Trains, buses, and a pink plastic tarp: the long journey from Nepal to Asia Liberty Forum

Bikalpa trip to ALF

Four Nepalese men waited at the train station in Patna, India, unsure when their delayed connection to Mumbai would arrive. With all the time in the world and nowhere to go, Basanta Adhikari strolled around the station. The bright pink color of a small plastic tarp caught his eye, and he purchased it for 30 cents to provide a small degree of relief from the elements as he and his three colleagues waited on the platform. When the train arrived nine hours later, he folded the tarp and placed it in his baggage.

Adhikari is the director of Bikalpa, An Alternative, an Atlas Network partner based in Nepal, and he had received a generous grant to cover roundtrip airfare to last month's Asia Liberty Forum in Mumbai. Rather than spending all the funds on a quick and painless trip for himself, he opted for an inexpensive train ride — which allowed him to bring his colleagues along. This meant trading the relative luxury of an airplane for a round trip that involved 102 hours of trains, buses, and countless connections.

Adhikari and his colleagues — Suman Rai, Punam Giri, and Madan Krishna Pradhan — reached Mumbai more than two days after embarking from their hometown of Biratnagar, Nepal. The train ride alone took more than a day. By the time they arrived at Asia Liberty Forum on the morning of Feb. 8, they had traveled for 53 hours — roughly the distance of New York City to Miami. They carried little more than their clothes, a couple of laptops, and that pink plastic tarp from Patna station. Today, Adhikari keeps the tarp as a proud keepsake from this long journey, a symbol of their unbridled commitment to the ideas of liberty and responsibility.

As a grassroots organization, Bikalpa is uniquely focused on generating opportunities for the people of Nepal through its advocacy of entrepreneurship and business-friendly policies. Asia Liberty Forum provides liberty organizations like Bikalpa with the opportunity to come together with other regional groups and advance free-market ideas through annual discussion, competition, and celebration.

Adhikari has attended every Asia Liberty Forum since it launched in 2013, and it was crucial to this seasoned veteran that his colleagues share in his experience and come to understand the significance of these annual gatherings.

“I wanted all my team members to see and experience the larger picture of the freedom movement going on all around the world,” Adhikari said. He could only make this possible by organizing their arduous journey to Mumbai. After the intellectual whirlwind of Asia Liberty Forum, Adhikari’s Bikalpa team members returned to Nepal ready to tackle their mission with renewed enthusiasm.

“It is the best platform for me to be with like-minded people, learn from them, and get inspired and implement those learnings personally in the organization,” said Punam Giri Bikalpa’s finance and visual media officer.

The return trip from Mumbai to Biratnagar lasted almost as long as the original journey, so the men spent a total of 102 hours in transit. Still, they maintained an unflagging morale, returning to Nepal reinforced by their kinship within a shred global movement. The global struggle for liberty sees its greatest successes when those who share the ideas of economic and individual freedom gather, fueling each other’s mutual resolve. The men of Bikalpa were able to share in this process thanks to a great man with humble origins — and a small pink plastic tarp.