Iih - The lone foot traveller from Nepal

S Balakrishnan *

Probably Mr Iih, the lone footloose traveler from Nepal, took Rabindranath Tagore's poetry line "Ekla cholo re" as if penned with forethought keeping only Iih in mind. Because Iih has been travelling travelling alone and traveling alone on foot! I am sure he was bitten by the travel bug, like the Hollywood superhero Spiderman, for he has been travelling since his 16th year.

This youth from Kathmandu has crisscrossed his own country to reach every nook and corner of that Himalayan Kingdom ...oops! For a moment I was taken back to 1986 when I visited Nepal from Sikkim where I was posted. Nepal then was a Hindu Kingdom, the world's only and the last Hindu Kingdom that was lost in the Red Revolution of Maoists and is now a democratic republic country.

He was shocked that I completed the nine-day Nepal trip on a shoestring budget of 955 INR (1625.50 Nepali rupees). "What a different time !" Iih repeatedly exclaimed, unable to believe my words. I showed him the expenditure statement of that trip that I had maintained and he took a snap of it with his mobile but he was still unconvinced.

'Kathmandu Valley has changed so much that you will not recognize it', he told me and showed a few shots of the sprawling city. It showed a conglomeration of multi-storeyed buildings all the way to the horizon.

Because of the tough times during the revolution, people from the villages - both the rich and the poor - migrated to Kathmandu valley; caught between the army and the rebels, they all shifted to Kathmandu to safeguard their riches and for bare existence, respectively. So, now, the fields around Kathmandu have all turned into crowded living places, he narrated those troubled times.

Well, Iih was at our house in Chennai after a footloose travel in Sri Lanka. You might wonder if Iih as well walked over from Sri Lanka to India across the Sethu Bridge built by Lord Ram's vanara sena (moneky army). Definitely he would have had not the Sethu Bridge submerged (as revealed by NASA's satellite image; it is called Adam's Bridge).

He was to reach the previous evening but landed only the next morning. We were really worried because of the explosive situation in Sri Lanka due to economic crisis.

But Iih explained that the situation there was almost normal and curfew has also been lifted; even though services and supplies are abnormally costlier but when converted into INR they seem normal for that situation. Curious to know more about that Nation we probed him like sleuths to gather as much information as possible.

He showed a few of his clicks of that beautiful island country which though I would never visit because of ill-treatment of the minority Tamil population there.

The Tamil spoken there is quite different from that in Tamil Nadu, he said; with a laughter he added that for that matter even within Tamil Nadu State itself the dialect differed so much from district to district that, exhausted, he had given up learning Tamil ! Iih presented a pack of special Sri Lankan tea. Unfailingly we served him a cup of that aromatic tea the next morning.

We welcomed him with a cotton shawl (bombastically called 'ponnadai', i.e., golden shawl), similar to the 'khada' cloth piece in trans-Himalayan belt, including Nepal.

I made sure, like the publicity-hungry politicians, to have a snap of that moment, knowing very well that the piece of ponnadai is a useless cloth piece, only adding up to his luggage. But tradition is tradition, no ? It is the same with khada also.

For dinner we treated him with mini idlis soaked in special 'idli sambhar', plain idlis with chutney and 'gun powder' (a 'spicy' powder of red chilli, urad dhal, etc.; hence the British named it gun powder!), and chapathi & kuruma, in case he missed the 'rotis' in Sri Lanka. He relished the mini idlis soaked in 'idli sambhar' and the chutney.

It was a memorable dinner for us the hosts, as it was on the terrace with the Buddha Poornima moon watching us host Iih from the Land of Buddha! I wanted to surprise him with my Nepali language knowledge that I had picked up in Sikkim but in the excitement I forgot to utter even a word. How stupid of me ! Iih had given international recognition to my wife's culinary expertise! Of course, 30% of that credit goes to me, her kitchen assistant.

Iih was limping with swelled feet but his next target was Bangladesh, another SAARC Nation. He hopes to touch the Indian metropolitan cities this time; from Chennai he would proceed to Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Kolkata from where he would enter sonar Bangladesh. He felt it would be unfair not to visit the cities if he were to get a wholesome idea about India, because he had not touched the cities in his Kargil-Kanyakumari foot travel, earlier. As he had already covered India on foot, now he would give rest to his sore feet.

What ? K to K journey! ? We got quite excited. 'Only 30% of my travel was through National Highways; the rest was through inner roads', Iih went on. 'I carry only just a backpack with a load of mere 5 kgs or even less, not even drinking water', he amazed us, recalling Indian Railways' advice 'Less luggage, more comfort'. 'Except for rare occasions, the quality of drinking water has not been an issue.

Plus, my gut bacteria probably evolved to accommodate as I walked on', was Iih's reply to my concern about drinking water. Rural India was very friendly and sharing. While in North India he had the hospitality of Gurudwaras (both lodging & boarding), no such facility in South India, he lamented. Instagram friends and their friends help him in L&B, wherever possible.

While he roamed around Nepal with just a pair of slippers, which mistake now he regrets, he now puts on proper walking shoes to ease the stress on his feet; he changes the pair once in 1 1/2 months or so. Any mugging on the way? I asked a nasty question. (Un)fortunately not so far, he smiled. Luckily the Covid pandemic also did not hamper his health and travel plans. He is conscious to avoid any branding even on his backpack. Indeed a rare breed in this commercial world!

Ever since our daughter (Iih's insta friend) announced his arrival, I was dying to know more about his queer name rather than about his travel passion & personality. I have not come across such a strange name as Iih among Nepalis. No such name among Tibetans/Bhutias either; then, could he be of Chinese origin, I wondered.

Our daughter warned me not to be so nosy but I could not bear the suspense; so I indirectly asked him if Iih was his nickname/pet name. Yes, my friends call me so, he ended the mystery and I was relieved. My next question was to know the meaning of Iih. 'It is inherently meaningless, just a universal vowel sound without caste or creed associations', the soft-spoken Iih resolved the mystery. Great, indeed !

As a parent of two youngsters I could not help wondering about the state of mind of Iih's parents living in Kathmandu. Don't they bother you to find a decent job with fat salary, marry and settle down in life? I asked him. 'Oh, well, they were pestering me but now they are fed up and have given me up as a hopeless case', he burst into laughter.

He hoped his younger brother might meet their worldly aspirations while he followed his heavenly walking. 'I talk to them once a week while on move', he casually told me; I could not help empathizing with Iih's parents. But Iih had been so since his school days; a school drop-out, he took to travel at the age of 16 itself. He has brought out a compilation of his travel experiences in Nepal and is planning one on K-to-K travel.

He is also a social activist; he led a successful protest for better management of Covid crisis by the Nepal Government and even went on fast for 12+23 days in all.

Iih's poor legs were begging for rest but the lone foot soldier would not rest. The old man that I am, I felt so envious of the travel-lust Iih; yet I wished him deep from my heart "safe and happy journeys ahead!"

'People like Iih are born, not made', I philosophized, cozily curling up in my armchair like a lazy kitten, reminiscing about my own footloose travels during my happy bachelorhood days, 35 years ago.

You can follow Iih on his Instagram page that has interesting factual stories along with striking images. One interesting encounter of Iih was with a Nepali man who had married a Tamil lady and settled down here; he has two sons - one carries his Tamil mother's gene and the other, his Nepali father's.

* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on May 27 2022.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Ibudhou Thangjing Lam Thokpa #4 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 05 July : Govt of Manipur
  • The untold story, lest it be/is forgotten #2
  • Discussion : Uses of medicinal plants of NER
  • Army Recruitment Rally for Manipur
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Spiritual aphelion
  • Celtel & the Mobile Revolution in Africa
  • Spot assessment must to reap fruit of project
  • The other tale of Marangching disaster
  • Environmental Activist Anish Ahmed
  • COVID-19 Status 04 July : Govt of Manipur
  • Maranging: Deceased/Injured/Missing [4 Jul]
  • Integrated farming system
  • GST on horse trading and racing
  • Significance of International Day of Yoga
  • Maranging: Deceased/Injured/Missing [3 Jul]
  • BJP's promise for issue-less NE by 2024
  • Spike in daily new cases
  • Kang Chingba at Konung #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 03 July : Govt of Manipur
  • Appeal to Treat Myanmar Citizens Humanely
  • Search operations continue at Tupul [Jul 3]
  • Why not a New Imphal City ?
  • Lord Jagannath - the legend about His form
  • Indo-Naga Talks (2012-) :: News Timeline
  • Positive cases rise amid public complacency
  • Search, body count continue
  • Landslide at Tupul [Jun 30] #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 02 July : Govt of Manipur
  • Maranging : Deceased/Injured/Missing [2 Jul]
  • Search operations continue at Tupul [Jul 2]
  • International Plastic Bag Free Day 2022
  • Women rights, West takes a backward step
  • Adverse impact of climate change is real
  • Kang Chingba at Konung #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 July : Govt of Manipur
  • Search operations continue at Tupul [Jul 1]
  • Teaching at Mt Everest College, Senapati
  • Blood Donation Camp at Manipur University
  • North East CSR Award 2022
  • Skin problems that arise during monsoons
  • Right recipe for more natural disasters
  • It is a disaster not seen earlier here
  • Landslide at Tupul [Jun 30] #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 30 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Kang Chingba (Rath-yatra) :: Book
  • Search operations continue at Tupul Station
  • Call for prototype funding under Nidhi Prayas
  • A brief recap of the Jagannath Temple
  • Fund flow, official diligence for Vision 2047
  • After a lull of more than 60 days
  • 21st Great June Uprising #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 29 June : Govt of Manipur
  • July Calendar for Year 2022 : Tools
  • Chance Meeting with Chakhesang air hostess
  • Intensive vegetable rice rotation
  • Prolonged sitting or standing spoils your leg
  • Infiltration on amid haggling on ILP base year
  • Rounding up Myanmarese : Reality Bites
  • Top 3 Museums in Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 28 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Opening a new door : A Closure
  • 100 Trees Planted in memory of Dr Kishan
  • Serendipity :: Poem
  • The Agnipath Yojana : Deify or demonise ?
  • On Govt's move to carry out delimitation
  • Fertiliser : Govt assures, farmers unsatisfied
  • More than putting vehicle into motion
  • ILP Check point at Jiri : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 June : Govt of Manipur
  • The untold story, lest it be forgotten
  • Assistance to victims of Assam Flood
  • A glimpse of 'Yangna Paikhredako Punshi'
  • Market innovations in developing country
  • Anti-drug day expose state pathetic situation
  • The wedge amongst the Nagas
  • Coming of Manipur University in 1980
  • COVID-19 Status 26 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Laitonjam Lanchenba: Best Swimmer
  • Our capital Imphal - the city of sanity
  • Workshop : ND & PS Act, 1985
  • Mara Prabhu - Lord of the trees
  • Essence of international anti-drug day
  • July 1 : Taking the fight to plastic
  • Miss Shirui Lily 2022 #3 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Flesh Trade : Connection between Goa & NE
  • Importance of Soil Testing & Management
  • ST status Vs Classical language for Meetei
  • Life, faith and belief
  • MANISFA General Secretary appointed
  • Flood Watch : 23rd June #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Community led in ensuring HIV treatment
  • Approach to ideology & development
  • Solar Energy solution for healthcare facility
  • Yoga for health, beauty and immunity
  • Innovation Prize Launched for Designers
  • Knotty higher education sector
  • Classical language status and ST demand
  • Flood Watch : 23rd June #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Birds and Bees Talk launched 3rd phase
  • Luck matters, Rio's first entry into cabinet...
  • Need to deal with dumping of waste materials
  • Training on mushroom at Nagamapal
  • 1961 as base year: Take it or leave it
  • 10 years too late : JCILPS
  • Phamnaiba Jagoi @ Thangjing : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 22 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Women's cleanliness enjoys equal rights...
  • Life in some hill villages
  • The MCI Restoration II
  • 'BRO Cafes' on 75 border roads
  • Protest over boundary row headache for Govt
  • Issues on the indigenous question
  • Drug Menace In Manipur : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 June : Govt of Manipur
  • ST tag for Meiteis - A perspective!
  • Manipur State Welfare : Politics 1-0 Citizens
  • International Yoga Day at Assam Rifles
  • International Yoga Day at IBSD Imphal
  • International Yoga Day at NSU Imphal
  • Manipur Lokyukta: Fighting against corruption
  • Vision to distribute local rice under NFSA...
  • Taking the fight to the drug menace
  • Landslides - Imphal-Jiri [Jun 17] : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 20 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Thangjing in folklore of Koireng tribe
  • Health Workshop on Diabetes at Pune
  • Everyone is a thief :: Poem
  • E- barton for CM & Governor
  • Intensive cultivation of vegetables
  • High time to encourage e-vehicle operators
  • Scripting success story with Rs 500
  • Leima Jagoi by Transgender #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 19 June : Govt of Manipur
  • June 19 2022 : Father's Day message
  • Nine Hills One Valley : Ottawa Film Fest
  • Shirui Lily Festival or mud festival ?
  • Yoga for Women organised
  • Flight link to Mandalay dream come true
  • Action of Govt needs to be backed
  • 21st Great June Uprising #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 18 June : Govt of Manipur
  • The Great June 18 Uprising :: News Timeline
  • Revive environmentalism in Meetei ethos
  • COVID-19 Status 17 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Elephant army of Lord Guruvayurappan
  • Who will be next at Rashtrapati Bhawan
  • Hiyang Tannaba @ Loktak #1 : Gallery
  • Freedom movement against British #2
  • Inequity and health security
  • Donating blood is an act of solidarity
  • Unregulated deposit schemes & BUDS Act
  • Extension of entry age : Agnipath
  • Citizens feeding on adulterated food items
  • Of food safety and street vendors
  • Pooja Elangbam, IAS, 81st ranker in AICS
  • COVID-19 Status 16 June : Govt of Manipur
  • NE Model @Delhi Kids Fest : Gallery
  • Manipur Rajkunja
  • Effective Legal Aid to Women Prisoner
  • How to avoid cracked heel during hot summer
  • Aid to artisan must to promote local product
  • Education for whom ?
  • Kabui Dance @Nongshaba Haraoba : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 June : Govt of Manipur
  • 'Let's Talk About It' : music album
  • Significance of World Environment Day
  • The MCI Restoration
  • North East CSR Award 2022
  • Prolonged sitting or standing spoils your leg
  • State fast-tracking towards drug making hub
  • 'Progression' from smuggling to manufacturing
  • Bonny Elangbam : Longest distance covered
  • COVID-19 Status 14 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Interaction with Makakmayum Hosni Mubarak
  • India to become $5 trillion economy
  • Exploring traditional medicines of NE
  • Freefall of the kids after COVID-19
  • Honour the tax payers, expose defaulters
  • NE needs more than 'unprecedented'
  • Miss Shirui Lily 2022 #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 13 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Water management in paddy cultivation
  • PM Modi hails Nagaland Gaon Burahs
  • Blight of Nature :: Poem
  • Moreh as Las Vegas
  • NHIDCL's reputation at stake
  • Drugs, poppy & 'alternatives'
  • Thaopai Shithaine of Poumai #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 12 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Jadonang Park, Tamenglong :: Gallery
  • Freedom movement against British #1
  • Multi-Tasking Staff at Leima Traders
  • Toning down rhetoric that hurts religion
  • Shirui Lily fest brings to fore plastic menace
  • Conservation of pony & grazing fields
  • Kakwa Lairembi Haraoba #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 11 June : Govt of Manipur
  • The unheeded cry of children in labour
  • Why present distribution of urea fails?
  • World Day Against Child Labour 2022
  • Sunrise on the Civil Aviation Horizon
  • Arambam Samarendra Ningshingba :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 10 June : Govt of Manipur
  • NE Ex-Super Model at Delhi Kids Fest
  • What Diphu has, Dimapur & Kohima don't
  • Towards Manipur Budget 2022-23 ...
  • NE Social & Behaviour Change inaugurated
  • Fighting corruption remains an uphill task
  • Environment needs more than tree plantation
  • SN Chand: The father of Manipuri cinema #3
  • COVID-19 Status 09 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Degree Certificate for Survival #2
  • Value chain management of Umorok
  • Pulses for Nutrition Security in Manipur
  • Keeping your skin oil free during summer
  • Demand for impartial probe into IMC scam
  • Politics of isolating the NSCN (IM)
  • Raas @Manipur Rajbari, W Bengal :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 08 June : Govt of Manipur
  • A rare book on Birds of Manipur
  • Condemns bomb blast in Manipur
  • Market Innovations made America great #2
  • Jal Jeevan Mission : PHED Manipur
  • Disturbing data on lifestyle diseases in state
  • Tough talk against drug menace
  • Trekking to Shirui Peak, Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 June : Govt of Manipur
  • Take a leaf from sunderban if you're serious
  • Testimony of brother Ninghor Mahongnao
  • Local leaders unitedly push for One Health
  • Letters from the Republic of Dust #2
  • Soil testing for better crop production
  • Despicable threat to school
  • Outrage at Little Flower School
  • Ibudhou Thangjing Lam Thokpa #3 :: Gallery
  • Coming together of COCOMI, UNC
  • HSE Result 2022 : Statistiscal Abstract
  • HSE Result 2022 : Subject Pass Percentage
  • HSE Result 2022 : District-Wise Pass %
  • HSE Result 2022 :Science Topper
  • HSE Result 2022 : Arts Topper
  • HSE Result 2022 : Commerce Topper
  • HSE Result 2022 : Science Stream Result
  • HSE Result 2022 : Arts Stream Result
  • HSE Result 2022 : Commerce Stream Result
  • Padmashree Award Moirangthem Muktamani
  • UK band Monuments @ShiRock #2 :: Gallery
  • Lunghar (Imp-Kohima / Jessami) #3 : Gallery
  • Wakhom Leikai Lairembi Haraoba #2 : Gallery
  • Naga Indigenous Wrestling :: Gallery
  • SN Chand: The father of Manipuri cinema #2
  • Licypriya speech at East Timor :: Gallery
  • On 200th Anniversary of MK Binodini Devi
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2022 #2: Gallery
  • Rules of English Pronunciation : Download
  • Sub-Syllables in English : Book Download