Not the temples, nor the monasteries, palaces or even the historical architecture – it’s the all-permeating dust that has come to define us. When we leave Kathmandu, we heave a sigh of relief just grateful to be away from all the dust. Conversely, when we re-enter the capital, the overwhelming feeling is “here we go again with all the dust and pollution”. This dust is something everyone in the valley quite literally feels – as fine grit in our teeth, face and hair and covering just about any surface anywhere.
As we celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Nepal’s position in the World Press Freedom Index – an assessment of the entire eco-system in which journalists operate – remained unchanged at 106 out of a total of 180 countries.
This country is going to the dogs and, if anyone needed any convincing, then a brief glance at the news over the past year ought to do it. Our news feed seems to be filled with a never-ending assortment of scams. Over the past week it has been all about land – from the Lalita Niwas land scam to the blatant appropriation of public space at Khula Manc
At first, the kid seemed like any other kid his age – head down engrossed in his mobile phone as we sat in a hotel lobby. Then started what can only be described as frantic, almost hysterical screaming at his phone as he started relaying instructions to someone via his earpiece imploring them to go left, right, or kill.
The road near my friend’s house has been dug up and left as it is for the last few months. Every time I ride my bike through that road, all I can think of is what a nightmare it is going to be during the monsoons and if anything at all is being done about it. I’m not alone in wondering if anything is actually being done for the capital at large in terms of managing roads and general maintenance of public property and spaces.
Our President recently made a trip to the United States to attend a high level UN summit and one only hopes, for the sake of the taxpayer contributions used to fund the trip, that something actually materializes out of it. However, the most intriguing aspect of her trip for us common Nepalis was not so much the flight from Nepal to the US but the short trip – well, at least for her – from Sheetal Niwas to the airport.
Today is International Women’s Day and as working women all over the country kick back and relax (hopefully), it’s time to re-visit the recurring theme for today. In the case of Nepal, it is the same every year – a commemoration of our journey to this point in time or, in other words, a reminder of just how far we have come in terms of women’s rights and empowerment.
This week saw yet another tragic case of a Nepali student drowning in Australia. Over the past few years, we have read and heard about what seems like more than sporadic instances of drowning deaths in other countries – of young lives lost either due to misadventure or a lack of grounding in water related activities.
I once had the rather unique experience of being an invigilator for the EPS-TOPIK exams conducted in Kathmandu. For those of you in the dark, the EPS TOPIK is the official language exams that you need to clear to be eligible for employment in South Korea. Over the two days that the exams were held, I met Nepalis – by the busload – from every geographical area or, as the politicians are often fond of saying, from Mechi to Mahakali. The busload point is rather important because these folks came from far-flung areas, not in trickles but in droves, in organized systematic fashion.
It has been a feature of the eating out/dining experience in Nepal for as long as I can remember – actually for as long as I can remember since I started paying the bills. It’s one half of every Nepali’s carefully considered ‘plus- plus’ calculation – something we remember to factor in either consciously or sub-consciously when browsing through different menus or poring through different offers for events, wedding receptions, and what have you.
They say you can get a sense of the beauty of any city from the air – the bright lights, the roads, houses, greenery, landmark monuments and the like. If you are the sort of person who likes the window seat on airplanes (which I do) you would have noticed these details as you come in to land at most airports around the world. When it comes to Kathmandu, it’s a bit, err, different, for lack of a better word. Whereas in other cities you might see neat streets at right angles, well lit roads, and some semblance of planning, over here what greets you is just a grey jumble of concrete houses like Lego blocks and what can only be described as a textbook case of haphazard, unchecked urbanization. And all of this visibility is only during daylight hours. At night, it’s near impossible trying to spot anything from the air.
It might not even be realistically possible for someone to enjoy themselves even with only two weddings in a day but, at the very least, these functions should not feel like an obligation. We should start thinking of operating on a ‘invite people who matter’ basis instead of being driven by a ‘feed as many people as we can’ mentality.
There are a lot of peculiarities that contribute to making us ‘quintessentially Nepali’. Among the more stranger of these quirks, as I realized midway through a conversation last week, is our love for records. Apparently, we love our records because it gives us a sense of achievement and pride, both individual and collective that we perhaps lack from other spheres in life, say sports or science.
Our Prime Minister has been in the news recently for some rather peculiar reasons. It all started off with the ‘larger than life’, allegedly taxpayer funded bout of self-indulgence that was the posters, advertisements and billboard spaces rented for the rollout of the Social Security Scheme. Honestly, all of it might have been quite enough to make Kim Jong-Un jealous! If its intent, as many suspect, was to promote a ‘cult of personality’, then it’s safe to say that it backfired massively.
KATHMANDU, Nov 30: We love doing things with a little – sometimes a lot – of fanfare even though we may not have a lot to shout about. No, I’m not talking about our dear PM Oli’s face being plastered all over the front pages of newspapers on Tuesday and all around the city in what was a monumental waste of taxpayer’s money. You know a government has reached its low point when this is the sort of thing they have to resort to in order to make their ‘presence’ felt.
Tihar is a celebration of not only humans but also animals (dogs, crows and cows) but, over the last couple of years, it has been the day of the dog mainly that has been hogging the social media limelight. My social media feed has been peppered these past few weeks with pictures of Mexicans celebrating ‘Kukur Tihar’, complete with flowers, garlands and assorted powders.
There’s something wonderful about the approach to the turn of the year – especially the month of November. It’s not the magical lights of various festivals like Diwali or Christmas or the gradual onset of winter but the festival discounts that have come to be seen as the hallmark of the season. If you watch TV (or even if you don’t) or dabble in social media, the scent of commercialization is unmistakable – films release around this time of the year and there are bumper deals to be had on everything from mobile phones to electronics to cars.
What really is Dashain without a Dashain hangover? I’m not talking about the inevitable (for some) booze induced headaches but the general state of lethargy after the festival – the quieter streets, the slowly diminishing reserves of left over mutton and sweets, packing all the playing cards, taking stock of our expanded waistlines and the general sense of life, slowly but surely, limping back to normal.
Many people, including our decision makers, understand any type of porn, by its very nature, to be misogynistic but that is not necessarily the case. Violent or misogynistic porn is a small proportion of what is actually viewed and when you compare that with the sheer volume that is consumed, it helps put things in perspective.