them?
You know, they came down with fever and a bit of cough and would die like flies. Not like today. Now, they come routinely to give injections.

You delivered all nine babies at home?
At home, naturally. I raised nine children. Two daughters died after growing up. Of the two sons, one survived for a month and a half and died and the other lived some 20-25 days before he died. All my children were born at home. You didnít need to go to anybodyís hospital - didnít have to go anywhere. I delivered some all by myself. While the children stayed at home, I would bring home some that I delivered away [from home] while at work

Where outside?
Along the paths while on the way to get fodder, of course. The eldest daughter was born before I could get back home when I was out in the field cutting grass.

Alone?
I picked her up, I was alone. The baby came on the way Ė by itself; there were no hospitals like today. So I just plucked up the baby and went home. Some babies were born while you were going to defecate or urinate outside. This youngest son was born like that outside and brought home.
Section 6
Didnít you have labour pains?
I didnít have to lose sleep while I was in labour. No, I didnít have to forgo a single meal. The baby comes the moment labour starts. My labour was like that. Now some people get labour pain for three-four days these days. Some have to be taken to hospital. They spend so much... I gave birth to nine children, but I donít know about that.

Nowadays they say it is quite difficult to deliver babies. Why do you think this is so?
What can I say? It depends on oneís body, I guess. I canít say.

Could it be because of not working enough?
Well, maybe it is because of not working enough. As for me, I had to be busy with work right up to the delivery time.

Right to the end?
Right to the end. Since the child was delivered on the way and brought home, wouldnít that be to the very end? Sometimes, the child would be born after I had returned home from work, after dinner and a nap. That has also happened. People today have to be waited upon for three-four days, they have to be held and taken to hospital. Well, that didnít happen to me.

And your daughters-in-law?
They delivered at home. All three of the eldest daughter-in-lawís children were born at home. The youngest sonís, too.

Were your daughters-in-law checked regularly by a doctor?
I donít think anything was done. That wasnít done. There was no such checking in the past. Even in their time I have no idea if the youngest son had check-ups or not.

In those days did othersí children also die like yours?
Of course, they died. Two children of my youngest brother-in-law died at the same time. We came back from the funeral of one child, and another one was dead. Children would also get high fevers Ė I donít know what that was due to. Some would simply wither and die. Thatís how it was in the old days. Itís not like that now.

Do you hear of children dying like that in the village these days?
No, no. Now it isnít like that. In the old days, many died.

The same thing happened to your friends too?
In this village of ours, many peopleís children died like that.

Many children must have died in your time?
Yes, they would die. Itís not like that now. Itís not necessary to give birth to so many these days. People go for [contraception] after a couple of children. Itís easy now.

There was no such thing as family planning in your time?
There wasnít. It wasnít there in those days, not in my time. There was no such thing. What could we do? It wasnít there in our time. They do it these days.
Section 7
Is family planning good?
It is good to do it. It wasnít there in our time. In those days, it wasnít there. It wasnít there so I gave birth to nine. Some died, some are alive. I didnít even have to do that, Iím all right.

Youíre strong even after giving birth to nine children?
[Laughing] I am still strong. Well, the diet in the old days was not like today. Even though the food was not sufficient in the old days, it was good. People are weak these days; they canít walk with strength like people of the past. We are now 60 years old. Would people of this generation at our age be able to things like that? They canít. No matter what tasty food they consume, they canít. The strength of the old days... these days this chemical fertiliser etc - nothing gives strength. The fertiliser only increases the yield but the food has no nutrition like in the old days. There was nutrition in the food in the past. Whatever you eat these days, however tasty, there is no nutrition like in the old days. It only feels good in the mouth.
In the old days, you got strength from whatever you ate; even oil was good. The cooking oil these days is adulterated. Where would one get pure oil like before? The oil isnít pure these days. In those days we got a mana (approximately 400 gms) of oil for 5 suka (one suka = 25 paise) or 2-3 mohurs (one mohur = 50 paise). How much is it now? [About Rs 90 per litre.] Oil was good, not adulterated. Pure, unadulterated - what good oil! What wonderful oil, those days! Where would one get such oil these days? Thatís the kind of oil we had.
Butter was really good, too. I donít know about the quality of butter these days. Milk is taken to the market. There was no practice of selling milk in the past. Milk and curd were consumed at home, butter was churned and we had butter and buttermilk. Now the animal is milked and the milk is taken straightaway to the machine. I donít know what is done but it has no nutrition. Of course, people donít drink milk these days Ė immediately after milking they take it away. They donít drink Ė they just have a bit of tea. They take the rest [of the milk] away.

They donít give any even to the children?
They donít. Even if they have it, people these days donít give [it to them]. They take the milk [to sell] and with the same earnings they have to bring grain to feed the buffalo. In the old days, we consumed whatever we could [of the] milk Ė milk, curd, buttermilk. It isnít like that today.

In the past, many food items were not available like they are today, isnít it?
Yes, there werenít many food items like today. There were shortages of grain then. There wasnít a variety of [types of] food Ė whether you liked it or not, there was just grain. You could eat corn or corn gruel, isnít it? Corn, gruel, rice, roti (unleavened bread): that was it, there would be nothing else.

There werenít many green vegetables, either, isnít it?
There would be green vegetables in our own fields. There would be spinach and seasonal green vegetables. We didnít grow things like cauliflower in the old days. Now they grow as much cauliflower and potato as possible. We didnít grow them then. We had no idea of how to grow vegetables like that.
Section 8
They didnít know how to grow them in the past, isnít it?
We didnít know how to grow them in those days; either we didnít have them or we bought them and ate. But today, for those that can, they grow whatever they want, potato, cauliflower, chillies, onions, garlic. Now all you need is will. It wasnít like that in the old days. We had no idea of how to plant such vegetables.

People in those days didnít know, is that it?
Yes, they simply didnít know how and didnít try. Now they do. Now they grow potatoes Ė all over the plot, and the yield is very good. They grow potatoes here, over on that plot... Those who have irrigated fields and who toil hard Ė they plant a lot.

Do you also plant potatoes?
I havenít done so. Our fields are there, over there. Thereís a stone-crushing unit in the field.

Have you given up farming?
No, we havenít given up. They wanted to rent that field there. Itís by the side of the road.

The new generation of boys and girls are not interested in farming, isnít it?
Children these days are interested only in films and television. They have no interest in farming. Youngsters these days arenít like the ones in the old days. From the time they can walk, they walk to school. Beside that have no other work.

How much work did you do at the same age as this 10-12 year-old grand daughter?
My, my, how hard we toiled in those days. Getting fodder, doing melo (farm labour for others), cleaning the animal shed, milking the buffaloes Ė we did so much work. We did so much; it wasnít just a bit. These kids only bring a bit of fodder now and then, otherwise itís TV. This granddaughter of mine is 13 now. We used to go as farm labour by the time we were 10-12 years old.

Melo means going to work for others, isnít it?
Yes. Khetala - farm labour Ė working on othersí fields. You have to go on a daily wage payment basis or on a reciprocal basis (known as parma) Ė you call others to work on your fields and go work for them in return.

Donít your grandchildren go to work as farm labour, as khetala or on parma?
What hardship would require them to go? They live in comfort compared to us. They have clothes to wear and food to eat. They can eat whatever they desire and wear what they want. Where would people in the old days have got this?
Section 9
Are the grandchildren comfortable because your two sons are working in Kathmandu?
Now, my sons bring whatever their children desire to eat. Whatever they want to wear, they bring. If they hadnít been working there, where would the clothes and food have come from? Now if the sons had stayed home in the village, what would have happened? They would have lived in the village and worked on the farm for a living.

Wouldnít life have been better if they had stayed in the village?
Of course it wouldnít. Children want whatever they see now, they have to be brought [those things].

People were not able to fulfil their childrenís desires in the past, were they?
It was a question of whether to feed or clothe them. Also there were many children, so we didnít know what to do. Of course, it was difficult for people those days. In fact, they say it was even worse for people before our time.

That means life is becoming easier?
Yes, it is more comfortable. Compared to the past, it is much more comfortable for people now.

Are your daughters-in-law comfortable?
Of course, they are comfortable. But even now life is still difficult for those willing to work. Life is easy for those not wanting to work. It is difficult all the way for those who toil, while it is easy for those who do nothing. I canít do any work now, and I donít do anything.

Maybe people these days are unable to work like people in the past?
Well, I donít know. I gave birth to nine children at home. I knew of no hospital. There was no one [around] during some of the deliveries. My husband always lived in Kathmandu. I had to give birth all alone. I survived all that and lived.

What would you eat after delivery?
I had spices, oil, chicken and rice.

How many chickens would you eat?
One ate as many chickens as one could afford Ė three, four or five, during that period.

Was that enough to satisfy your needs?
Three, four were enough.

How long did you stay home after delivery?
Oh, to get back to work? I had to set out with a basket to get fodder after 12-13 days.

You canít say you want to stay behind for a month?
How could I stay at home for a month? The animals had to be fed and there was nobody in the house. I would be off in 12-13 days. I would massage the child with oil and put it to bed. Put in the hammock, the child goes off to sleep soundly. The child would still be asleep when I got back from work. This childís father [pointing to her granddaughter], my youngest son, I would leave like that and set off. His sister was young. I would get up early in the morning and finish all the household chores. I massaged the baby with oil, warmed him, put the child in the hammock and left. I cut and brought back fodder. The baby would still be asleep when I returned so I would cook and eat. I cared for the baby, took care of the animals and then set out again in the afternoon, too. This childís father, I used to leave him alone in the hammock all day Ė a child just one month old. I would set off that way. Who will look after a child in a house where the in-laws live separately? And so I had to put the child in the hammock and set out after locking the house. I would be out doing work in 12-13 days after giving birth. So much work has to be done in a month.
Section 10
Was the child left alone all day?
I wouldnít leave the child the whole day, naturally. You have to get back to the house [as] soon [as you can manage]. You have to arrange things and leave the baby for one or two, two to three hours at a time. When you return, the child will be sleeping. The child I raised like this is a driver now.

In those days you couldnít go anywhere because of the children?
I wouldnít go anywhere. Where to go? When did we ever have time off from work? Women these days canít look after even one child, it seems. People these days! I raised my grandchildren, too, carrying them on my back and doing the household chores. The chores had to be done but the children would cry. Thatís how I raised them. Now, what does this bitch have, the daughters-in-law say. They treat me as if I was a vagabond. I carried the babies on my back, otherwise they would cry. Thatís the way they are brought up. Now my daughters-in-law curse me. They treat me like a vagabond. Yes, itís meaningless whether one has sons and daughters or not. The sons have gone off to Kathmandu. They do, of course, say ďMother, we will look after you.Ē But one canít run after them. The daughters-in-law will not bother once [the husband] leaves the house.

Do your sons love you?
The sons say they will look after me. Letís go, they say. The youngest son said heíd rent a room and asked me to come. But I didnít agree. If I go with my son the daughter-in-law will say that he has taken his ďwifeĒ to live with him. The daughters-in-law are like that. The daughters-in-law are evil, evil. They donít care. Thereís no point in hoping that they will bring me a morsel when they prepare something nice and tasty. I donít care; I will live and cook separately. What can I do, my husband is already dead.

But you are still strong?
Of course, my body isnít strong like before, but because of my appearance others see me as strong.

Do you have any illness?
I donít have any disease. I have some eye problems, otherwise I have no other illness. Not that I canít see, I get tears in my eyes, [they] feel sticky and I have blurred vision. Sometimes, it burns.

Havenít you consulted a doctor?
I went to show a doctor in Tripureshwar. Not now; some 12, 13 years ago. You go today, come back next week they say. Go the next week, come the next week, you are told. I went to that bastard 12-13 times. Wear spectacles while carrying loads, I was instructed at that time. And I was told that I had to have an operation. And I didnít have the money to buy medicines and for the injection. To add to that I was told to have an operation. Since I was better with just the medicine I did not have the operation. I didnít do anything. I didnít even wear spectacles. I have had no other disease until now.
Section 11
Do you have latrines in the village now?
No latrines [for our household]. We still donít have one; we have not built a latrine. I have asked the sons to build one but they do not listen. Many others have built them.

Why hasnít it been built, even with sons living in Kathmandu?
What to do? Even with sons living away, money is also required.

Has this village become cleaner than before?
Itís clean. Everybody in the village is building their own toilet now. There were no toilets before. Now at different places people are being trained to construct toilets. Those who can afford it are making them. Even the house below has built one. We do not have one.

When it rains, where would you go to the toilet?
Where else? In the fields and the stream, of course. No one pays heed when we say ďLetís build a latrine.Ē The two sons together could build one, but they donít. Itís time for me to die. Let them do whatever they wish.

How many grandchildren do you have?
There are 12. The eldest son and eldest daughter each have three children. My grandchildren! My mother is also living. My mother is still strong.

How old is she?
She must be 80, 82 years old.

Are mountain people strong?
Well, they are still strong, up till now.

Are they strong because of work?
Itís true. If you donít work, you become sickly later. The more you work, the stronger a person becomes. The more you work, the healthier you become. People who sit idly and eat become ill. They are also lazy. If you sit around you become lazy. So if you work, you become strong.

And daughters-in-law of these days, young women, sons, donít like to work in the fields, isnít it?
They do. They do. They do, of course, when there is work. But not like in the old days. If they had to work like in our days, they would die. They would die.

How often would you be able to get out in your time?
Where? We wouldnít go out anywhere. Just work and work.

How often did you go to Kathmandu?
Kathmandu? Once in a while.
You could wear the type of clothes you liked?
Of course, we couldnít wear whatever we desired like today. But I didnít have too many problems about what to wear. Girls today are very fashionable and wear stylish dresses. In those days, we wore clothes that we wore to work, and set off. There were no fashions then, like now.
Section 12
Has fashion come to the village now?
Yes. Thereís much more fashion now. A great deal more. We didnít know what a sari was in the old days. Now I donít know all that there is - kurta suruwal (Indian-style trousers and top) and whatever. Then we used to wear the dhoti (plain white cotton material worn by women as sari), the same thing we wore to work. How much would it have cost? Ė 9 or 10 rupees. Nobody wears that type of dhoti these days. It wasnít like now. Today a dhoti alone costs something like 200 rupees. Now people select and choose clothes, they wear such clothes. They call it kurta suruwal and wear various things these days.

Do your daughters-in-law also wear kurta suruwal?
They havenít worn the kurta suruwal. They do wear the kurta (top). I donít know what they do about the suruwal (trousers). Maybe not the kurta but they wear maxis (long dresses, quite common wear for women). There were no maxi saxi in the old days. I havenít worn a maxi. I donít know how to wear a maxi. The daughters and daughters-in-law wear them these days.

Are there no daughters-in-law who wear trousers in this village?
No, there arenít any wearing shirts and trousers. They wear kurta and sari (womenís clothing; length of cloth worn draped around the body) and go around. Everybody wears maxis. Nobody wore the kurta suruwal earlier.

Do the children have the chance to study these days?
Those who wish to study, have the opportunity. Our own grandchildren sometimes go to study, sometimes they donít. Otherwise, compared to the old days, there is no limit on those who wish to study. [If] they donít want to, they wonít go. What to do now?

Maybe they have too many chores at home?
No, no, they donít go even if they have no chores. Will anyone give someone work to do if that person wants to study? This granddaughter of mine never goes to study. She has no interest in studying. Her brother is studying in Kathmandu. He is there. My daughterís son, the boy who was here earlier, failed in class three and doesnít go to study now.

Do you like Kathmandu?
For me, I like my own place. I just go to Kathmandu once in a while. I donít like to go there.

Why is that?
Well, I am used to living here. I donít like Kathmandu. I canít even go. I donít even like going there, I donít like to stay there. For people who live around here itís difficult to walk in the crowd and cross the road.
Section 13
Do you get scared seeing so many vehicles on the road?
Of course, itís scary for someone who hasnít ever seen that. Is it just a bit difficult to cross the road? Iíve been there many times, but I still like it here. I donít travel much.

How do you find the Kathmandu climate?