Monthly Archives: September 2003

Diary of a strike

After the end of the ceasefire between the Maoists and the government, the Maoists called for a three-day bandha across Nepal. All shops, offices, and schools are to close and all transportation is to halt during a bandha.

Bandhas in Birganj are typically not observed, and most shops remain open; however, most transportation pauses since traveling requires passing through areas more closely watched by the Maoists. But the bandha have a more human cost. Let us look closer.

  1. 17 Sep. 2003

    Day before three-day bandha

    1. 1600: Met Kate at Himanchal Cabin. She had a bhoj she had to attend so we had coffee and discussed what food we’d need to buy for the three-day bandha. Accidentally knocked over a kid carrying apples while riding to the bazaar, which was bedlam.
    2. 1800: Finished shopping. Bought a couple kilos of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, okra, and bananas. Also bought spaghetti, baked beans, eggs, and bread. The bazaar was crowded with people and I felt like it was Y2K all over again, except this time the shops really wouldn’t be open the next day.
  2. 19 Sep. 2003

    Day 1

    1. 08:00 Woke up late to phone call. Last night Kate and I stayed up late since we knew we had no where to go the next day. Usually we both get up around 7 o’clock. After my phone call, went back to sleep.
    2. 11:00 Kate and I sat in the kitchen silently for half an hour, trying to think of what to do with our day. Came up with the following ideas:
      • Clean
      • Plan up-coming three-day work week
      • Cook something
      • Write letters
      • Study Nepali
      • Have some more coffee
    3. 11:05 Made the coffee and drank it while trying to come up with some better ideas.
    4. 12:00 Jittery from the coffee. Kate and I chatted, relating our situation to being snowed inside a cabin in the mountains. Contemplated whether I would or would not eat Kate if an emergency arose. Decided I would not eat Kate.
    5. 13:30 Sat on the porch and thought about Thailand. Noticed the semi-blind shop keep had opened his store. Stroked my beard.
    6. 14:30 After zero customers, the semi-blind shop keeper clumsily closed his shop and tripped on the stairs down. Crazy from cabin fever, I laughed so hard the shop keeper looked in my direction. Wondered if he saw me. I mean, heard me. Whatever. Decided to go back inside and stare at the wall.
    7. 19:00 Cooked pasta with sauce for Kate and myself. Over dinner, we talked about steak. Depressed, we stopped and silently finished our pasta.
  3. 19 Sep. 2003

    Day 2

    1. 08:00 More coffee. Beard starting to itch. Started to regret not getting a shave at a barber before the bandha since I don’t have any razors.
    2. 11:00 Kate and I went a short walk around Ranighat. Found the nearby river, which is mostly used by locals and a garbage pit and toilet. Found a sketchy daal bhaat place overlooking the cesspool and made plans to come back for our evening meal. Yum.
    3. 14:00 The boss’ daughter from the NGO where Kate works came over. Played Uno. Kate went insane and began a full-on assault against me. I mean, three pick-up four cards in a row? Really. Reconsidered if I’d eat her.
    4. 14:10 Stopped playing Uno as I was about to strangle Kate. Maybe it’s the coffee. Remind myself to get decaf while in Thailand.
    5. 18:30 Went to the sketchy daal bhaat place.
    6. 23:00 Started raining very hard. Water began pouring into my room from the porch under my door. After half an hour of torrential rain, my room had around 2 ½ inches of standing water on my floor. Laughed. Tried to block the flow of water but to no avail. Moved things off the floor and went back to sleep, water gushing in from outside.
  4. 20 Sep. 2003

    Day 3

    1. 10:00 Finished pushing out the remaining water from my room. After using the squeegee, my floor looks reasonably clean. Drank coffee.
    2. 1200 Kate made breakfast/brunch/lunch: fried tomatoes with onions, baked beans, and fried eggs. Had another cup of coffee.
    3. 14:00 Taped some photos to the wall in my bedroom.
    4. 14:10 Photos fell off the wall. Decided not to put them back up.
    5. 15:00 Kate left to go to my old deraa to make a phone call to Australia. Finally, the place to myself.
    6. 15:50 Began making a list of questions to ask Kate when she gets back, including:
      • When was the last time you were stuck without anything to do for three days?
      • What did you do for those three days?
      • Do you think it’s strange to sit and do nothing for, let’s say, three hours?
    7. 16:30 Went to the roof to watch the sunset. And for Kate to get back. Translated the aforementioned questions in Nepali, in writing, for no apparent reason.
    8. 17:00 Kate returned, unable to make her phone call. She began cooking and I watched very attentively. Just before asking, I realized how insane my questions were. Went back to room and threw away the paper where I’d translated questions in Nepali to Piglatin. Swore off coffee.
    9. 23:30 Checked my email using Kate’s NGO‘s Internet connection at home, somewhat under false pretenses. Read The Onion and strangely didn’t find it funny. Need to shave my beard.
  5. 21 Sep. 2003

    Day after bandha

    1. 07:30 Got up. Had coffee. Wondered what to do with my day.
    2. 08:00 Had another cup of coffee. Is there rehab for cabin fever?

Danger, Will Robinson

While I don’t usually use words like ‘peaceful’ to refer to Birganj, I must say that last night’s tirade of bombings in my hometown did come as a surprise. Two of the bombs were at offices to the north of Birganj proper.

One, however, was located not far from Shripur.

I can’t remember when exactly, but last monsoon I woke up one night to the sound of something going, Kah-boom!

I sat up in the bed and thought, Oh, my. Bomb, and then fell back asleep.

The next day I asked around. Apparently there had been a collision on the road just near my house.

I wonder if falling back asleep was the proper reaction.

Bomb blasts rock Birgunj

Three serial blasts in Birgunj Sunday evening damaged property worth millions of rupees injuring an 8-year-old child, Radio Nepal said.

The blasts took place at Zonal Labor Office, Guthi Sansthan and regional office of Nepal Oil Corporation. They were located at Sripur, Gahaba and Pratima Chowk of the city.

An 8-year-old child playing outside the Oil Corporation Office was injured. He is undergoing treatment at a local hospital, police said. There were no reports of any deaths or further injuries from the blasts.

© 2003

In other strange but unrelated news:

Children hooked on to war games

Traditional childhood games are losing their popularity and charm among the children of Manma, the headquarters of remote Kalikot district in far-west Nepal and its neighbouring VDCs. Children in this region are more interested in guerrilla warfare that has deeply vexed their guardians.

Children of this insurgency-hit district no longer play with dolls, hide and seek and other games which most children are occupied with. Guerrilla war involving the Maoist rebels and security personnel has become their favourite time pass for the past few years.

Wood structures resembling guns, rifles, wireless phones and bombs have become inevitable playthings for children and they spend every minute of their free time enjoying the insurgency game, according to sources.

After school, Nabin Kumar Shahi, the seven- year-old son of Kamal Kumar Shahi, a merchant in the Khandachakra bazaar in Manma VDC, calls out to his friends to start the insurgency game.

Soon a group of his mates including Meena, Binod and Ramesh assemble at the nearby open space and start their childish warfare in the image of the Maoist insurgency.

War, bombs, ambush, Maoist guerrilla, police, army are some common terms that children frequently use during their war game.

On seeing other children carrying toy guns, my son always bothers me to get him one, lamented Radhika Shahi, a Maoist-victim taking refuge in the bazaar from Syuna VDC.

My five-year-old daughter, Bimala, utters words like Rozer Saab on her wooden wireless phone, said Bir Bahadur Bista, a local. I had no option but to get one for her after she insisted a lot.

Level of anxiety is growing among guardians along with the growing inclination of their children on insurgency. Many complained that their children often get hurt during their playtime. Sometimes my children return wounded after playing, said Mani Chandra Chaulagain, a hotel owner in Khandachakra bazaar.

Schoolteachers also complain that students are preoccupied with warfare and have lost interest in their studies.

Despite our instructions, students are found playing the war game during lunch break, said Tej Bahadur Shahi, the head-master of Janajivan Lower Secondary School in Manma VDC.

While teaching, the students appear drowsy. However, topics on war arouses their interests, said a school teacher, Insurgency has remained a topic of gossip among the students.

© 2003 The Kathmandu Post

Funny, isn’t it? Actually, no, it isn’t.

Stories of how the insurrection are affecting and changing peoples’ lives are quite moving.

People will freely talk on the streets about how the current problems with the CPN (Maoists).

Everyone hopes it will end soon, and Nepal will return to being a peaceful place. When, however, is another question.