Mar 20, 2017

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail....

"Rage" - Banksy
Nor nationwide strikes, nor intermittent internet service lapses, and nor electricity outages shall stay Bibi from blogging! Well, maybe power outages and no internet connection might but I'm still trying! At least once a week anyway. Yup, we had a huge storm the week of March 5th, then a nationwide strike for two days, and then two days of Holi holidays. The storm brought high winds, heavy rains, lightning, and a cold snap which left over a meter of snow at higher elevations. All that wild weather caused power outages for three days. Then our internet tower went kaput so no internet connection for over a week. No one could go up and fix the tower due to the nationwide strike or banda being enforced by one of the myriad political parties here in Nepal. Of course the strike was called off for the Holi holiday which lasted another two days. Even now we're having intermittent power shortages and gaps in the internet connection so bear with me! 


Curious as to what a nationwide strike is like here in Nepal? Well, a strike is called a banda and they occur quite frequently. Culturally, a banda is the preferred form of protest by Nepal's myriad political parties. A banda can be determinate, indeterminate, partial, regional, or all sorts of things. Usually all shops are closed, schools are shut, and vehicle traffic is prohibited. The banda is enforced by whichever political party declared it. Those who defy the strike are threatened with arson, vandalism (usually smashed windows or windshields), or other harm. Goons are sent door-to-door to threaten shops to close so that the banda can be declared both successful and peaceful. Party enforcers roam the streets with clubs or lathis looking for any motorcyclists or vehicles that dare not to conform to the strikes. Everyone keeps updated on the banda by watching local television stations or checking the banda page on Facebook.


"Torching" is a common enforcement tactic utilized by political parties in Nepal too. Vehicles, shops, or police officers defying the strike are set afire by tossing a bottle of flammable liquid and a lit match upon them. The above photo is of one of three trucks that were torched by cadres of the United Democratic Madhesi Front for defying a banda in September 2015. When asked why the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) resorts to torching the official spokesperson of the party exclaimed-

"The media never gives attention to us when we carry out peaceful protests. We held a motorcycle rally in Kathmandu yesterday, the media did not cover it. But when our cadre torched a taxi today morning, it was reported by every single media outlet."
-Santosh Budha, spokesperson for CPN (M)

Why this sort of strike enforcement isn't called terrorism is beyond me. If any Muslim or Islamist group did this it would be broadcast worldwide as acts of terror.


After two days of the entire country coming to a complete standstill only a tiny column was written about it on the second page of the national newspaper. Two days of empty roads, closed shops, shut schools, and reports of vehicles being torched and properties vandalized condensed into 3 brief paragraphs. That's how habituated and normalized strikes are here in Nepal. Can you imagine if this happened in a Western country? 


What triggered this banda? There was an altercation over the building of a culvert in the remote western border district of Kanchanpur on March 9th. The Nepalese side was building the culvert in an area that is claimed by the Indian side. About a dozen Nepali citizens and two Nepali police personnel were fired upon by officers of the Indian border security forces (Seema Sashastra Bal or SSB). Three shooting victims succumbed immediately to their injuries and two died later in hospital. Just how many bullets were fired in total and exactly by whom still seems to be a bit of a mystery. After reports of SSB firing on March 9th the Embassy of India refuted the claims, saying “there was no incident of firing by SSB in Kanchanpur.” A day later, the Nepali goverment delivered a diplomatic note to India condemning the killings, demanding investigation, and urging the Indian side to refrain from “such inimical activities." New Delhi replied stating the SSB had started an enquiry on the matter and sought reports to facilitate the process. This usually means we'll never truly know what actually happened. 

Prince Harry gets Holi-ed at the local airport, March, 2016
And then came Holi! The problem with a banda is that after a few days the law of diminishing returns takes precedence. Frustration, necessity, and boredom build to a point where it begins to overcome the fear factor and people start venturing out regardless of threats. Or a popular festival occurs. Nepalis aren't about to miss a festival! Especially one as fun as the Hindu festival of Holi. Whether demands have been met or not the banda organizers usually end up finding some creatively face-saving way to call the banda off. And so it was! The free-for-all festival of Spring then commenced with revelers being smeared and drenched with water and many-colored powders. In the above photo you can see Prince Harry getting politely Holi-ed at our local airport on his visit to Nepal last year.


Our Ms Dawg unwisely ventured from the compound gates on Holi morning. Yes, dogs get Holi-ed too! Foreigners and animals are not spared the festivities. A few years back I was smeared with some red powder on Holi that triggered an allergic reaction on my skin that lasted a month. That's why I don't go out on Holi anymore. And so after the dismal silence of the banda the air was filled with loud music, boisterous squeals, and the happy cheers of the Holi-gans. At any rate, Bibi's internet connection wasn't going to be fixed anytime soon. 


Spring weather in the Himalayas is certainly capricious. That storm last week brought a cold snap as well as copious precipitation. Gone was our balmy, tropical weather and in blew grumpy gray skies and icy blasts from the mountains. Elevations above 3,000m/9,000ft got over a meter of snow. Tourists and middle class Nepalis had fun riding buses up to play in the newly fallen snow. All the wind, snow, lightning, and rain knocked out our electricity, internet, and satellite television signals for three days.


At least my garden fared well over our recent debacles. Fortunately we haven't had the hailstorms that usually shred my flowers. Above is a double petunia. Rather than the typical trumpet shape of regular petunias it is a pom pom of frills and flounces. At first glance it looks almost like a wadded up and soiled facial tissue to me. The flowers are a bit prone to rot as water tends to puddle in it's many crevices. It also reminds me of those spectacular parrot tulips with their fimbriated petals and ombre coloring. Not sure if I'd plant it again though. I'll bring you up to date on the other flowers in all their Spring glory in my next Life & Love post.

That's all the news that's fit to spit around here. So far. 
I better not speak too soon, eh?
I've heard y'all have had some wild weather in the US and Europe too?
I'm still having internet issues over here so my posts might be sporadic until we get these tech problems figured out. 

12 comments:

  1. It is an unfortunate that these incidents keep on happening with alarming regularity in the sub continent. Bandhs and riots are quiet frequent in India too. It is not confined to any particular caste or religious groups. All have been guilty of such acts of violence. It is the dominant group in an area who forms vote bank for the political party, gets the freedom to indulge in acts of violence. Mahatma Gandhi discontinued his civil disobedience movement, when he got the news that violence had erupted during the movement

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauri_Chaura_incident

    It is true that with economic liberalization, there is a young group in all sections of the society which wants development and political parties cannot play the castes/religious cards any longer, but they still remain. No matter what your grievance is, damaging public/private property, harassing woman etc. cannot be tolerated in the name of protest. As an Indian this is something which has been disturbing me for some time now. You cannot talk of development along with the violence. I hope that the young people of India, who constitute a sizable number, who have dreams and aspirations, would one day put so much pressure that this kind of politics becomes redundant. We need out of this if we want development of our country.

    Apple

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    1. Hi Apple,
      I realize these bandas, hartals, strikes, protests occur all over the Subcontinent but I think Nepal wins the prize for nationwide strikes.
      Riots and strikes across South Asia are so commonplace it amazes me. It's like the rep for the CPN(M) said though - unless they do something violent like torching the strikes don't even get reported by the media.
      South Asia seems to have a problem with unemployed or underemployed youth that it doesn't acknowledge also. Most of these myriad fractured and splintered political cadres here in Nepal are little more than street gangs. The same can be said of what I've seen in Delhi & Kashmir. I'm certain it's worse in rural areas and villages.

      Delete
    2. Jobs are the new buzzword everywhere whether it is India or America. In India, agriculture has ceased to remain a viable occupation with untimely rains, hailstorms, famines and diminishing returns. Farmer suicide due to crop failures has been a persistent problem for some time now. This along with shut factories and closure of traditional arts and businesses has created a lot of anxiety. All this fuels public anger. Then there is the reservation which is touted as the be all and end all solution for all problems. Limited jobs are up for grabs in the government sector. What about the rest? How would they be gainfully employed? The realization is there about development, but the contours of this development/jobs still remain hazy. Development is like the fabled city of gold about which everybody has heard, but no one quiet knows where it is. So, the search continues.

      Apple

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  2. Fancy Mrs Dawg getting Holi-ed! One day I shall be in India for Holi, I swear.
    Those Bandhs are always making headlines in the newspapers when we're in India - especially Kerala. I've been caught up in processions but never, thankfully, witnessed any violence or arson.
    Snow? They've threatened it here this week but probably about half an inch! xxx

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    1. Hi Vix,
      As you can see from Ms Dawg's expression she wasn't too happy about the Holi proceedings.
      It's banda banda banda all the time around here!
      I am soooo glad we haven't had the Spring hailstorms that absolutely shred my garden usually this time of year.

      Delete
  3. There's a large Indian population in Omaha, and the Holi celebrations are a big deal. Poor Ms. Dawg!

    That is a beautiful flower-my goodness, at first look I thought it was a carnation. I need to get my spring garden in, but we're still getting snow. Hope things calm down by you.

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    1. Hi Goody,
      The Holi hooliganism really gets wild in our little town with people tossing water balloons off rooftops and bucketfuls of water & powder too. I hope they don't do that in Omaha!

      Those double petunias do look a bit like a carnation. The weather has been quite cool and mild so I'm getting a second bloom out of most of my Winter garden.

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    2. Talking of Holi, there is a weird way to celebrate Holi. One such practice, is called “Laatmaar Holi” (holi by beating with sticks). This has to do with the legend of Lord Krishna. Men protect themselves with shields while women rain blows on them with sticks. Talk of woman power.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKamcs2FWQ8

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lath_mar_Holi

      There is of course the majestic holi celebration at Bankekbihari temple in Mathura

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeWgnkVSGM8

      Then there is flower holi of Vrindavan

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bCOrNPzCjM

      In urban areas, we miss out on the entire feel of the festival.

      Apple

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  4. We used to have such incident more often in Karachi, Pakistan as well but things are in control now but such incidents are really affecting once life.

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  5. Your nerves are made of ice-cold steel, Bibi. More than can be said for poor Ms. Dawg. The weather has indeed been disruptive of our lives -- and I'm glad I kept the landline.

    Those "peaceful protests" you describe happen here in neighborhoods whose residents apparently believe the way to attract jobs and development is to raid liquor stores and burn pharmacies. Our local television stations now provide maps alongside crime coverage so shoppers (and casual visitors) know which areas to avoid. Some realtors even post the crime stats for listings just as they do the ratings for schools.

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  6. Hi Beth,
    Most Westerners are surprised that homes above a certain income in South Asia are often walled compounds. You understand after living here for a while that those walls aren't just to keep freely roaming livestock out. Keeping other unwanted intruders out is a very real issue here too. Those walls don't keep everything unwanted out but I feel safer with the big iron gate locked shut.
    There are some neighborhoods and lonely stretches of highway that are well known haunts of troublemakers and are best avoided here too. But like anywhere else even supposedly 'safe' neighborhoods can erupt in untoward events. I recall a killing a few years ago in front of the 5 star hotel that houses one of our shops. Two local Communist cadres got into a knife fight in the street out front of the 5 star hotel. It was in an upscale, touristy neighborhood with a police station less than a half mile away at about 11 pm. What was the fight about? The two leaders of the cadres were dueling for the attentions of a girl. One cadre leader had his throat slit and died in the street. The police showed up about 20 minutes later.

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  7. I love the sound of Holi!! Last weekend the Indian community in my town was having a Holi festival open to the public, I so wanted to go but at that stage I wasn't driving, Next year for sure!! Your dog looks adorable, and that double Petunia is beautiful. I look forward to seeing more of your garden.

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