News from Nowhere
--The "historic" agreement signed last Thursday between the UMDF (United Madheshi Democratic Front), which had been spearheading the Tarai agitations, and the provisional government here in the 'du seems to have eased the petrol crisis. Now the trucks delivering gasoline from the Indian "mainland" should be able to get through without obstruction....unless, of course, one of the other several Tarai-based ethnic groups decides to launch an agitation. (The Madheshis aren't the only disenfranchised people living in the Tarai, just the noisiest.)
--My acquaintance Sajani Sakya, the Bhaktapur Kumari, has decided (or more likely it has been decided for her) to take early retirement from her post as Living Goddess. The 11- year-old girl's parents chose to have Sajani undergo a traditional Newar ritual of "ihi," or symbolic marriage to a fruit.
It's not as weird as it sounds (or maybe it is, and I have just been in this part of the world too long). Bollywood goddess Aishwarya Rai underwent a form of the same type ritual prior to her marriage to Abhishek Bacchan (in her case, she ritually "married" a tree).
Most Newar girls undergo this simple ritual around age 11, but Kumaris do not. Why this was so important for Sajani to do this now is a mystery. Anyway, the search is on for a new Bhaktapur Kumari, and Sajani is now attending public school like a regular girl.
--Maha Shivratri - a major Hindu holiday for the god Shiva - is coming up, which should mean the freaks, sadhus and Shiva Bhakts will be on display at Pashupatinath. That's March 6th, by the way.
--in a non-Nepal based story: many people write to me asking about where they can see HH the Dalai Lama. HH's schedule is always available at his official website. As this is the year of the Beijing Olympics, he will be abroad most of the year hoping to raise the profile of the Tibet issue as well as that of other human rights issues within China.
However, it's just been announced he will be teaching in Kaza, Himachal Pradesh (I think that's in Spiti valley) from June 22-24. There is little commercial accomodation in the area and the HP government is trying to figure out how to house all the pilgrims. Maybe I'll bring a tent.
More news as it happens!
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