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A balcony in Nepal: glimpses of a Himalayan village
  1. P Ravi Shankar
  1. Dr P Ravi Shankar, KIST Medical College, PO Box 14142, Kathmandu, Nepal; ravi.dr.shankar{at}

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Sally Wendkos Olds, Margaret Roche. New Delhi Published by Adarsh Books 2004 ISBN 81-87138-92-0

Medical humanities, an established concept in the Western world, is still in its infancy in developing countries such as Nepal. Art and literature used for teaching and learning medical humanities is mostly from Western countries and reflects a Western perspective. Sally Olds and Margaret Roche have visited Nepal many times and “adopted” Badel, a remote village in Khotang district, eastern Nepal. During their visits they used to stay in the house of their guide, Buddi. Their abode was the balcony on the first floor and they had a splendid view of the surrounding hills across the river. This probably accounts for the book’s title.

The book is divided into five parts: the first part, dealing with the period before the authors went to Badel, and the remaining parts, dealing with their many visits over a period of about 10 years. The authors were accepted by the villagers as relations. The views, observations and perceptions of the Western “grandmothers” (a writer and a painter) are acute and astute. Like many visitors, the authors fell in love with Nepal; the beautiful scenery, the majestic Himalayas and the smiling people.

The book contrasts the simple life of Badel with the complex and complicated life of the West. Innocence and simplicity have disappeared or is disappearing from most of Nepal. The book can be used to introduce a number of concepts in medical humanities to both Western and South Asian students. Living in the moment, Zen and letting go, attachment and possessions are recurring themes. Stress, tension and harried life styles are responsible for the rise of “lifestyle” diseases; the simple, unhurried, “doing one thing at a time” lifestyle of the villagers of Badel is definitely healthier.

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