Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Murky Days in Democratic-Chaotic World of Kathmandu

It's rather cloudy, murky even, outside on this Wednesday morning, the day before the Nepali Parliament is scheduled to meet again for their winter session to resolve the political dilemma caused by the postponement (for the second time...) of the scheduled Nov. 22nd Constituent Assembly elections.

Alas, the rhetoric, as often happens in such situations, has heated up w/ the Maoists declaring their preparations for a 40 year war, if necessary, and the Congress party insisting that they won't be coerced, once again, by the Maoists to change the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (signed, ironically, also on Nov. 22nd, one year ago...).

The overt issues revolve around ending the Shah monarchy before a CA election, as well as ensuring a fully proportional election system (to ensure broader representation from disadvantaged groups -- but also, potentially, simply giving more power to the parties to manipulate the candidates).

The hidden agenda for all the major parties continues to be a topic of everyday discussions. Who wants an election. Who is threatened by an election. How much is one party serious about compromise and sharing power. Will the Left (the Maoist & UML) unite to unseat the Nepali Congress party from its hold on the majority of the ministries and power. Do the major parties simply want to transform this unelected Legislature-Parliament into the Constituent Assembly w/o the people ever getting a chance to express their own votes. Will the violence in the terai impede any hope for an election in the near future? If there isn't an election on the horizon, how legitimate is this current unelected government -- whether headed by the Congress or either of the Left parties?

Now, just yesterday, the Prachanda has said that the Maoists won't agree to a CA election date until their PLA is integrated into the Nepal Army -- as you can imagine, not an easy equation.

Such is the state of the State of Nepal these days.

With a perpetual petrol crisis looming again, this week's garbage still on the streets b/c the locals at the dumping site are demanding more from the GON (instigated by the Young Communist League/YCL), the law & order in the terai far beyond the GON's control, professionals picketing the prime minister demanding greater security, the highways blocked by truck syndicates demanding compensation for their vehicles burnt by irate villagers and load-shedding due to become a daily reality as electricity demand goes up in the winter while the national supply has been stagnant for years.

Arrghh, the sun still hasn't even come through the morning fog at 8:15 am -- what's a person to do??!!

At least this week, we are getting a cable internet connection to improve our connectivity with the wider world, installing a Nepali-made iron 'chulo' in our backroom downstairs to burn the wood that we cull from our backyard, repairing the electrical connections in the house to boost our wattage and mr. ayoub is busy redoing the roof of the guestroom for those who still find joy in the 'sights and sounds' of our still fascinating, if struggling, HImalayan kingdom...

In fact, Kathmandu has had a slew of visitors and returnees from the past decades, not the least Caroline Arnold, Mimi Church, Jeff Greenwald, George McBean, Stewart & Di McNabb, Carrie Osborne, James Goodman, Joel Harrare, Helen Gallagher (incoming) and soon our own pilgrim son, Joshua Shumshere -- one or two of whom are actually thinking of moving back from the wider world to this unusual yin-yang, Maoist-Hindu, democratic-chaotic, poetic-pathetic, exotic-endemic, adorable-frustrating, possible-impossible world of Kathmandu ;-)

lots of love from our moment and place in time!

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