Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Radio Gaga

Voice of America

I woke up this morning to a familiar, gravelly voice on the BBC. It was Bill Clinton in Sri Lanka! Amazing, Bush is universally despised over here (meaning India, Nepal and Sri Lanka), but when Clinton appears on TV, people are magnetized. They cannot say enough about him, and gather round the TV reverentially. It's like he's still President. People in India even ask me, why can't we re-elect him?

The hot water from my shower made steam on the windows; it's now record cold in the Valley for this time of year. Asian plumbing has some interesting features, even in a "modern" hotel. Though there are hot and cold spigots, water only comes from the Hot side. For the first ten minutes (literally) it is ice cold. After gallons of wasted cold water, it becomes almost immediately scalding - far too hot to stand under. So I've taken to filling a 5-gallon bucket with the cold water. When the steaming water finally comes, I stand shivering at a distance, mix the hot shower water and dips of cold bucket water in a plastic mug, then pour the lukewarm result over my body. I'm one of the lucky ones to have any hot water at all; it's heated by solar panels. In the monsoon season when sun is scarce, this hotel has the luxury of an electric water-heater backup, but you must phone the desk and have them switch it on. Then it's a few minutes' wait for the "geyser" (pronounced "geezer") to kick in. Bathing is something that requires advance planning here.

Sorry, photos aren't uploading today. Heaven is a place where the cooks are Indian, the technicians are German, and the police are British. Hell is a place where the cooks are British, the technicians are Indian, and the police are German.

Downstairs in the lobby, the desk guy, doorman and waiters were shivering but smiling as always, observing the inexplicable Nepali custom of keeping all the windows and doors open despite the cold. After ordering spicey-sweet Nepali tea, I asked for a brief lesson on which was more appropriate word for cold - "Chiso" or "jaro"? "Ahilay, malai ajay jaro chha" roughly means "I'm very cold now!"

Newspapers were on the coffee table, so I checked the headlines. Radio Sagarmatha got a respite to broadcast till December 7 only, then there will be another hearing of some kind. Now the US (a couple days after the UK and EU made similar requests) is demanding that the King restore media freedom. How do we have room to talk - our own President considered bombing Al Jazeera! With news about CIA prisons emerging, we are increasingly losing our credibility (such as we had) as the voice of universal democracy.

The RNA claims Maoists have already broken the ceasefire by firing on an Army copter. Various politicos raise warning voices to the King to get with modernity or face oblivion and a lose-lose situation. Villagers who have walked for days toward the Valley, in order to participate in Friday's pro-democracy demonstration, are being turned back by the Royal Army roadblocks.

As a tourist here, it has become a familiar routine: any long-distance bus outside the Valley is stopped by RNAC in their blue camo, and all Nepalis, or people who look Nepali, are ordered off the bus while the soldiers come aboard with their rifles and poke around. We tourists, or those who look like tourists, stay seated. When the soldiers are satisfied, all the Nepalis can get back on board. I'm not criticising the Army - I actually do feel safer this way, they are doing their job and they are risking their lives every day - but I feel for the Nepalis. Why don't they just order us all off the bus? It only takes a few minutes, anyway. And if there's contraband found on the bus, I don't want to be sitting there. I think the Nepalis, to their credit, are trying to be very sensitive about involving the tourists in this conflict in any way.

The UN's Commissioner for Human Rights has been called in to monitor the people's right to peacefully demonstrate that day. Certain areas of Kathmandu have already been declared off-limits.

And on a lighter note, Buddha Boy is now being investigated by scientists and skeptics.

There are Nepali Communist-Maoists party websites, but I'm not providing any links to them...I don't want to be the next website (after BBC Nepal) to get shut down.


Shinu Mathew said...

is Nepal heading towards anarchy? or Military Rule? Both are a possibilty! Nice work Carol!
@ Budha Boy
The cat will be out of the box ! Now the only suspicion is the govt and those ppl are hands in glove in this? Would they just hide the findings and hail him as some god? that way they can divert all the attention from their misdeeds

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Thanks Shinu; you said 'the king is behaving strangely.' Unfortunately, Nepal has quite a history of strange monarchic, if not anarchic, behaviour. I will try to reply more in depth later, stay tuned!