KATHMANDU -- At 70 years old, Radha Gautam was set for the trip of a lifetime. She and 20 fellow residents in a home for the elderly in Netraganj, a hamlet in southeastern Nepal, were excited about a trip to religious sites in India. Devout Hindus believe that a visit to the four holiest sites in India, called Char Dham, will cleanse their sins and pave the way for their salvation.
Gautam and her fellow residents had handed their meager savings to Bhawani Koirala, who runs the home, Padma Bhuwaneshwari Namuna Briddhashram, and were expecting to leave shortly for a three-week pilgrimage to the four corners of India. Gautam had collected 25,000 Indian rupees ($363.90) -- the maximum amount allowed by India for Nepalese citizens crossing the border -- and is still raising funds with the help of relatives in India.