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.
With all this dust flying around, it’s rather surprising then that our dear Prime Minister KP Oli thinks that Dustmandu has now become a dust free city. If that’s the case then this begs the question, what exactly are we going to name our new city then? Jokes aside, it’s really hard to tell if our PM is indulging in one of his god awful sad “dad jokes” (Have you heard the one about how this government is really tough on corruption?) or is actually serious about it. People say that moving around in luxury in all those tinted vehicles has distorted his perception of reality or that he doesn’t actually know anything since he only really travels from Baluwatar to Baneshwor and back.
While all of that is undoubtedly true, he could actually be right you know. We should give him the benefit of the doubt because if he says it, it must be true! As this is the season of theories – from Game of Thrones to Endgame – I’ve got a few of my own that perhaps explains why our PM thinks the capital is dust free. Perhaps he only comes out of his house after it has rained heavily? Perhaps, Oli scares away all of the dust with his two third majority? Ok, the last one was a little absurd, but all I’m saying is he could be right. The rest of us could be living in ‘The Matrix’ – a virtual dusty reality while our politicians live in their dust free reality.
Throwing all notions of virtual reality aside, what the PM said could in fact be true in actual reality. Have you ever considered the fact that we – the few million people living and commuting in the capital – might actually be wrong? Have you given thought to the fact that we might have failed to notice the change? All of us are so self-absorbed in our work, hiding behind our masks that we failed to notice that KP Oli just clicked his fingers like Thanos and all of the dust went away. Or was it the super fantastic work done by the all of the five-broomer machines that KMC wasted the taxpayer’s money on? Or was it the handiwork of the vast army of workers who quite literally only sweep the dust to one side of the road from where it miraculously disappears?
Or better still, was it our magician mayor, the one who regularly shows us his disappearing act, Bidya Sundar Shakya who has finally woken up from his sleep and done something about it? Something tells me that even in the absurd fantasyland of theories, this one is bit too farfetched!
If all of those theories sound unrealistic, then perhaps the unthinkable has happened and our dear PM is actually right! Now, wouldn’t that be something that is unheard of? Maybe the truth is that we are not dreaming up the fine dust that settles on our hair, clothes, food, homes and just about everything. Perhaps, the residents of Boudha really did decide to block the roads because of health concerns not because they wanted to have a little fun and raise a little ruckus in this dust free city. Maybe all the people living here wear masks in a vain attempt to combat pollution and not because it is the latest fashion accessory?
Perhaps, the temperature and pollution display that lines our roads are actually showing factual pollution levels and not some made up numbers? Maybe people are actually dying because of our government’s incapability and incompetence but, sadly like the pollution, this is something that our dear PM cannot or chooses not to see.
A few years ago there was a Chinese artist called Nut Brother, who turned Beijing’s smog into a physical brick for all to see. Maybe if we did that our PM and his cronies would actually be able to see the pollution instead of acting like petulant 14 year olds with a denial complex. But apparently until we can offer something tangible – like a brick – we are all supposed to believe that we live in dust free city. Because our PM said so!
The writer loves traveling, writing, and good food when he is afforded an escape from the rat race. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org