Die, Nepal Bandh, die

Pasted from facebook group of people wanting an end to the bandhs…

Looking forward to the coming 3-day bandh? Looking forward to the fact that a few big egos with no-one’s interests at heart but their own, will oppress you for three long days with the real threat of cheap several-hundred-rupee-per-day-hired-violence. Who benefits from this? Can bullying create lasting change? After 15+ years of bandhs, does it have the power of shock and awe any more? Or is there only the sorry, stale whiff of an unshaven thug’s day-old armpit about it. It stinks. It’s terrorism on the street corner and the masses lie down and take it as a part of life in Naya Nepal. The more things change, the more they stay the same. But wait a minute….

  • Its not my job to stop it
  • I am helpless to face up to it myself, what can I do?


  • So what, its just a few days, I can wait it out
  • Uh, what, I’m asleep…. zzzz

Is there really *nothing* we, you, I, me, he, she, they can do? Aren’t you feeling helpless, pathetic, angry? What? You don’t care? Go and take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror right now maybe? Wake up?
Here’s a suggestion. Instead of looking for the nuclear bomb that will wipe bandhs from the face of history tomorrow, let’s take it slowly, be creative, be surprising, reject the shouting, chest beating old-school ways, and have a lot of sneaky fun. Sounds like an ideal romance, no? Let’s start by giving a hint of the steam in this youthful pressure cooker. Start by making small cracks in the wall of nonsense surrounding the rulers of this country, the ruling caste.
Time to start brainstorming on this wall and discussion forum. There is no hierarchy here. You have a good idea? Share it. You think we’re all stupid? Please let us know. Have a terrible idea? Inspire someone else to improve it. Its open to all. Get thinking. Discuss with your friends.
What has come up so far? Only a few can be published (let’s be a bit subtle) and there are some good techno-ideas.

  1. “What about ‘Flash Mob'”?, asked a few people – showing the strength of the silent majority without violence. Know what it is? An sms alert brings a huge mass of people together at short notice at a specific location with secret instructions. Then disperse immediately after the action is over.
  2. “Exposing faces behind the mob”, suggested another. Get snapping pictures of bandh enforcers, and start posting pictures on this and other forums. This is one small way of empowering ourselves and see the faces behind this destructive forms of protests.
  3. Phone jamming – “if you get 1000 people to call every party head office and express their opinion on bandh, would be fun no?”
  4. Email the editors – “Mass send emails to the editors of the mass media in Nepal. ‘Please publish on letters page: Dear Sir/Madam, I am 23 from Lalalalitpur and I want to express my view on the bandh culture which is a hand at the throat of this nation….etc etc'”, suggested one of you. “If they don’t read or publish every letter, at least they get the message from a constipated in-box.”
  5. “A bandh day football tournament on tundikel, mass random cricket competition in the streets, a cycle rally for the hard-core orwhat the hell – let’s just get people, lots of people together. Otherwise its pathetic, isn’t it?”, brainstormed yet another.
  6. “Eggs, eggs, eggs – or should it be shoes?”, asks a foreigner. “Where is the dissent in this country!?”

Ideas abound, actions, er, well, limited. Safety in numbers is key – isn’t that why we want to make the group as big as possible? As a group, we’ll work on what you have said. Is this dumb? Could it be better? Let us know now.
We have got some secret underground plans on the way. We are looking for activists like you! Let us know if you want to be a bit more hands-on in removing the culture of bandh from this country. If you feel you want to remain hands-on-keyboard and contribute ideas, please feel free to send us ideas (however simple they might be) in the discussions forum in this group. If you want to do so anonymously, please email us at: zerobandh@gmail.com
Get out, take pictures, listen, look, talk to people about their view of bandh, listen hard, ask them more questions, listen, listen, and report your stories.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.” Some wise person said that. You all know its true.
We’ll be in touch soon regarding the above. Be ready to bite.

Kabir project Kathmandu: Mahesh Ram & troupe

Mahesh Ram & troupe
(Meghval Folk Music, Rajasthan, India)
This was my first introduction to ‘Kabir’. I believe Kabir was a 15th century poet in India. From the little that I know of it, his poetry seems to confront religion as external actions, offerings, chantings, temple visiting etc. God is within – something is within at least. Its refreshing to hear and read this after attending last week’s ritual sacrifice for a deity.

Many folk artists across the Indian subcontinent play this poetry in a mesmerising, rhythmic style.

The band above was part of a festival in Kathmandu – the Kabir project which showed four documentaries by the organiser Shabnam Virmani and others.

See: kabirproject.org/ and see also www.youtube.com/watch?v=suWaoJOb1ak for Pakistani qawwal style Kabir. Not sure if this is the same track as on the CD I bought. That, by Farridudin Ayaz & Party was certainly some of the extraordinarily tranquillising music I have ever heard.

Gadhimai Mela, Nepal

Gadhimai Mela, Nepal, originally uploaded by rpb1001.

Last week I attended the Gadhimai Mela. Mela means festival in Nepal. For me it was like another world entirely. The Mela has gained some notoriety internationally because of the ritual slaughter that takes place there. Approximately 12,000 male buffaloes are ritually sacrificed there and many thousands more are slaughtered in the 5km zone around Gadhimai’s temple.

I am writing up this experience for the interested to read. Is hard to get a flavour of how it was from pictures alone, but then I don’t guarantee that the text will make it that much clearer.

Meanwhile, see the photos here. Some are bloody but please put your squeamishness to one side.

There is a great reflective piece on this here: http://sushma.blogspot.com/2009/11/are-we-civilised-yet.html

Indra: one kidney lighter than a few days ago

This is Indra and she just donated a kidney to her husband. It is interesting that each of the three doctors I have spoken to (two nephrologists and a surgeon) have mentioned that ‘rich’ people (in Nepal) don’t want to donate kidneys. They prefer to buy them from someone, somewhere in India with all the risk that that might entail. It is only the poorer that have family members donate. There is obvious necessity there – they have no choice financially – but equally it is never an issue to find a donor within the family to make this very selfless contribution.

Having said that, in poorer families, it doesn’t rule out duty to family before self and pressure from the family hierarchy.

Anyway, a key point here is that you don’t have to be biologically related to the recipient to be a live donor. The other point is that donors can and do lead a fully normal life after donating a kidney.

Swine flu’s travel itinery

click to view large

After more than a month without posting anything, this is just a post to end the drought.

On re-entering Nepal this at the end of September, this banner hung over a window just after entering the airport after crossing the runway. For anyone who has been to Nepal before, despite its serious message, it is a wonderful welcome back to the country. As well as country’s names, the banner has ad-hoc and impromptu written all over it which is quite a prominent feature of life in Nepal.

It is also interesting to see how swine-flu has been vacationing: Belgium then Thailand, Kuwait then Iceland – quite some hopping about.

Smart solar – what kind of smart?

I was visiting a garden centre the other day. Don’t do that too often as I don’t have a garden, nor a house. Was a day out for granny.

Wandering around from gnomes to expensive chindogu I saw a leaflet entitled “Renewable Energy: Worried about global warming?”

Mmm, maybe.

In short, the panel and inverter costs a hefty £7999.  The government gives a grant of £2400 for this bringing the price to £5499 with a further £100 discount for applying online.

So what do you get for this, your small electricity generation plant in your garden or roof?

Well, under the grey skies of the UK it will generate up to 1000KWh (Kilo Watt hours) (or units) per annum. Currently the cost of a unit is about 11p – though it varies. The average electricity consumption per household is anywhere between 3,000 for a single resident to 5000KWh for a family of 4. 

How much will it save? 1000 x 0.11 = £110 per annum. That’s really not very much given the initial cost of the system. An incorrect but ball park calculation suggests that the payback time would then be 50 years – half a century! By which time the inverter might need replacing – it has an estimated lifespan of 20 years, and indeed the panel itself who’s effectiveness decreases with age. This does not even include the decrease in the value of money due to inflation and so the payback time would be in actuality even longer

Smart Solar, who make and market the system, manage, on their website, to get the payback time down to 16 years given that the price of electricity goes up at 15% per annum, a figure which would see your electricity bill double every 5 years and have the masses rioting in the streets. 

So, unless you have money to burn, forget it. If you think in future Solar power is going to save the world, think again. Cuts in carbon dioxide emissions need to happen now and at this price, it is not a viable solution. 

The system will be ‘carbon neutral’ after 2-5 years of use. Still, there are much faster ways to have a positive benefit on the environment. My old college, I am very happy to see, has been (or was) running a sustainability project.  They added up the amount of electricity used by appliances left on standby. It shows that just by switching of all of the appliances when you are not using them could save you in the order of £75 per year – of the same order of magnitude as the solar panel. There are even devices to help you do this. Then of course you can change your light bulbs to CFL, order your shopping online, improve insulation, stop buying crap, 

There – that just saved you £5500.

So now I am just left wondering how something that is such a poor investment could a) be on the market at all and b) attract such a fat wedge of subsidy from the UK government. Is there nothing better that they could be spending it on?

Love story

Love story, originally uploaded by rpb1001.

These Asics trainers standing on the platform in Zurich have a story behind them. For seven years, since a trip to Paris, they’ve been worn by a pretty, dance-loving Swiss girl called Stephanie.

Walking along a Parisian street with her ex-boyfriend, she heard a fully fledged lovers’ argument from a window high up above. The trainers flew out of the window and landed on the street. She took them.

Now it is seven years later. Even if they’re kind of stolen, they’re still comfortable, they still work, they’re still trainers. Perhaps otherwise they would have already reached the dump many years ago. Heartening to see a reason to wear something that is not simply about appearance or fashion.

I suggested, when she finally decides to part with them, that she go back to Paris, find the street, the window and the owner and return them. Would be interesting to close the loop.

2/3 chocolate, 1/3 waste of fuel

The picture at the top of the page is a cereal packet, shipped to Kathmandu from somewhere in India. Open the box and the first thing you find is 1/3 air. This means that for every 3 chocolatey truck-loads, a fourth journey could have been made unnecessary. It is, in theory, a pretty huge saving.

What’s at stake is the box real-estate, the in-store advertising to the thirty-something kiddies walking buy. Its hidden waste, not like a dripping tap, a light left on or the heating on with the windows open.

For me, reading the press frequently, it seems like we (who are we) have come a long way in terms of awareness, things are changing but dreadfully slowly. Habits change particularly slowly, few want to downgrade their choices or put effort into changing behaviour: doing the right thing is often trumped by the easy thing.

Having said that, there are opportunities to improve scattered around all over the place. You just have to look carefully to see them, and then do something about them.

If you want to do something now, you could email Kellogg in India and ask them briefly why they are transporting so much air? Let me know if you get a reply. 


Images of Everest Basecamp and the Himex Expedition 2009

Namche Bazaar, Everest Region, Solokhumbu, Nepal at night by Alex TreadwayNamche Bazaar at night © Alex Treadway

If you have 5 minutes spare that you can split into 30 seconds and 4 minutes 30 seconds, then take 30 seconds to download Alex’s amazing images from Everest basecamp this year. Click the picture or the link below and download the PDF linked to the lower left of the page. 


Alex spent over a month at the camptaking pictures for his and Billi Bierling’s Everest Changes People project. 

If you are lucky, you can get the PDF to give you 4.30 of slideshow – not sure how you do it, just give it a try. If you know anyone who has been to Everest basecamp, forward them the link now. 

Pee on your basil

If you have the problem of your pasta getting cold while you are waiting for your basil garnish to grow, try peeing on it. Actually, perhaps it is better to pee into some kind of container to prevent accidents on the windowsill.

This photo comes from the GTZ headquarters in Eschborn, Germany where they are working on promoting ecological sanitation.

Urine is a great fertilizer, the only real problem with it is that it is liquid so hard to transport. But if you have a garden, it works really well on plants when diluted around 5:1. 

The other problem with urine is this rational or irrational yuk factor. Urine in its pissed-up-the-side-of-a-building form is really no good. Urea breaks down slowly in air releasing amonia which has a characteristically pungent smell which makes no friends. Kept in a container and applied to soil directly this does not happen as soil bacteria can begin to process it immediately in to more stable forms.

One day this century we’ll have to do this as a critical and irreplaceable element in fertilizer becomes more scarce. 

Click on the photo to learn more.