A Day in Kathmandu: The Day of Shiva Ratri – 2062
Kisan is already late to meet his friend Ujwal in Baneshwor. They start walking to Pashupatinath temple as bikes or any other forms of motorized vehicles were not permitted beyond Battisputali on the day. Both Ujwal and Kisan enjoy outdoor activities and were expecting the afternoon to be full of adventure. The crowd was extremely thick in Gaushala, perhaps around 10 people per square meter. Yet they dug their way through, pushed a few people as necessary and got pushed like-wise.
The street from Gaushala that led the crowd into the temple was lined with stalls of vendors and clubs. “Satarka. Greek nagarik Paulino Christoforou ko passport sathai anya awasyak patra haru mandir ko dakshin kinar bata chori bhayeko chha. Phela parnu bhaye najik ko prahari athawa volunteer lai bujhai dinu anurodh garinchha,” was being repeatedly announced over the loud speakers that hung from trees along the road. Kisan had never seen even half as many people before. Realizing that there was no way to get into the temple that day, they crossed the Bagmati river over a little bridge to the site that had many little temples.
A couple of snake charmers were entertaining a huge crowd. Aghori babas, who are known for their esoteric practices and black robes, had a mass gathering under a tree next to the snake charmers. Next to them were sadhus who had arranged themselves in a circle with an old and small sadhu in the middle of this religious wheel. This sadhu was standing on one leg. Rumor had that he does this for days at time. They were even distributing post-cards of this sadhu, in his eternal one-legged posture. The picture had even made it to Nepal Travelers and a few other magazines which they had on display as a sales gimmick to attract people to take pictures with them for a fee.
Next was a sadhu who was wearing next to nothing and sun-glasses. He had painted his entire body with ash and was dancing in strange ways. This reminded Kisan of the places Samrat Upadhyaya describes in his book “Arresting God in Kathmandu,” and the perplexities of Nepali culture that Lynn Hewitt describes in her book “Sacred Sisters and Dangerous Wives: High Caste Women of Nepal.” After a short stop at one of the temples to listen to bhajan they started digging their way towards the airport exit. Kisan then took a public transport to Ratna Park from where he walked to Jamal.
Bharat, one of Kisan’s high school friends, had gotten married in Mahendranagar a few months back and none of his close friends were able to attend the ceremony on site because of ‘chakka jam.’ Welcome to Nepal. The country is so unstable and the government is so powerless that any political party can call a bandh (or complete closure) of the entire country within a day’s time. Kisan’s younger brother constantly pokes fun at the government and says, “New Road bandha garnu paryo bhane, euta farsi ma dui wata electric wires jhundai dinu parchha, ani gate ma rakhi diyo bhane, farsi bomb bhanera sabh tarsinchhan.” Farsi bomb. F-bomb.
Anaar (pomegranate) ma duita electric wire jhundai diyo bhane Anaar bomb. A-bomb. Americans haru ko matrai, hamro pani A-bomb.
Rumor has it the so called 7-aligned-parties of Nepal are planning on calling “Nepal Bandh.” And these are the people vying to govern the country. Isn’t it ironic that the very people whose only mandate is to run the country are trying to close it? From what I have observed so far, these people are better skilled at shutting the government than running it. People call this a dysfunctional democracy. I think this is a very enchanting democracy. Nepali citizens feel so powerful that even a school boy can think of A-bomb and F-bomb, and any layperson is confident of calling a shut-down of the entire country. Ain’t this real democracy?
I personally think that this is all because of the leadership, both political and bureaucratic. To put it bluntly, our country’s politics and bureaucracy is run by the old-boys club, and these boys are crooked. Not all of them are insane but most of them are and they have created an atmosphere where anyone with sanity and work ethics will be branded as flawed. What we need at this point in our history is a complete change in ideas. We need selfless leaders with proven capabilities and who love to work for the betterment of the people.
Yesterday I was walking from Jamal to New Road through little alleys that took me to places with strange names like BhedaSingh, Pyukha, MahaBoudha and Guchcha Tole. These places host a lot of wholesale and retail shops that carry general use merchandise and is always full of bustling crowd. But yesterday the entire area was closed. All the businesses from Mahaboudha to New Road had shut their doors. Apparently, this was a protest against government’s policies to charge high rates of Value Added Tax (VAT) to businesses. The businessmen were grumbling about the taxation system. I don’t get it. My understanding is that those who can should pay. As simple as that. But they don’t like paying taxes so they shut down the city. As simple as that.
Kisan finally finds his friends at a small restaurant in Jamal. It is 6:00 pm. They were there to wish Bharat a wedded bliss.