A hospital on the ridge

  • Get News Alerts

Chautara – I

For me, the news of Chautara raid on the night of April 23, 2006 came as a rude shock. Not that we were not unfamiliar with the way infrastructures were being selectively destroyed in the last few years. Why and how a hospital became a target if the purported reason for the Maoist rebellion was to help the downtrodden and weak? It was more painful for having been involved in is construction over 40 years ago.

I never thought that I would ever be writing anything on Chautara let alone about the hospital. But on seeing the TV footage of the carnage then, things that had long remained forgotten came back flooding in. I do not recall everything in great detail but some facts related to it may be of interest to someone, somewhere.

As with most hilltop settlements, Chautara sits on a ridge and the hospital was located even higher to the north beyond the tundikhel. The plan of the 10-bed hospital was prepared by Masaka Tanahashi, only architect among the first ever group of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV). Tanahashi spoke very little and chain-smoked while working. He emphasized on using local materials to the extent possible. It was a simple plan with the isolated hospital blocks linked on either side by central corridor. All blocks had corrugated roofing with plank ceiling while roughly-dressed stones formed the main external wall. Chautara, otherwise, had a small health post, at the same location. Quarters for doctors and nurses flanked either side of the main thoroughfare to the south. The site offered a grand view all around including Dhulikhel afar. Lights of vehicles plying Panchkhal-Dhulikhel section were visible at night.

It was the only construction site, outside the Kathmandu Valley, under the division I was attached then. I had three supervisors to help me look after 8/10 ongoing works in the Valley. It was only possible to visit Chautara once every two month or so. Given the problem with transporting construction materials, the progress used to be quite slow even then. The contract got awarded to a group of locals. They apparently had no experience in tender formalities as it was their first formal job. The most crucial of which was filling in the rates for different items of work required to be done. Ironically, ignorance was the real reason why they got the contract in the first place. The woodworks rate was required to be quoted for “100 cubic feet”, but having entered just Rs 25 (a reasonable price for 1cft then) they had committed to deliver 100 cft at that rate! The “Chautara Five” ended learning a very expensive and bitter lesson as a result. The establishment was also at some fault for having only maintained the English version of the document.

The story of Chautara Hospital would not be complete without recalling the enthusiasm and dedication shown by the doctor who was working in the hospital then. His interest was to get the hospital running at the earliest, and he hence took a great interest in the construction works. He would even run everywhere including the Finance Ministry for release of funds. He also acted as the de facto site supervisor during our absence. But the contractors took it as an unnecessary nose-poking by the doctor. It was no surprise that the relation between the two was far from cordial. The building got completed during his tenure but it took much longer as the contractors faced severe cash crunch and never got tired of lamenting about the mistake they made.

I have no contact with Dr. Ananda Pradhan nor know the circumstances under which he left Nepal. He is said to be living in Denmark since many years with his wife Gaya. Unmarried, she used to be the senior of the three nurses at Chautara. Having devoted his time and energy in getting the Chautara hospital built, I cannot guess how badly the good doctor and his wife must have felt on hearing about the hospital blow up, possibly where their love bloomed.

(Dr. Ananda Pradhan and his wife Gaya)

[email protected]



  • Effect of monetary policy on risk, stability and financial crises Effect of monetary policy on risk, stability and financial crises

    The crisis of 2008–09 has reignited a new interest in understanding money and credit fluctuations in the macro economy, and the crucial roles they could play in the amplification, propagation, and generation of shocks both in normal times and, even more so, in times of financial distress. This may reopen a number of fundamental fault lines in modern macroeconomic thinking between theories that treat the financial system as irrelevant, or, at least, not central to the understanding of economic outcomes, and those that reserve a central role for financial intermediation.

    Anup Paudel

  • Air pollution control measures for Kathmandu Valley Air pollution control measures for Kathmandu Valley

    According to the World Air Quality Index website, Air quality index of Ratnapark, Kathmandu was 158 on April 22 which is unhealthy. This means children and people with respiratory diseases should avoid outdoor exertion at this pollution level. If this quantity increases to more than 300, air quality level is considered as hazardous which means everyone should avoid outdoor exertion.

    Karna Dahal


  • The return trip The return trip

    It took us over five hours, drenched in rain, walking through treacherous ratomato sluggishly. It should not have taken more than two hours in a normal day. It was the cruellest irony that no sooner did we reach Panchkhal and sat at the Pipal Chautari to rest, than the bus we had left behind, arrived with people in the bus bursting with laughter on seeing us.

    Hemant Arjyal

  • Prospects for Nepali talents in the Diaspora Prospects for Nepali talents in the Diaspora

    When Indu, a Nepali American teen studying in Virginia, asked Panta whether she could inspire Nepali youngsters into music industry and convince their parents to consider Nepali music as a path to professionalism, the female heartthrob of Nepali music could not fully convince her.

    Sukriti Sharma

Readers Column

  • Traffic Police in Kathmandu

    As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.

  • Menstrual taboo outdated

    I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.