Friday, February 08, 2008

Diplomatic license

Irrational International Relations
Kathmandu, Nepal

There just can't be such a thing as a normal visit to the Indian Embassy of Kathmandu. It just IS NOT allowed.

Always, there has to be some kind of extenuating circumstance inserting itself into the few thousand feet between my guest house and the complex of bungalow-style buildings in Lazimpat.

Today's episode featured a blockade of the front gates of the Indian Embassy by members of the Nepal Army, or maybe Nepalis in the Indian Army. What? No one could explain properly; evidently it had something to do with Nepali members of the Indian army striking for better pay and improved conditions.

Guys, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but have you looked around the neighborhood lately? You are lucky to have a job at all, let alone one working for the neighborhood superpower.

So I had to find the "secret" back entrance by a public school. Evidently this strike has been going on for a while, because the school gate has actually been now painted with the name "Indian Embassy Entrance." Armed soldiers come and go along with the uniformed schoolchildren and orange-robed ascetics applying for Indian visas.

When I finally reached the window, I was surprised to see the famous Toupee Man was no more. Toupee Uncle, gone! Now who's gonna smile at me and make playful banter?

In fact, all the faces had changed. Great, now I have to ingratiate myself anew.

A Colombian woman in line next to me had heard, via the expat jungle telegraph, that the previous crew had all been transposed - caught for taking baksheesh in exchange for issuing five-year visas, and sent upriver to some other office.

However, the grace of the avatars was in my corner. The new man at the window was either a Sherpa, or a Tibetan.

"WHY you are coming and going so much from India?" he asked, flipping suspiciously through the - by now several dozen - various stamps and stickers in my passport.

Of course, there MUST be a nefarious reason to want to spend time in India. I love this logic - it's as though they're admitting that no one in their right minds would go there. Come to think of it, they do have a point.

My impeccably chaste reply:
I am following His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

(Note to karma police: Forgive me for name-dropping, just trying to get back to Dharamsala to see Him.... this year he's teaching Dhammapada.)

The guy's head snapped up. "Really?"

Sure. Wanna see?

I switched on my camera and flipped through the close-range photos for him, as his eyes widened.

"You have MET him?"


"He KNOWS you?"

Yes. (Not by name, just as that gutsy American woman who bullies around the Indian male news photographers. HH does get a chuckle out of this, I have seen it.)

Would you like some tenshug? I asked, reaching into my bag of silken blessing cords that had been 'zapped' by just two of the 1000 Arms of Avalokiteshvara.

Problem solved. Thanks, HH!

Because of some Hindu holiday (of course, there's one on a weekly basis - but what the hell is 11 February? - oh that's right, Vasant Panchami), I can't retrieve the visa till 14 February.

But Mercury will still be retrograde...maybe this time I'd better bring along some Precious Pill.

All About Vasant Panchami
I'm glad it's Vasant Panchami. If there were ever a patron goddess of Geek Girls, it would be Maa Saraswati.

Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom, art and music. It is believed that goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning.
She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus — the symbol of true knowledge — in the second.

(Actually, it's not a lotus she is holding in the second is a mala, or prayer beads for saying mantra.)

With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on a string instrument called the veena.

She is dressed in white — the symbol of purity — and rides on a white swan that symbolises Sattwa Guna or purity and discrimination.

Saraswati is also a prominent figure in Buddhist iconography — the consort of Manjushri.

Yaa Kundendu tushaara haaradhavalaa, Yaa shubhravastraavritha Yaa veenavara dandamanditakara, Yaa shwetha padmaasana Yaa brahmaachyutha shankara prabhritibhir Devaisadaa VandithaSaa Maam Paatu Saraswatee Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadyaapahaa

Translation --
"May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops; who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus; who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me. May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance."

1 comment:

c said...

"I am following His Holiness the Dalai Lama. "

I hope you gave me the correct attribution and acknowledgement.

("the lady that follows the dalai lama around, not that that's a bad thing...")