As the world grapples with making sense of such violent attacks in the past week, Nepal too has it’s fair share of woes.
It’s monsoon here with above average rainfalls. What comes with that is flooding and landslides. The Terai region is flat as a pancake and located along the lowlands close to the India/Nepal border. It’s had it’s fair share of flooding in the recent days, resulting in a number of deaths in Jhapa. More heavy rain is expected over the coming days and the region is bracing itself for the impact.
Closer to Chitwan National Park, landslides have been reported near Makwanpur killing 8 people.
Landslides are a huge problem during monsoon where, after months of dry weather, deluges of rain and deforestation loosens the soil, it brings large tracts of soil down the hillsides. These landslides can be sizable knocking out whole villages, bringing with it huge rocks the size of Hummers and vast quantities of soil.
Closer to home (for me), there has been much flooding in Bhaktapur, about 30 mins bus-ride closer to Kathmandu from where I live in Banepa. We’ve had really heavy rain overnight for the past few nights so it was not surprising to me to hear of the flooding. The area affected is close to the Siddhi Memorial Hospital in Bhaktapur.
I was returning on the bus from Kathmandu on Saturday when a heavy deluge hit us just as the bus crested the hill in Saanga, where the World’s Tallest Lord Shiva statue is located. As the bus passed the Spinal Centre in Bhainsepati, the traffic was backed up as we headed towards Banepa. You got it, localized flooding and with it much debris had made crossing the bridge over the river into town impossible. Fortunately, there was a digger closeby that cleared out the blocked area, allowing us to continue our way after just a one-hour delay. I was grateful to get home before dark!
In Bhimsen Marg where I live, there has been no flooding and the only thing I have to put up with is some muck. Depending on the rainfall, there are days when it is impossible to walk up to the paved road in my sandals – that’s when I pull out my hiking boots.
Currently this is the month of Shrawan, considered to be one of the holiest months of the year and dedicated to the worshiping of Lord Shiva. It runs from mid July to mid August and this year’s Shrawan is considered auspicious as there will be five Somvar (Mondays) this Shrawan. What’s with Mondays?
Every Monday of Shrawan, Nepali women fast from sunrise to sunset and pray to the Hindi god Lord Shiva for blessings to their husband (if they are married) and to their potential husbands (if they are not). An early morning visit to the local temple is also made, with married women wearing the traditional red colour to denote their marital status.
The colour green is of particular significance as the rice paddys are looking stunning with luscious green growth at this time of year.
And so, in addition to fasting, women also wear green and yellow bangles and necklaces to celebrate this holiest of months. If you are extra religious, you are likely to wear green saris / shalwar khameez for the entire month of Shrawan.
Hands are also decorated with beautiful mehndi designs and it is said the darker the mehndi design and the longer it stays, the better the husband you have (or will have). Some young 20-somethings I was talking to decided not to get mehndi this year because in past years, their mehndi designs fade immediately and they do not want to be reminded that they do not yet have husbands and likely won’t in the coming 12 months!
The latest political news in Nepal is Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s resignation. His party UML had been in coalition with the CPN (Maoist Centre) party for the past 9 months. For reasons I will leave the Nepalis to explain, the CPN (Maoist Centre) party changed their allegiance from the UML party to that of the main opposition party Nepali Congress, and together called for a no-confidence vote on Sunday night. At the 11th hour, Oli succumbed to the pressure and resigned, clearly not very pleased with the outcome.
Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari has asked the three main parties to elect a new Prime Minister within the next 7 days and in doing so, had to invoke Article 305 to allow for an election of a new Prime Minister after a Prime Minister’s resignation in a transitional cabinet. All very technical, but what is does mean is Nepal will have it’s third Prime Minister in just under 15 months by the end of this week.
Other political news of significance is Professor Dr Govinda KC’s 16-day hunger strike is now over. Dr KC was on hunger strike in protest of what looks to me like the Government’s push to privatize Nepal’s healthcare system, and influence unduly, Nepal’s medical education sector. The Government agreed to some of his demands on Sunday night, triggering Dr KC to end his hunger strike. Actually, this was his eighth such hunger strike in as many years.
Dr KC is well known across Nepal and has a strong set of supporters (particularly the youth), who come out to support him in their hundreds. Tommy Douglas I am sure would be proud (the Canadian readers will understand this reference).
And finally, there was a one-day banda (strike) yesterday called by the Netra Bikram Chand-led Maoists. All schools were closed, there were none (or very few) buses running so no one could get to work, and everyone pretty much stayed home. I heard two taxis were burned in two separate incidents in Kathmandu while trying to pick up some fares and defy the banda.
Here in Banepa, it was a day of fun for the kids, a time for visiting Chandeswori Temple for the women ( it was Monday after all) and the extended Sudhar family took the opportunity to gather for a visit here in Banepa.
Life just has to go on, now doesn’t it?