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Episode 34 - Nirvana Funeral Services

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This podcast is part of the Planet Broadcasting Network Visit Planet Broadcasting Dot Com from podcast from our great night's hello and welcome to another episode of human ordinary true stories about our culture relationships and all those things that make us human so this one time I was very young and riding being in the car with my dad. It's probably one of my earliest memories. Although by this stage I think of my league clean to the memory of having the memory itself mealy memory Marie of memory but from what I do remember is that we were somewhere in the countryside and I was about four or five years old and for whatever reason when dad and I were talking about death I get the feeling that I knew what being dead meant because the reason that this memory has stayed with me for. So how many years is it was the moment when I learned that everyone my dad and my mom and even me would die one day up until then I think I had an understanding that you only die if you got sick or someone killed you or you got hurt in a freak roof to trampoline to picket fence. Suburban accident did but after this car ride. I was aware of inevitable mortality. I'd like to say that he'd had a profound impact on me and my life but being the idea was I probably just went back to throwing my he-man figures around and nagging dad for an ice cream still. Oh I am recalling that moment now putting the fight at memory through the copy of one more time death is effective live but some people understand that whole better than others because for them it is their life. No matter where you go people have been and will continue you to die and it's always been someone's job to take care of things after you're gone this time on human ordinary mid cap haven't seen meets an unlikely undertaker at the top of the world was introduced to Walter through a pretty odd connection a friend of Mine Meta woman an online who was working at the Australian Embassy. One of her stints with the diplomatic service had been in India and Nepal. It was in Katmandu that she met Walter a Baker who accidentally became a funeral director. I was dying to hear the story from him firsthand but it was no main fate to organize I. I posted stood on some forums to try and find a freelancer in Katmandu. Who'd be able to record the interview in high fidelity? I was blessed. Regina A. T. Coty volunteer to travel across town to to meet Walter had to figure out how to call through with a dodgy Internet connection on both sides. WHAT MIC I? Scott dropped out so I dialed directly but ran out of credit. Can you hear me then. Walter's cell phone kept interfering with Rhodesia's Mike. We might what knowledge good knowledge. Good you back eventually. We were able to have a broken conversation. My Own Voice Recorder die on me but a prayed that everything was running smoothly jettisoned ten thousand kilometers away shaken shaken chemic- and take to Russia and freezing next to me fever. And everything doing this for you. Okay that's the guy have fewer than cold and cough the Walter fix through Geeta lemon honey. Yet he's gotten caffeine of Katmandu's satellite district's. It's a quiet street a block away from some other nice restaurants and hotels. There's a private school all across the road. Behind whitewashed walls you can hear the students in the playground and also the ravens squabbling amongst themselves in the broadly fee trees. Walt has got shop features and clear Blue Eyes. He's a sinewy guy with a silver crown of here in kind of a fishy via out of goodfellas gregarious and entertaining. But but snuffy win this stuff to get done. Yeah I'm ready. I'm ready wartime from Austria antiques or short young white. It's enough so what was Walter doing in Katmandu. He had arrived there in the spirit of the hippie trail the overland route from Europe to the East dirtbags from the sixties and seventies took in search of enlightenment and not infrequently hashish to opium but by the nineteen eighties as the hippies had given way to trick is and there were all sorts of business opportunities for an intrepid thirty-three-year-old and arrived arrived. I mean nate partying ninety eight to five driving driving over from Australia. We okay boss because the time we could sell the cars here and make good money so I thought a lot of adventure which we bought the old patsy stare to France me and my another each of us had a van made them brady like camping car. You could sleep there and get to dukes around three tweet tweet one months to make radion one months to come here at least one months because you know at that time. You couldn't try twenty kilometer day starting from Pakistan sometimes twenty kilometers per day so ancient breaks down and middling details that you have to change some taking or whatever just just a train and we made finally and we've got the money we party little bit. We spent lots of money having good diamond and we flew back tracking to other cars. So I did these six time and Yeah I've just six years and then he became difficult. Also that we have to do something else and Seen Kook head-to-head worked in restaurants before other things so I started little restaurant in Boda the religious place for the Buddhists. The Buddha where Walter up in his first cafe is Katmandu's Central Temple Stupa super a huge White Dome crowned by a stepped Golden Tower from each of the four sides the painted blue eyes of the Buddha gays into the distance all knowing and Serene Serene I too have been one of those tourists and pilgrims pacing slowly around its pave courtyard spinning brass prayer wheels of the right hand as you go Katmandu. Streets bustle with markets. And Hawkers and the occasional sacred cow the white plazas are overlooked story palaces and temples rusty red bricks with tiered roofs like stacked umbrellas screened windows promise hidden world and wouldn't call riddled with intricate carvings of the Hindu. Gods the thanked Cali wearing a necklace of skulls or the elephant headed initia- who brings prosperity in the eighties and nineties. Katmandu was indeed becoming prosperous as more and more hotels and restaurants and trekking agencies opened up Walter was captivated by the character of the streets and the optimism of the Nepalis. It was beautiful. You know I had a feeling everybody is pleased to leave this stupid for anti crazy. What did talk to get cal? Whatever it was who could leave in the street sleep in the streets? Nobody would board you. You could just do your life that she'd like at everybody. Everybody could do that. It was very secure so at the time because the king was there. Nobody would steal anything nobody would do. I need to. Nobody would test respect you. It was quite nice friendly. The onus just was good place at five forty in love to stay here well to became a hit on the tourist sane with these comfort food versed styles sausages and fried cheese balls washed down with Nepal go KABIRA. He's true passion though is bread and his Vienna. Bakery has become famous for all the classic loaves and Pastries Traveler. Wants when the tide of Dahlin Rice us but one evening Walter was drinking with a friend he was made an offer he couldn't refuse. I had two good friends at dame he was working in the German embassy. T. and then one night together and had to ear and then he just came back exhausted. What band and he said he has to pick up dead body from somewhere east parlor something like that? He had to go himself because chairman. I'd just no professional accompany going Repatriation like that. Somebody had to do it right. So hit it do it. He He. He went he would his own car. Because no car wanted to do Bring the body from east part to cut too. Because you have commissioned them dead bodies runner transferred from here today just for carried on them. Bamboo defect from the family from home to the cremation place and that was it and there was no cars where you could transport the parties so he had to go with his own car and put the body kind of Indian. He didn't feel good. But what do know. Can you imagine you working in an office in your bosses. One one of our citizens has died. But there's no funeral company had because the Natalie's chromite they did we need to collect the body and send it home to the person's family. Would you mind taking your car to pick it up and drubbing six hours with it sitting in the back. It's particularly strange to think that this person's life had been snuffed out so unexpectedly someone in the prime seeking rich new experiences appearances but as many tourists coming to Nepal. There was no need for someone that could handle the did and return them to their home country so then while having another beer one or two then he was why you didn't do this job as you've watched. How can do the job? I did not think about it. No no no no no. We didn't think more about that so time passed and then another another person restroom for the embassy died and again we of course we debut because we met quite often. And he's coming you to it I can. I can guide. You can't just let's do it one time together and let's do and I was like I did. Audie handling is not doing every day but we manage it was okay person who died it was normal heart attack cutting cut into it was. It's easy so I managed and we see to get into evening. Wow I did you know really good and say okay. I think I would do it next time. You tell me I know already. How do you tell me I will too and yet but you have to make your company and of course it company have to have a name? Same you don't know. Even how played guitar. Start a name and shame like it. Geno we need we need name a company and we were drinking and Don King so which name no idea and so. I'm and I'm from Australia and what we also have somebody I you know we say yeah he away he spooned. Obviously he's looking into potatoes from below. Sometimes I taught spoon giving away under daycare. Know what data view undertake No good then we. We agreed to route view and taught route view at the data. Is the perfect perfect name for a company so I went home. Route view was created and started writing letters to ordain but sees that sex as forty route. You announce his at we Starting operating the company we'd Professionally Repatriation Asian or whatever. If you've ever been to Nepal or even India you'll get the joke. Every other hotel restaurant is called the temple view. Mountain view or Lakeview. Why not route few funerals? The embassy staff around town didn't share Walter Sense of human and suggested it didn't quite have the right sense of crevice while to sheepishly changed the name to Navan funeral sentences and opened his doors for business. He bought a dedicated. Then and with a bit of ice in the coffin he was able to transport bodies back to Kathmandu from several hours away. It was one thing to handle someone who passed away from a heart attack. There were more incidents happening. All the time on the trekking and climbing circuit altitude sickness rockfalls and snowstorms. All took their toll and there really wasn't much in the way of rescue and recovery services at that time if someone got sequel injured up de or if they died the head to be carried for days back down to the nearest road along along dirt tracks running through Qantas's and past little stone. Stupid etched with Buddhist prints the white peaks of the Himalayas looming solemn counter points to human fragility story really changed my mind taught dead bodies because I think the second to dirt cases we had six climbers fell down in order to get a one thousand meter because one fail and they took or the other way and you can believe how what is looking gift for one thousand Beta there was no there was just a mess and you could nowhere front peg. What is up? What is down from buddies? But in that time I worked with the doctor and the body talk to who learn embalming from democratic came from American doctor. Oh and we team. We fixed bodies to get at least a hates that there were looking like human. I mean you can't believe two heads fled not ice up behind and I don't know what ordinance so it was really her sweet but I had to my job and it was too I how does she. What is my ability to you know what they can hold not too faint? But I felt so good. I had the feeling because the Buddhist weight is saying this sword stained forty days we departed and I thought if I'm a both myself and I looked down and cannot recognize myself because you lost sadly sadly not your body which not lose get and since we fixed the head together. I thought there's little chance do who find out. It is me and it would be happy. I really felt good after that. You know whatever I can do it feeling is still too good things for the dead you give you give them something Nice you you put them to get it And I thought okay. That's a good job. It's something good I can do. And every continued that time for a quick break when we return. Walter faces a challenge beyond all imagining this. This episode of human ordinary is sponsored by ship. Station dented human ordinary. H- H Q. We've decided to start offering subscriber only rewards felicitous. Some of those rewards include merchandise. Anytime we get an order we need help shipping over the stuff. 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Make ship happen back to the story of Nevada. Funeral Services Walter. The Baker and chef quickly gained confidence in his new role as an undertaker he learned more about embalming from experts and in turn trained three staff to help him if fitted out a funeral home and as Nepal became popular with travelers from around around the world. Walter adapted to different personal and spiritual needs. They came with chopper. Family can come and see it could buy to the beloved one. Sometimes they like to come here and fly back with the deceased and sometimes stay on holiday. Tim So it's very nice to have him around and make them happy in the moment For me religion for these you know what our meat beat Muslim. Eat whatever we have to do with different people of course and we do it according to the retief to family. If they're here if not we back them and they will do this year money they come whatever they like. To tempt them people ask for cremation decoration. According to their wish like if you you want this Germany or Germany or they want whatever sometimes this year if we can get depressed then of course we could could you brief. But he's not tapping so many times. Most people like to beat them home and crewmate emptier disorderly. My pastor learned Geno since you live in Asia and and as you know where everybody was looking for enlightenment born of these generations to to Buddhism and Living Boda and two dads read books you know. Keep Eddin Book of debt and other things so the which made me understand you know maybe dead body need some love and We can do something good for them. Walter's trade is seasonal. The May June spring season is when most climbers in trick has come to Nepal. There's another peeking October November after the monsoon clouds have have dispersed. Sometimes Walter Exhaust to deal with climate who've fallen on the Tibetan side of the mountain border to and as the neighboring kingdom of Bhutan has become the next bucket list destination. Walter has recently started a branch of Navan funerals there to all of this comes with a little bit of paperwork. Walter has to wait for the place place to do an autopsy to make sure nothing amiss. And there's some bureaucracy for moving the dead between countries that's an ordinary day but the twenty fifth of April two thousand fifteen was far from ordinary. Walter was at an open street market with these Nepali wife to buy supplies for the bakery just before midday everything's dotted shuddering. The earth rippled like waves on the secial. Bricks and concrete started falling from Katmandu's closely stepped full story buildings So we were on. The market was far marquette and sadly shaking beeper fell down next to me because really hard. Oh my God what then some these hotel folks down here broke down and we just tried to go home. Take my wife come on get in. The car tried to go home and luckily streets for open. We used to choose to be grow of course and it could reach Actually my house for only a day compound for roads broken up at a magnitude of seven point. The earthquake was just short of the top band on the severity scale. Although the epicenter was about eighty kilometers away near the town of Gorkha much of Kathmandu was reduced to rubble. Able and thousands of people were buried in the lung district. Avalanches were triggered that swallowed two hundred fifty people in several villages. The quake was so fierce. It's a small cliff on the way to Mount Everest summit was cracked pieces. Nepal had an experienced anything like this for eighty years immediately. His phone started ringing. Meaning as every embassy reported national that had been killed. And then of course your phone call came in. They were bringing people in or politician issue and then it was her of course because many people died. Nepali government. Did the right decision. Does she know we not bringing dead bodies down we bring us down a new body. We who are life treatments and of course was a lot of pressure on me too and not embassies my body my body and isn't dead and sometimes family mealy member their husband wife and decrying but it was no chance to get the helicopter. Because we're seeing no I really fly. Of course the Nepali party which was understanding report. Nobody wondering this dent it you know so it was not easy but I managed by Tweet Bieber. Mike is picking up bodies from he and baking and doing so. I always have coughing slept. Luckily I'm prepared for such incident so we we could manage but still a lot of stress because many phone calls. What happened with this? What he did for this country and you know so it was not easy I hate to sleep? Ultimately worked twenty four hour so I decided not to sleep in the house because a heavily to win every old with you and so I put my hair and we were sleeping there because there were so many aftershocks so luckily I could get up fraiche any morning and Starting roadwork goes on the phone calls one million at done. It's like just is still under rebel. Still Mania Dan. I don't know how the numbers are. Many four nasty not founded in Cato's how survived is not easy to be really really the order dead bodies everywhere lying around and bringing in taking out and hot damn for three weeks there were hundreds of aftershocks including another quite rated seven point three in the final toll. Nine thousand people were killed by the earthquake and twenty two thousand thousand injured more than half a million homes were destroyed and the tragedy was amplified by the summer monsoons after so many years in the funeral business business walter is not easily shaken but he still moved by the individuality of each well these days however Walter has a bit of competition there lodge international rescue and recovery operators who can undercut wolters prices and it's the insurance companies now which decide who gets the job while to heights to say see the bottom dollar determining what dignity bodies offered in the final stages of its journey orbis pocketing their wonder if they re just be pretty diverse institutions beside the banks right and steal cheaper than disagrees years. Well otherwise the one get do you always question is why disease dead much. Why is cost that much? I provide service right. I give you a package pitch. If it going by the Mercedes you can go or how much is steering wheel. How much is the engine? And how much is did Chelsea. And I'm sure emily wants to Chevy Ford it is you have to look how work is done. I will invite them. Look I look and then you can compare and then you decide you cheap one or two good one day expensive before. It's totally pecking body and sent him home home. It needs a little bit. You know little more. It's very sensitive it is to be done with love. It's not a piece of vote or whatever you said from there and especially when family comes onto on wall to try not to vote on this too much and he's good enough to think about what the cafe the bakery and now a restaurant is well. This much seem like an unusual Omaha combination of trades. The Walter sees it a different way. Many people have two jobs. I cannot leave only from a few people who are dying so I bake bread dinner morning ebbets needed. And then if you're calling it the two other job so don't connect one with the other one but Associate important from we give. It could cherish every industry so Chevy's to their life or Chevy to to both of them feel need to service so he did they called from your restaurant in happy. Good was good and doubt one until they're packed coughing and be sent by calmed families. Or everything is Chevy's make them happy. One data by other still sixty six years. Young Walter Walter has thought about his own death to a simple cremation. He says with his ashes scattered to the sea. That's right despite living on the doorstep of the Himalayan for thirty years he's realized he's more of a seaside person he plans to retire someday. Woman beach with his wife. I hope it all works out. Walter thanks to Shannon coupon for introducing US and especially to Geeta at Kati for suffering the flu and the Katmandu traffic to make this recording for me you can check out her freelance work for the Guardian the BBC and others that her wordpress site linked from page. Sam May just be an cinnamon. NEPAD get great feedback to improve this story. Music was courtesy. See of Lenin Hutton at epidemic sound and from Free Music Archive Lump Lazier Stadium. Tomorrow see if land vortex and original composition by Kent Subtle and I'm Michaela teeny thanks for listening That was MC Kevin Saney. This was mixed last story for the current season off human ordinary. I mentally proud to have been able to present. Mix Work to you this this year. Make an hour attracted to similar stories but I think we have very different instincts when it comes to telling them and it's because of this that are really really really value makes existence. I think we need different views and approaches to challenge our own to help with questionnaire assumptions and end to give us another perspective. We might not have considered so thanks me. You can check out other stories from this year. They episodes twenty two who twenty six and thirty and also pomegranate health which is a podcast. He produces about the culture of medicine. Check it out wherever you get your podcast us. Human ordinary is produced in Melbourne and Sydney by Kevin Dean Cinnamon NEPAD May Jasper and me. Sam Louis special thanks to Klay. Hey Tony at planet broadcasting and Got Rousson and I cast. Artwork is by fergal quickly and the theme music by the CONTORTIONS. Handbook score a free t shirt. Bonus finest content and add free episodes by subscribing to human ordinary at possible dot com for more info on the show hits the website or find us on facebook and twitter. Anyway thanks for listening to this. 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