Friday, April 27, 2018

Y is for Yartsa Gunbu: the viagra of the Himalayas #AtoZChallenge

Jagat, our Nepali guide, pointed out to the ground and said, 'look.'

I looked but didn't see anything.

'Look...look.' his body followed his pointed finger and folded into a squat peering at the ground. 'Can you see?'

I looked but I could not see.

I felt exactly as I had when my driving instructor had asked me,'which way is the wheel facing?'

We were both inside the car. I thought it was a trick/funny question.

'How can I know? I'm inside the car?'

I saw him slapping his forehead like Punjabis do to suggest no-hope for this one. (i.e. idda kucchch nee ho sakdaa). His eyes were peeled at my hands holding the steering wheel. He was trying to tell me the clue was in my hands with his eyes.

I didn't get it then. I was almost thirty when I decided to learn to drive. He had told me more than once that I should've done this when I was seventeen. i.e. I was too old. So, I knew he was biased. 

Only after my legendary attempts at passing the driving test did I get it and then I felt as stupid as I was feeling that day at 10,000 ft above sea level trying to see what Jagat was pointing at in the lush meadows of Ali Bugyal.

Jagat scarped at the ground with his index finger and like an expert pair of pincers teased out a worm like creature from the ground.

'Open your palm.' he said and put the creature on it.

'Half plant, half worm.' he proclaimed.

'What?' 

'Yartsa Gunbu, very, very, very expensive Tibetan medicine....it's plant for six months and worm for six months. Sells for 50,000 dollars for half a kilo!'
My eyes popped out at this tiny thing. He tweezed another one out and put in on my palm.

I trusted Jagat. All his information about the local flora and the peaks we were about to climb had sounded plausible up till then.

For better photos and a brief description of the biology of Yartsa Gunbu, please do click on: www.npr.org. You have an option to listen to the article. It's very informative.

After I got back from this wonderful son and mother trek to Roopkund, I started digging up more about this super expensive fungus.

Like all elixirs of youth and life, Yartsa Gunbu comes with its fair share of bans, police chases, rules put by governments and flouted by people for survival or greed. 

'Locals, sometimes, go looking for it. It's illegal  ....But....' Jagat's eyes had said the rest.

I came across stories of gangs, a man killed by another for YarstaGunbu which prompted the local government to put the ban.

However, as an aphrodisiac and as a status symbol (especially in China, I'm told), this tiny fungus has been the bane of many small villages in the Himalayan region.

I read a story of a man who went missing and was later found dead. Such stories are not uncommon in villages of Nepal. The more I googled, the more disenchanted I felt.

My heart breaks when I see this beauty and the beast of human greed that's acting just like the caterpillar fungus: consuming some villages from within.
Yartsa Gunbu is being researched and googling it will tell you that they seem to have found it useful for treating cancer and arthritis.

I hope and I pray that right measures are taken to farm it and that locals, the guardians of these magestic mountains are not short changed by the mighty corporations or greedy men and women. Even as I type this out, I can hear the echo of the emptiness of my words. But, hope I will.

30 comments:

  1. Did I miss the part of you actually eating that worm..?

    https://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/2018/04/y-is-for-yellowstone.html

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  2. Typical of the way humans destroy the natural world for their own gains. A depressing thought for such a beautiful place.
    https://iainkellywriting.com/2018/04/28/y-is-for-ypres-belgium/

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  3. What an interesting and informative post you brought for ‘Y’. Thank you for sharing. Off I go to feed my soul to learn about Yartsa Gunbu. Good luck for the last one. You did it, yay!

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    1. Cheers Pinkz. And your kind words and support helped. I'm not saying it just for the heck of it. I mean it. Thank you. xx

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  4. Hari OM
    My word, an interesting critter is the yartsa gunbu... and what a grotty greed is the Human Critter. Though I too hold hope in heart... YAM xx

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  5. What a fascinating look into this part of nature. Thank you for sharing. Nearly done! 2nd last letter of the alphabet in the 2018 A to Z Blogging Challenge. Y is for Yes!

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    1. Thank you Shirley. Yes, one more to go and then we'll be done. Thank you for visiting.

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  6. This is so incredible, I wondered if was reading fiction, so I followed the link and there it was! A really interesting and informtive piece. BTW, what are like at parallel parking?!


    A-Z of My Friend Rosey!

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    1. Parallel Parking??? That blighter was invented to put my ego in check---BIG TIME.
      So compare this. I park five streets away or 300 parking lots away from a mall entrance just to avoid parking close to another car. And the husband squeezes his car in the tiniest of places with one hand on the wheel, head cocked to one side--looking at me with--'that's how it's done'. I used to protest as his showing off. But after 25 years of being together, I just bow my head in respect. (or give the minutest nod to acknowledge his skills.)

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  7. What a fascinating organism and how heart-breaking to see what is now unfolding. It is outrageous that greed is such a powerful disrupter of sanity and right and just behavior. I'm glad you shared this - these things need to be known, and known widely.

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    1. Indeed Deborah. Uncomfortable truths need to be shared.

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  8. In our greed we are making species extinct and raping nature like there is no tomorrrow; actually there will be no tomorrow for us in the near future at the rate at which we are destroying the only home that can sustain us.

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    1. I hope we can change the narrative Shalini.

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  9. Mother and son trek sounds amazing. And fascinated to read about Yartsa Gunbu. Like all things, man has spoilt this with his greed.

    Seema, participant in #AtoZchallenge, Artist, Writer, Wanderer, and Dreamer.
    Yearning for a Boat Ride on Chilika Lake – Panthanivas, Satpada

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    1. Treks with my children --first with my daughter as her graduation present and then the following year with my son when he finished middle school have been the best way for them to fall in love with the India I call home. Their 'narrow' view of noisy and crowded and dirty India changed in the mountains. And more than the beauty of the Himalayas, it was the kindness and honesty of the locals we met on our travels that won them over. This Indian mother feels happy her not-living-in-India children have found their connection:)

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  10. Thanks for sharing this post Arti even if it is heart breaking. Your words are not empty. Here in South Africa our elephants and rhinos are poached for their tusks which make ivory ornaments and such like but also for medicine and aphrodisiac which has been PROVEN to be of no use as the tusks are simply keratin.

    I drive a small car that can turn on a tickey. My husband's is larger ... in fact many cars are soooo big I wonder how people can park them - I'm sure they get cricks in their necks ... but walking a good distance to the mall is good exercise :)

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    1. My point exactly--walking is such good exercise. Thank you for your support Susan:)

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  11. How cool that you not only held them but got a good photo, Arti!

    Had I not known where you were writing about, I could easily think you were in Ecuador's Amazon region. Humans destroying nature is sadly universal.

    Emily In Ecuador

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    1. Jagat took that picture Emily. My hands look so wrinkly...eeeks! It was cccold though:)

      That bit about us destroying our home--sounds universal.

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    1. I was gobsmacked, too-- when he told me about it!

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  13. Wow! " half worm, half plant..." thats so amazing. sad about the greed related depradation though

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    1. A story we see everywhere these days Ketaki--greed consuming nature.

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  14. So fascinating! I thought such creatures only existed in mythology! Of course the ending was a stark reminder of our reality. We as a people dont have a soul. If we did...we would sell it - for profit!

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    1. At times it does feel like there are soul less beings among us. And then the colours of a butterfly's wings bring back the light and the hope.

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  15. I gain lot of information from this article.Thanks for sharing it

    Book online bus ticket from Redbus

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