Friday, December 24, 2010

Farewell Kathmandu

Right then, time to get out of here. It’s been two months now in Nepal. Two months! Where the hell has that gone?! As much as I have loved my time in Nepal it is most definitely time for me to move on. I’m overly familiar with Kathmandu - the shops, the narrow streets, the dust and shit, the irritating fucker who stands in the same place on the same street and has approached me each day - Groundhog Day-like - for the past 2 months to ask if I’ll buy a flute (yes, a fucking flute) from him, the street kids on Thamel Chowk with their brown bags of glue and thousand yard stares and everything else that makes Kathmandu the place that it is. When I got here on October 21st, you couldn’t swing a fake pashmina scarf in the street in the evenings, thronged as they were with westerners clad in fake North Face gear preparing to hit the trails. Now it’s a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show as when I go back to that same hole-in-the-wall to get my falafel roll each evening, there’s hardly anyone around save for the usual faces selling Es and whizz and whatever it is you’re having yourself.

I’ve learned much about Nepal in the past while, more than anything is the fact that no matter how the country attempts to move forward, its political system keeps it deeply mired in a recession of its own making. If Nepal is world leader in anything then it’s the cutting off its nose to spite its face stakes. The average shelf life of a government here is 9 months and during the life of each government nothing constructive is achieved because those 9 months of power are spent trying to survive virulent opposition from the recently deposed regime. It’s a vicious circle the country seems to have been struggling with ever since the 2001 massacre of the royal family and so while the country shares borders with the nascent superpowers of India to the south and China to the north, Nepal continues to make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

Its difficulties are best portrayed by the fact that, in a country which has enough hydro-electric power potential to serve not only its own needs adequately, but enough besides to export to India where there is a huge potential market, Kathmandu endures 16 hour daily power cuts. The infrastructure in the country is largely non-existent - road construction seems to be constantly ongoing but it’s not clear to me whether the roads are being dug up to improve them or leave them in their present state of disrepair. And it’s those roads I’ll have to face one more time tomorrow as I make my way to the Indian border for 3 months in northern India.

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