It was February, 2004 when I received an invitation from Drug Bulletin of Nepal (a representative of International Society of Drug Bulletins, ISDB) to participate in a workshop in Nepal on “Providing drug information to safeguard public health”. The ISDB is an international organization of worldwide network of independent drug bulletins that maintain editorial independence. I took decision without any delay to participate in the workshop. The 3-day Middle East and West Asia regional workshop/meeting of the ISDB took place at the Himalayan resort of Nagarkot in Nepal. There were 36 participants from the region including representatives form ISDB, WHO and USP Drug Quality and Information Program.
Nagarkot is a hill station at the height of 2195 meters and 32 kilometers east of Katmandu. It is a hill resort situated at north-east circumference of Katmandu valley, and second highest peak in the region. A thick green snow-topped peak standing like a security guard in front of Mount Everest is popularly known as Nagarkot. The venue of the meeting, which was organized by Department of Drug Administration (DDA) of Nepal, was Club Himalaya hotel.
The itinerary was Chennai to Katmandu via Delhi; and Katmandu to Bangalore return. The Air India flight from Delhi was delayed by 3 hours and accordingly I could not reach the destination on predetermined time and place. It was 3.45 PM local time when the flight landed at Tribhuvan international airport. I left airport to Nagarkot in a taxi that was waiting for me. The distance from airport is 28 kilometers, 45-50 minutes drive by a taxi. It was a journey through narrow zigzag road, and village on village clinging to the slopes below the road. One can not avoid witnessing the scenery of poor conditions of the villagers. Although the road to Nagarkot had wonderful views of the countryside, it was not free from dangers. Many blind curves, big potholes on the middle of road and deep steep valley were most fearsome. However, layered rice field staircases offered a panoramic view of one side of the road.
It was exactly 5.00 PM when I reached Club Himalaya hotel, Nagarkot. Nagorkot was eerily silent that seems to lie at the lap of the mighty Himalaya. Although I could not imagine the hotel from outside at first sight – once reached inside, I felt as I had come to a dream land. The inauguration of the meeting had been completed by that time. I joined at tea-break after inauguration. I was allotted a room named mount Thamserku. Each room of the hotel is named after different Himalaya range peaks.
Drawing and dinning spaces of the hotel, furnished with Nepali style, were view points for Everest and sunrise at the east and Daulagiri and sunset at the west. There was a huge balcony in eastern side of each of the rooms in the hotel, a perfect view point to watch panoramic Himalayas. The roof terrace of the hotel was used for best sunrise view over the Himalayas at dawn during which tea was served and the temperature ranged between 0 and 5 degree Celsius. The hills looked like a thick basket of cloud stretching across eastern valley from the balcony alongside of the conference hall.
Once it was an annual rest place for Nepali Kings, Nagorkot is a popular tourist spot for sunrise and sunset views at the Himalaya range. The place had a dozen star hotels and restaurants; little countryside homes and shops here and there; green shades everywhere – dark, light, blackish and water green. On the eastern side a wave of varieties of hills was present stretching from north to south. Still far away on the east, there was mighty Mount Everest standing as huge corridor. It became perfect white after snowfall during winter. On the western side there was Daulagiri and Katmandu valley. Everyday it was an uneasy calm except sound of horns from a few small vehicles. At a 2-3 kilometers distance from bus stop there was tower view point, still little further away a village by name Tamang. The road to village looked awesome and the sight was most panoramic. Many varieties of rows of trees and multi-coloured orchids on which played rare birds and butterflies generated a captivating picture.
Daily time table of the meeting was breakfast, lunch, and mixture of plenary talks, seminar, debate and discussion about drug bulletins between 8 AM to 5 PM. Providing accurate and purposeful information on medicine use was the main aim of the meeting. Professor Joe Collier, president of ISDB stressed the importance for independent drug bulletins in promoting proper use of medicines and reminded the attendees that editorial independence is most important if drug bulletins are to be the credible. Modern medicines are essential for chemotherapy, but have many side effects and adverse effects. Some are life saving and many are prone to causing dangerous effects and even death. Providing information of updated scientific research findings about medicines is the prime aim of ISDB (website: http://www.isdb.org), which is independent of financial and Government controls.
TIME Magazine (December 10, 2001 issue) described Club Himalaya hotel as a “Hot Spot” of the world. An anonymous tourist while reviewing Nagarkot said,
“It is for tourists a place to relax mind and body; for philosophers a place to listen to sounds of silence; for adventures a place to acclimatize; and for young couple a setting to romance with nature“.
I found a similarity between hospitality extended by faithful hotel staff of club Himalaya and necessity of honest and faithful drug bulletins for humanity. The meeting place selection probably indicates the same. A Chinese writer and scholar, Lin Yutang wrote,
“A good traveler is one who does not know where is going to, a perfect traveler does not know where he came from“.
I understood the importance and philosophical meaning of the quote by staying a few days in Nagarkot. The images of memories of Nagarkot and Club Hiamlaya will never fade away from my mind with time.