The year was 1994, when the dreaded Plague invaded parts of India - I set my sight to visit the Land of Himalayas – Nepal. I had made my first money from the stock market & wanted to go on a trekking expedition. I chose Pokhra as the base and from there on to Muktinath. On this mission two of my friends eagerly joined & we embarked on our trip to Nepal. Internet had not made its inroads into India & I had to depend on travelogues. All three of us had wisely (How wrong we were!) decided to carry Indian currency in five hundred rupee denominations only.
We left from Calcutta during the puja festivities & boarded the train bound for Muzaffarpur. It was a dusty little town & the only thing edible were the lichis which we had in plenty. The ride to Raxaul was an arduous one & from there we crossed into Nepal landing in Biratnagar. We had a reasonably good lunch & by afternoon boarded the bus to Pokhra. The bus followed the twist and turns of the Shivalik range & when we finally arrived in the wee morning hours at Pokhra, What a sight it was for the eyes. The twin peaks of Annapurna & Dhaulagiri were in front of you & all the tiredness simply vanished.
Once the initial excitement was over, the search began for a hotel within our thin budget. We found one soon & settled into it comfortably. We started making preparations for the trek & decided to exchange the higher denominations of 500 Rupees into the local currency. Rs. 500 in Indian currency was not legal tender in Nepal & this we were not aware of. The wise decision backfired as the town was in a festive mood and the banks, exchange houses were closed for the next four days. We were left stranded high & dry with no option but to return to India.
We returned to our hotel & made enquiries with the hotel staff for our return to India. The owner of the hotel (The Good Samaritan) overheard us & wanted to know the reason for our abrupt departure. We poured our heart out to her & she readily offered 25,000 in local currency for us to proceed on our trek. We could offer her no security but her willing to offer the money only because she did not want us to go disappointed.
I was in my mid-twenties and so were my friends & for someone to trust us to return that kind of money was a huge risk the lady undertook. We completed the trek successfully & returned back to Pokhra. The festivities were over & it was time for us to change the Indian currency into the local currency. We were at loss for words when the money was returned to her.
I & my two friends will forever be indebted to her for her timely help. I do not remember the name of the hotel or her name but for me, Nepal will always have a special place in my heart.