Kathmandu Revisited

December 9, 2018

I’ve been back barely a fortnight and my system is rejecting the very air I breathe. My throat feels raw, my eyes water and itch, and I’ve been sneezing like the Dickens. Finally, I give in and pop a pill or two, but I still haven’t had the sense to invest in a mask, and I insist on walking far more than is necessary or sanitary. You see more on the hoof, I tell my mother, how can you live in a city if you don’t know the texture of its living?

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Syangja days – III

June 6, 2018

Roads approach Bagalthok from every angle, and I remarked to Achyut as we tramped down to the river that there won’t be any village left if the roads are to continue over fields and through chautaras, not even sparing bar-pipals. Who are these roads for, I wondered.

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Syangja days – II

May 10, 2018

The morning walker K promised me hasn’t arrived, though it’s 8.00 AM this Friday.

chi-bi-bi-bi! bi-bi-bi! Lampucchre aka Magpie is a very noisy bugger.

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Syangja days – I

March 31, 2018

Of a sudden I find myself transported to a cottage of my own, an hour from Pokhara, a dusty, longish bus from Kathmandu. Not taking the plane and consciously armed with the stump of a pencil I jagged my impressions of the highway towns.

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The fiction of climate change

June 22, 2017

The monsoon broods at the edges of our consciousness. We grumble about the erratic weather that has beset the Valley in recent times. Once its steady rhythm of storms and showers commences, traces of dusty disgruntlement will fade, roads to greener pastures will crumble and we will once more rest easy in the certainty of the elements.

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Keeping the faith

Mar 26, 2017

The transatlantic flight came in due course. I took partial responsibility for 1,120 kilograms of CO2 steamed into the atmosphere as a result of my London-Lisbon-New York and Boston-London flights, by offsetting 100%, 28% and 45% of three legs with a payment of 27 Euros to support a biogas project in Nepal run by German climate protection company Atmosfair. To the uninitiated – individuals can offset the carbon footprint of their air travel through a voluntary tax used by third parties to fund clean energy projects in the developing world. To the initiated – I understand that the the moral and environmental reasoning behind this gesture is complex.

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No place like home

Jan 25, 2017

It’s not easy being green, as Kermit the Frog says. In a world of long-distance travel and consumption, the pursuit of consistently green living may seem downright quixotic. What is the point of cutting down on plastic and cycling to work if, in one transatlantic flight, you can cough out the equivalent of a year’s worth of car emissions?

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A tale of two momos 

8pm Dec 31 2016 – 3am Jan 1 2017

Sometime in the last quarter day of last year, soaked in auditory, cannabinoid and ethanolic impulses, the stark character of my promised transition to greener pastures was revealed to me via two plates of momo.

At various junctures across a grey London day, without seeking to make too much of it, I’d been reflecting on what it meant that I was yet again considering vegetarianism as I helped myself to a few last scraps of meat. The salmon on my plate was tinged with a pale regret; the robust jamon seethed with indignation; was it conceivable that I was leaving behind a world of cold cuts, fiery chwoela, crunchy sekuwa, tangy drumsticks, juicy steaks and unbeatable dalbhatmasu?

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A day at the protests

May 19, 2016

I generally prefer tempos to microbuses and buses, and not just because they run on gas or electricity. There’s more of a sense of community in their 6-by-6 permutation than in big buses overflowing into the aisles or jammed microbuses commandeered by sweary, phlegmy teenage conductors.

Rattling along sedately in one of these metal cans to where the Social Justice Movement was gathering, I was privy to one of those Safa tempo conversations. This one, though, was between the driver and one Dorje, also a driver. Despite myself, I began listening in; the tale lasted all the way from Bhanimandal to Sundhara.

I wasn’t even listening to the lengthy enumeration of negotiations at the workshop to fix a tempo battery. But when it came back unfixed and the Madhesi mechanic refused to reimburse Dorje, he lost it.

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Careless talk

September 12, 2015

The reaction of many of my peers to the nightmare unfolding in the south of Nepal has inched up a rising scale of frustration, consternation and despair, funnelling into a generalized state of helplessness from which there is no respite, least of all in the echo chambers of social media. This is a crisis beyond fundraisers and relief operations, and expressing oneself on paper or street whilst cocooned in the Nepal Valley’s many distractions is not, we know, going to change things. Not as long as things are not even in the hands of elected parliamentarians, but dealt in stealth behind closed doors by those we cannot trust with the honour or intelligence to rise above themselves. Still, those of us with the luxury to interrogate our consciences continue to do so.

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Image: NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati

Franz praises Nepalis, shoots their animals

January 14, 2015

“The state of Nepal is a strange and usually little known country”, declared the Archduke of Austria-Este Franz Ferdinand in a diary entry from 8 March, 1893. This strangeness, of course, was due largely to the fact that the Nepal leg of his world tour was restricted to the far western Tarai (crossing the Mahakali River by elephant); the prince’s interest in Nepal lay chiefly in slaughtering its wildlife. For this purpose the Prime Minister Bir Shumsher made available 1223 men and 415 animals, including 203 elephants, and by his own detailed account, Ferdinand made full use of these resources. He and his entourage, including the British Resident, shot almost anything that moved (including 18 tigers), and a typical entry reads thus:

At this moment I see a second tiger emerge from a tunnel of reeds, shouted “rok” and fired. To my joy, this tiger lay dying in front of me too.

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Occupy (yourself)

January 8, 2015

To occupy, among other things, is to fill or take up (a space or time), be situated in (a position in a system or hierarchy), hold (a position or job), take control of (a country).

Occupation, thus, ranges from mere passivity to outright aggression. But the Oxford Dictionary of English also defines occupation as the act of entering and staying in (a building) without authority and often forcibly, especially as a form of protest. In the context of the Occupy protests around the world, mirrored in the feminist Occupy Baluwatar movement of 2012/13 in Kathmandu, to occupy is to push back against occupation perceived as unjust, whether it is passive or aggressive.

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A place called home

August 4, 2014

Blink and you’ll miss it – KU Art+Design’s week-long exhibition at the Nepal Art Council in Babar Mahal is the creative explosion of a generation of graduates from Kathmandu University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts, and unless you’re one of those hapless fools tasked to “draft” our constitution down the road, I’d recommend getting there by Wednesday, when the show closes. BFA Exhibition Project 2014 signifies unfettered creativity as much as the discipline required to complete a four-year degree and six months of intensive studio work – the installations, even the most straightforward of which deviate from what Nepali audiences might traditionally define as “Art”, are a collective revelation.

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