Ripples Following Ripples ~ I BEGIN
in Pokhara, I got a room in a different hotel for
just Rs100 per day, and it was all I needed, and reasonably
quiet, too. I called the Sakais’ home in Kathmandu,
but no-one picked up the phone, so I decided to go.
Upon reaching Kathmandu, I checked into Dolpo
and called the Sakais’ home again, but there
was still no answer. On the way to Patan the next
day, I came off my bike on a wet corner and injured
my right shoulder again; it was so pain-ful and hard
to shower and shave, and prevented me doing my usual
morning exercise after that. At Patan, I was lucky
to find the maid there, but she told me she had no
news of them, and they were still expected back on
the 11th. I returned to Pokhara to wait. There, I
told Bishal to think about what kind of business he’d
like to do, and maybe I would help him, but wouldn’t
give him money before, as he would only spend it on
Resolving to begin work on my memoirs, I told the
hotel-staff that I didn’t want to be disturbed,
and made a good start, and the flow continued for
some days; I wrote everything by hand, of course,
as I’d left my lap-top in Malacca. Every day,
I went up into town to do my email and have lunch,
and now and then, would go for a long bike-ride, often
coming back with new ideas to be set down. I was pleased
about the way it was coming on.
Liladhar invited me to visit his village and spend
a few days at his home, and at first, I agreed, but
then decided not to, as I would only have been an
object of curiosity there and wouldn’t have
got a minute’s peace. He was quite disappointed
when I told him, but I gave him some money to go with,
and later he told me he’d used it to buy a length
of plastic water-pipe, with which to connect water
to his home, making a great difference.
On the 11th, I called Patan, and Mutsuko
answered; they’d just got back, and she told
me of their time on Phi-Phi Island. When
the tsunami hit, they’d been on high ground,
so were untouched by it; their hotel was also spared.
I was so relieved, and emailed them next day. I also
mailed letters to Santosh and the machine-man in Lucknow,
and eventually got a reply from the former; my letter
to the latter had photos in it, and there was maybe
less than a 50% chance he would get it.
Bishal came to see me and said he’d like to
get a vegetable-cart, and told me what it would cost.
I agreed to finance it so as to pro-vide him a way
of supporting his family. I told him to accompany
one of his friends on his rounds, to see how it was
done, so that when his cart was ready, he would know
how to go on. I also urged him to quit smoking, as
it was not just useless, but harmful; he said he would,
but I thought, ‘Mmh, maybe.’
There were several Maoist-imposed ‘bunds’
~ shut-downs ~ while I was in Pokhara, some of them
local, and one nation-wide, last-ing 2 or 3 days at
a time. It was enough for them to threaten ac-tion
against anyone defying them for shops to close and
transport to cease; people knew from past experience
that they were not idle threats; shops and vehicles
had been burned and people shot. Although such bunds
were disastrous for the economy, people had grown
so used to them that they seemed complacent about
them; “What can we do?” they said. One
of them was in protest against the government’s
10% hike in fuel-prices. I wrote a poem and sent it
to one of the newspapers:
OH, SAD LAND!
I came here from afar,
Though didn’t have to.
Ten times, since 1970, I have come here;
It is my choice; I love this land.
Does that not make me, in one way,
More Nepalese than many who were born here,
And over which they had no choice at all,
And some of whom would leave right now if they could,
While others behave in such a way that
Shows they have no love for their country whatsoever?
If you really love the country that has
Supported you uncomplainingly since your birth,
You would try to do nothing that would make
Your kind, long-suffering Mother ashamed of you,
But only proud!
The high rests upon the low;
This we should understand.
We may have the foundations of a house
Without the walls or roof, but how to have
The walls and roof without foundations?
Do the people exist for the king,
Or the king for the people?
Oh, Lord of the Land,
Are you the only one
Who does not feel or see the throne
On which you sit so high
Trembling and shaking?
If it cracks and crumbles,
Who else will be to blame but yourself?
While brushing my teeth one day, a filling fell out;
fortunately, it was the one I’d had root-canal
treatment on, so there was no pain; I decided to wait
until I returned to Malaysia or Australia to get it
refilled; visiting dentists in Nepal and India is
not advisable. I also developed back-ache, probably
from lack of exercise.
One day, while parking my bike outside the internet-café
I usually used, I noticed 2 young guys staring at
me, so asked if anything was wrong; still staring,
I asked what was the matter. They said nothing, but
when I came out from emailing, I found that some-one
had kicked in my gears. I managed to fix them, getting
my hands greasy-black. Bishal came in the afternoon
to say his cart was ready for use, so I gave him the
money for it, and enough to buy some scales and vegetables,
and several days later, he came to proudly show me
it ~ a table-top mounted on a frame-work of four bicycle-wheels.
I wished him well.
At Liladhar’s bakery one day, I met a Christian
convert, and asked him how long he had been so. “Five
years,” he said. I asked why he’d become
Christian, and he said, “Because I am a sinner,
and needed a savior.” At this, I asked him if
he saw any-thing positive and good about being human.
He thought for a long moment, then said, “No,
not really.” He’d been robbed, cheated,
and emasculated, and was quite content with this.
News came one day that the King had dismissed parliament
and seized complete control himself. Radio, TV and
phones were shut down for several days; his excuse
~ a transparent lie ~ was that he needed to do it
in order to deal with the Maoists, who by then were
in control of large parts of the country; the King
~ who was very unpopular, and suspected of being behind
the palace-massacre of 2001 ~ had the army in his
pocket, and felt he could do what he liked. We were
cut off from the outside world, and felt helpless.
I had to wait patiently, for the internet to start
working again, and when it did, I had much to catch
Another bund looming, I bought a bus-ticket
to Kathmandu for the next day, and went into town
to do my email. After I’d finished my session,
and was riding down the road from there, a motorcyclist
turned right in front of me and this time I couldn’t
avoid him, so over I went. Picking myself up and,
bleeding from a cut by my right eye, I straightened
my twisted glasses, and confronted the fellow. A small
crowd had gathered, and the guy said he was only going
slowly; yes, that was the problem ~ he was going slowly
without looking where he was going. Nothing else to
be done ~ useless to call the poIice ~ I rode on,
and got cleaned up at a pharmacy in Lakeside, but
my right cheek-bone was crushed, and there was a depression
on my face; it was very painful, and I could open
my mouth only a little, and it was very difficult
to get my dentures out and in, or even to brush my
teeth. Then that side of my face became numb; clearly,
there was nerve-damage. It was hard to eat anything,
and that night I slept very little because of the
pain. I decided to return to Malaysia and from there
I managed to do other things normally, and emailed
people to let them know what had happened; I asked
DV about a suitable date to return. Saying goodbye
to Liladhar and others, I then went to Kathmandu,
but it was a rough ride.
First thing to do was book my flight out, then begin
shopping for various things ~ a chore I don’t
like ~ and try to sell my bike ~ an even worse chore.
I finally had to exchange the bike for some thangkas,
which make nice presents. I also visited the Sakais
and spent a final night at their place.
Passing Sanjay’s shop, I stopped in to see him,
and asked the price of one of his thangkas, thinking
he wouldn’t overcharge me. I was astounded when
he said, “Could you give me Rs7000 for it?”
I told him I’d paid only Rs2500 for a similar
one, upon which he said he would let me have it for
what he paid, Rs3500. I told him he’d been overcharged.
Some friend, I thought, and didn’t
go back to see him again. I’d not bought anything
from him in 2003, as I told him I couldn’t haggle
with friends; how right I was. On that previous visit,
I’d given him a shaver I’d bought in Malacca
just before coming to Nepal, and had hardly used;
he simply took it, put it in a drawer, and didn’t
say a word.
My shopping done, and unwanted stuff given away, I
was ready to leave the City Of Barking Dogs. My flight
wasn’t until noon, so I had a last walk around.
Then, hotel-bill paid, I got a taxi to the airport,
with enough rupees left for the airport-tax. I got
there very early, as is my custom, and had to wait
quietly in the lounge. The flight was a bit delayed
and we reached Bangkok behind sched-ule, but it didn’t
matter, as the connecting flight to K.L. was not yet
boarding. Going through the baggage-check, a pocket-knife
was detected in my back-pack, much to my embarrassment!
I’d not checked well enough. It was confiscated,
It was late at night when we landed at K.L., and I
stood in a long snake-line to get through Immigration;
through after ½-an-hour, I got my bags almost
immediately, without needing to wait, as is usual
there, so what I lost on the swings I gained on the
carousel, so to speak. DV had been waiting over an
hour ~ he’s a patient guy ~ and said he'd been
expecting me to emerge from the gate wrapped like
a mummy, so was surprised I had no bandages at all.
Was that the impression I'd given people? Had I complained
so much and made a mountain out of a mole-hill? The
swelling had largely subsided by that time, but the
numbness was still there. We were soon on our way
to Malacca. End of another trip within the great trip
that is my life ~ and his, of course, because
having been part of my life since 1976, everywhere
I’ve been, he’s been there with me.
He soon set about getting me seen to, taking time
off his work to bring me to one doctor after another.
A CT-scan showed quite a lot of bone-damage, and I
was referred to a facial specialist, who said that
I'd left it too late for much to be done, as damaged
bone soon starts to regenerate in place, and he couldn’t
hold out much hope that the nerve that emerges from
a tunnel in the eye-socket could be reactivated; he
said he could try, but couldn’t guarantee anything.
Well, I try to be philosophical about things, so wasn't
too disappointed, and told him that I'd soon be going
back to Oz, and it was maybe better to wait until
then; he agreed, and urged me to go as soon as possible,
saying there was a famous cranio-facial specialist
in Adelaide who I should try to see.