Musings on political life in Nepal:
Yesterday, I was in a taxi in Kathmandu.
The driver, a Tamang man from Kavre district, talked to me about why he left his peaceful village life to suffer for years in a foreign war zone (Iraq) then eventually settled in crowded Kathmandu.
Things became unbearable when the Maoists and army both would beat him up black and blue for no good reason.
The Maoist cadres beat him for looking a bit healthy and well fed. They were hungry and frustrated.
The army beat him for looking lean and walking around after dark. He doesn’t know what their problem was.
The same man got beat up for different reasons. This only proves to me that perceptions are subjective and can be deceiving. How can the same person be fat and well fed and lean and subversive at the same time?
Years later, someone who came all the way to Kathmandu told me; “you know only 2 percent of what we perceive is accurate”. I can’t help but believe that he might be right. If it’s true, it’s a miracle the world is not more f’ed up than it is. We should really give ourselves a pat on our backs.
He said to me; “at least in the city, in Kathmandu, you all didn’t have it so bad.”
I remembered another taxi ride back in 2004/5 when I was stopped by the army at a checking at Chabil on my way home in Boudha. A man in greenish camouflage (shouldn’t army in urban centers wear concrete colored camouflage? to suit the concrete jungle) rummaged through my book bag and questioned the contents of each of the books I had in my bag (here I am not going to indulge you with the titles of the books in my bag; sorry, that’s private information) and why a girl would be out to dinner at 7 pm in the evening unless I were a whore. The suggestion made me a bit nervous although I kept a steely and calm demeanor and tried not to send out any scent of fear or nervousness.
It was a rainy Kathmandu July night; the view from the taxi window made everything that much more foreboding.
I clutched my books.
“Where are you coming from?”
” From so and so restaurant in Durbar Marg from a dinner with friends,”
“What did you eat?”
(Really?) “Chicken Sizzler and Aloo Sandheko”.
“Hmmm…how much did you eat?”
(No way!) “Not much..”
“Why did you not eat much?”
(Ermmm…feeling a tiny bit nauseous now) “I wasn’t hungry”.
“And why were you not hungry?”
I meet my questioner’s gaze. He looks like he is thoroughly enjoying this.
I am speechless. Just inwardly praying to get out of this “checking” soon and thankful I am wearing jeans and a decent, sensible top and not a mini skirt or something that reveals my arms and legs.
Even worse, many memories of extortion, fear, and threats of violence by Maoists came flooding back to me. They are somewhere in the deep corners of my brain, forgotten temporarily, tucked away, sandwiched between various flakier layers and folds. Like the nuts tucked in neatly in a flaky baklava dessert.
“You are right,” I replied, “I was luckier than you.”
Then we had a chat about how Nepali society as a whole had changed (become more hardened) and how war, violence and city life corrupts one’s innate sense of goodness.