In his hometown in Chitlang, Dhan Bahadur Gole is affectionately known as the “gadi bokne buda’” (car carrying old man). At 89, Dhan Bahadur is the last known survivor among porters from the region recruited by transporters to transport motor cars to Kathmandu in the 1930s. This was before the serpentine Tribhuvan Highway linking the capital to the Indian border was constructed in 1956, and the only way to get to Kathmandu was on foot or to fly. Cars bought mainly by the Rana or Shah nobility were brought to Calcutta by ship, driven sometimes up to Bhimphedi and then carried over the mountains by porters.
Dhan Bahadur helped ferry his first car, a Daimler, when he was only 17. He was in a team of 64 other porters and the journey from Bhimphedi to Thankot (4 hours by car nowdays) took eight days. He would typically receive 5 aana (less than a rupee) as payment, so despite his name, Dhan Bahadur did not get rich carrying cars. The cars were secured onto long bamboo poles and bigger cars required up to 96 porters to heave up the trails. “We didn’t even know the model of the cars we were carrying, we just called them 32, 64, 96 depending on the number of people carrying them,” Dhan Bahadur remembers.
From an article of Suraj Kumar Bhujel (Nepali Times)