Monday, February 5, 2007

The Weather Report: No Electricy No Petrol No Cooking Gas

Inspired by a note from my friend Helen in Dorset, saying she actually reads these images, I'm adding a short post to my blogspot while sitted at my desk in the National Human Rights (Wrongs?) Commission on a dark, blustry and bleak afternoon here in Katmandu.

If, as Herr Profeesor Sigmund Freud was once quoted as saying, "Ze weather iz a reflection of ze collective zexual zeitgeist of ze society.", (or something like that...) then today's sky in Nepal may accurately describe our national mood.

Unlike days of yore, a decade or two ago, when we'd open "The Rising Nepal" in the morning over a sweet cup of Nepali tea with the soothing words at the top of the masthead, 'All is fair throughout the kingdom', alas, the halcyon days of the Himalayan Camelot are long gone from our further tarnished kingdom of Nepal.

Tis more like the winter of our collective discontent here on the mean streets of this once magical kingdom. Not exactly King Lear, although madness may have set in the palace w/o anyone particularly noticing a generation ago, nor quite Macbeth, although the excruitating sound of 'out, out damn spot' may have been uttered within the palace compound during the now renown murder of King Birendra and his extended family over five years ago.

While Shakun kept saying 'anarchy' over the past months, her more sober (almost...) husband was in denial (not, as we know, just a river in Egypt...). But, I fold. I give in. If what we have experienced in Nepal over the past couple of weeks is not a fair mimicry of social anarchy, I'll burn my Doestevski (well, maybe just my Doonesbury or Calvin & Hobbes...).

Let's just say, 'it's a mess...'

For those of you not addicted to the Nepalnews websites (you're forgiven...), the country is splintering and rollicking (chose your metaphor...) with ethnic and political tension. The Terai, the southern districts along the Indian border, have basically been in rebellion for over two weeks, closing the only highways to Kathmandu, burning government offices, attacking police posts and writing the "Madesh Nation" on signboards, signifying their radical intent of separating from the once soothing sacred image of a regal Nepal to create their own linear country, dividing the hills from the terai and leaving Kathmandu to survive on its own.

Interesting, no? Of course, after decades or centuries (depending on how you count...) of basically ignoring and condescending to the more Indian-like Maithali-speaking communities in the eastern plains of the country, these people, fresh with the initial enthusiasm & hubris that democracy and independence offer, have decided to remind the hill people that all roads run through the terai. It seems as if our ever-pompous, greedy & miasmic male high caste political leadership have missed that message along the way to the signing of their Comprehensive Peace Accord with the Maoists late last November... Oops...

So, this morning, with no trucks or transport coming up to Kathmandu from the terai for over a week, we awoke with the three post-revolutionary no's. No Electricity. No Petrol. No Cooking Gas. Not to mention a dark and forbiding sky... Welcome to the New Nepal, as the self-congratulatory politicians have been saying. Or, as they can announce to the non-tourists at the Tribhuvan International Airport: Welcome to Nepal! Re-Visit the Sublime, Mystic Charms of the 19th Century!

And, imagine, dear Helen asked if I'm pessimistic about Nepal. ;-) As a favorite Jewish guru, Abraham Joshua Heschel, said when asked about the peculiar world that man's created, "I'm an optimist, against my better judgement..."

So, borrowing more metaphors on this overcast day, we row on, ships against the current, doing our best to maintain our collective sense of humor and personal priorities while the country appears to be disintegrating around us. As messianic, millennial Yeats would have asked, "what rough beast slouches toward Kathmandu..."

I wonder. But, in the mean time, it's getting dark, dear Helen, darker than Dorset these days, I imagine, so I'm going out on Pulchowk to look for a taxi, then pick-up Shakun at her boutique on Durbar Marg, and plod home to distant Budhanilkantha sans car, sans certainty, sans a bit more elusive sense of sanity, but, remarkably, still with that eternal, although possibly misplaced, sense of human hope... ;-)

Good night, sky!!


ellenbergd said...

Beautiful piece, Keith. The Nepali times have been a changin' and your analyses help clarify the swirls of a new era. Now, I'm clear that the current peace is better than the Maoist war, but I need more light shed on whether the anarchy of a fledgling (and stumbling)democracy is an improvement over the corrupt Royal rule so common years ago.
Love ya


Keith D. Leslie said...


As you have always said, 'Peace is better than War.' I think Isaiah said something similar about swords & ploughshares...

I'll reflect a bit, then write more on the contrasts w/ the earlier eras of the Nepal we've known.

But, bottom line, we can't retreat to the past: it's gone. And the future remains unpredictable, not to mention, a bit uncertain.

The present semi-anarchy is not exactly a bed of roses (although peach blossoms opened in the backyard last week...). Fortunately, K'du is relatively peaceful, much more than the terai where, sadly, nearly 20 people have been killed in the past 2+ weeks.

Let me try to warm my fingers & I'll blog on later this week.

xoxo to you, Lisa, Lily & Iris

ps: Leah, out of the blue, said that she missed Lily & Iris on Sunday when we were driving to a Lincoln School concert. That, I'm sure, scores her BIG points w/ her BIG sisters!! ;-)

edw said...

Were you referring to Dr. Froid or Dr. Froit? Perhaps the same rather sketchy character of Signy-Mondieu in the Ardennes.

Keith D. Leslie said...


Thanks for the obscure (to me...) reference, as it's sent me wandering around Google to appreciate the sentiment(ality) of expression.

I learned your buddy, Nabokov, once said:

"the difference between the comic side of things, and their cosmic side, depends upon one sibilant..."

Has it ever been said better?? ;-)

I guess, after all, even if there is no fuel on the streets of Kathmandu, it'd be more fun to be home reading, writing (or painting...) than jousting w/ moral windmills.

xoxo, K.

m&d said...

darlings, we loved speaking with you and feel for your cold situation. florida doesn't look so bad, n'est ce pas? at least we don't worry that you are in a war zone......but we'll repeat dave's anarchy better than the old regime? stay warm and, m&d