The Nepal Digest - Sept 26, 1994 (23 Ashoj 2051 BkSm)

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The Nepal Digest Monday 26 Sept 94: Ashoj 23 2051 BkSm Volume 31 Issue 3

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********************************************************************** Date: Wed, 31 Aug 1994 15:17:01 -0400 (EDT) From: rpanth@uceng.uc.EDU (Ranjan Panth) Subject: They started it To:

While naming G.P.'s relative enjoying the fruits of democracy the writer forgot two others:

Mahesh Acharya(nephew) : Minister of Finance R. Acharya (Mahesh Acharya's brother but I can't recall his name)
                        :G.M. of Rastriya Banijya Bank

And to think that people in the U.S. worry about Hillary and her health care.

****************************************************************8 Date: Wed, 31 Aug 1994 15:31:08 -0400 (EDT) From: rpanth@uceng.uc.EDU (Ranjan Panth) Subject: Congratulation To:

I wish to congragulate Mr. Puspa Joshi of Ohio State Univ. for the letter he wrote about having to congragulate all the students that passed the S.L.C. exam and not just the ones that excelled. His article about how some students are not priviledged enough to even continue their education, let alone do well, was something I, personally, had not given much thought to. Thank you Mr. Joshi.

**************************************************** Date: Sun, 04 Sep 94 22:21:35 EDT From: Rajeev Karmacharya <RXK0992@SRUVM.SRU.EDU> Subject: News from Nepal To: TND <>

     I am back after spending almost two months in Nepal. I intend to summarize some of the changes that I observed during my stay at home.
     My visit to New Road made it obvious that Kathmandu was not the same as I had left almost three years ago. One could easily find many foreign faces amongst the Kathmanduites, too many in fact. No wonder, the present population of Kathmandu has rocketed to 12 lakhs, bringing in its wake the problems of water supply, pollution, and load-shedding.
     I was shocked to learn that many parts of Kathmandu was facing water supply problems, and yet, nothing had been done to identify and tap new sources of drinking water. I read somewhere that even if such a project was to be started right away, it would take at least five more years to complete it. Needless to say, the problem of drinking water is destined to haunt Kathmanduites for many years to come.
     Air-pollution is another problem that Kathmandu is facing. However, in the light of all the comments that we have had in the TND recently, I deem it is unnecessary to elaborate the matter. The ever-increasing influx of people into Kathmandu could only make the situation worse over the years. Load-shedding of electricity can also be attributed to this exodus. Although load-shedding has been done in the past, but never has it been done to the present extent; people are forced to live without electricity for three times a week. Consequently, virtually all economic activities are paralyzed. It is ironical that the people of a country with one of the highest hydro-electric potentials in the world have to face the scarcity of electricity even though they are willing to pay the high cost. (FYI the cost of electricity has quadrupled in the past few years.)
     Another interesting fact that amazed me was the ever-increasing purchasing potential of Kathmanduites, despite the poverty that is so prevalent in almost all walks of life. For anyone going home recently after a few years, it will not be difficult to notice that the number of motor-cycles and reconditioned cars plying the streets of Kathmandu has increased dramatically. There are even advertisements in newspapers for installation of car CDs. One wonders how many Kathmanduites can actually afford a 1,200 rupees per Compact Disc tab from their salary (not talking about businessmen, of course).
     Finally, here are some excerpts from some prominent newspapers. I have attempted to make the translations as accurate as possible (subject to my translative abilities, obviously). I would like to take this opportunity to thank my dad for his efforts to get as many newspapers as possible for me.

     PM didn't seek options, say advocates on 2nd day
     (The Kathmandu Post, August 25.)

     Advocates representing the plaintiff pleaded their case for the second day Wednesday urging for annulment of the Prime Minister recommendation to dissolve the House of Representatives.
     Senior advocates Bashudev Dhungana, Krishna Prasad Bhandary, Sindunath Pyakurel and advocates Biswa Kanta Mainali, Dr. Surya Dhungel, Babu Ram Giri and CP Regmi participated in Wednesday's court discussion...
      "If the Royal decision has an unconstitutional origin, it can be pronounced null and void," he said. Dhungana said the annual programme of the government was defeated in the parliament due to non-cooperation of the members of his own parliamentary party. Dhungana said that the dissolution of the Pratinidhi Sabha (PS) had, therefore, no validity from constitutional point of view...
     According to court schedule, the supreme court is to hear the arguments of the lawyers pleading on behalf of the defendants on Friday. Observers predict the final verdict would not be coming before next Wednesday.

     Indian army ......
     (New Kathmandu Daily, August 25)

     After several raids conducted recently by the Indian police in Kathmandu and elsewhere, it has been reported that about 150 men belonging to the Indian army were seen around Ramdi bridge of Kaligandaki river. Although the report has not been officially confirmed, local residents have attested to the above incident.

     Stern action needed
     (The Kathmandu Post editorial, August 25, 1994)
     ...In the year 2050 alone, 3,200 cases if rape were reported--a six-fold rise over the previous year. The actual figure may be even higher since some victims prefer silence due to fear of ostracism. Another disgusting truth revealed by these statistics is that nearly 60 percent of the victims were children below the age of 14, some of them as young as six years. There have also been a number of cases in which the victims succumbed to the brutal force of the aggressors, or lost the use of some parts of their body, or were infected with the deadly AIDS virus. Yet most rapists are seldom brought to book, or if they are, justice is painfully slow. Of the 66 cases of rapes registered with the Kathmandu district court in 2049 BS, only 11 have been cleared so far...

     ...Marichman's Save the Nation ...
     (Mahanagar Daily, August 25)

     ...Candidates of Save the Nation movement are among the much talked about candidates for the upcoming elections in Kathmandu. Movement's leader Marichman Singh is slowly emerging in the picture. But sources close to him maintain that nothing has been decided yet. It is rumored that famous intellectuals known to be associated with Yemale and Jana Morcha could affiliate themselves with the Save the Nation movement in the elections.

     Supreme leader to be discharged from the hospital
     (New Kathmandu Daily, August 25)

     Supreme leader of Nepali Congress Ganeshman Singh is being discharged from the hospital on Bhadra 15th. He had spent two and a half months in the hospital due to an injury that resulted from his falling off a chair in Bharatpur.

Some Quotes:

     "In the present situation, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is the biggest criminal."
          - N.C.P. (Yemale) chairman Manmohan Adhikari quoted by Drishti Vernacular Weekly, August 24.

     "Biswanath is doing politics"
          - Assistant Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs regarding Chief Justice Biswanath Upadhyaya quoted by Drishti Vernacular Weekly, August 24.

     "Due to unclear foreign policy, couldn't Nepal turn into another Sikkim any day...."
          - Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani quoted by Samakalin Weekly, Bhadra 9.

From: Rajeev Karmacharya <RXK0992@SRUVM.SRU.EDU>

                    A message for Ex-AVMs

     Our alma mater is trying to compile a list of graduates studying abroad. Mr. S.N. Bahadur, our principal, expressed the intention during my visit to school this summer. I told him that I would help him in this matter. I would, therefore, like to request Ex-AVMs to send their name, address (both school and home), their major, and their year of graduation (from AVM) to me or to the principal himself. My e-mail address is:

     RXK0992@SRUVM.SRU.EDU (Internet) or, RXK0992@SRU.BITNET

     Also, I would appreciate if you could spread the message to other Ex-AVMs who do not have direct access to the TND.

*************************************************************************** From: Ong Chin Huat <> Subject: Trip to Nepal To:

Dearest people

I am a Singaporean who is going to Nepal for the first time, likely to be in the third week of November. Being very new to Nepal, I am wondering whether anyone of you can give me some advice and help:

(1) Whether is there any Singapore embassy in Nepal

(2) What should I bring to Nepal

(3) Where can I stay in Nepal

(4) What are the restrictions in entering Nepal, such as not allowed to bring certain items

(5) Is English widely used in Nepal

I will also be very appreciative if anyone can give me other advices.

Simply send me an E-mail.

Thank you very much in advance.

Ong Chin Huat Research Analyst Centre for Business Research & Development National University of Singapore 10 Kent Ridge Crescent Singapore 0511

Tel: 65-7726398 Fax: 65-7753955
*********************************************************************** Date: 06 Sep 94 14:06:04 EDT From: Rajendra.P.Shrestha@Dartmouth.EDU (Rajendra P. Shrestha) Subject: News9/2-6 To:

 SOURCE: International Herald Tribune

HEADLINE: The UN Needs a Standing Force, and Gurkhas Could Do the Job

BYLINE: Brian Farrell and Christopher Lingle

DATELINE: SINGAPORE, September 6, 1994

    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, military forces wearing the blue berets of the United Nations have increasingly been called upon to intervene in trouble spots around the world. The seemingly endless series of crises from Haiti to Bosnia-Herzagovina pose a serious challenge for the only body with a mandate to carry out the will of the global community.

   While there is no shortage of goodwill or strong words in reaction to conflictin places such as Rawanda, too often international action is too little or too late. Without a swift and decisive response from the outside, a crisis arising from a breakdown of civil authority can easily lead to humanitarian catastrophe.Inaction by the world community amounts to appeasement, even though it may be unintentional.

   The problem stems from the lack of a standing military force under UN command.A solution would be to put together a contingent of Gurkha professional soldiersfrom Nepal who are particularly well-suited for such missions.

   Butros Butros Ghali, the UN secretary- general, is trying to improve the ability of the world body to react to crises that do not require commitment of massive forces or involve acute geopolitical complications. In April 1993, he established a planning team made up of seven military officers seconded from their national armed forces. Their mandate is to plan and organize a UN standby force base on troop contributions by member states.

   Twenty-one countries are reported to have committed soldiers and/or equipment to the reserve force and more may follow. The aim is to get an accurate idea of the units that could be brought together in rapid response to a crisis.

   However, the plan is seriously flawed. It does not deal with the basic questioof whether the force will be able to assemble and move to wherever it is needed quickly enough. Nor does it take account of the slow way in which governments involved reach agreement on the actual deployment of the UN forces or what to doif some of the promised national troops are ultimately witheld. Most importantly, the United Nations must be confident that the troops provided will be good enough to do the job and able to work well with each other.

   Instead of trying to assemble a multinational rapid response contingent, the United Nations should have a standing force trained, armed, equipped and ready to go. The ground forces of a major power should not be involved, because that raises too many political hackles in too many places, producing disruptive consequences for any peacemaking or peacekeeping effort.

   The Gurkhas are ideally suited to take on an emergency reaction role. They aresuperb professional soldiers long accustomed to service for an authority other than the leaders of their homeland. Since 1816, Gurkhas have served with great distinction in the British and later Indian armies, and they continue to do so. At present, most British Gurkhas are based in Hong Kong and the sultanante of Brunei. With the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the Gurkhas will no longer be required in the British Army.

   The legal and diplomatic arrangements under which individual Nepalese serve thBritish and Indian governments could easily be replicated for the United Nations. A minimum of 5,000 troops would be needed for the force to be credible and to give it the flexibility to answer more than one call at a time. Garrisoning costs and logistics would probably limit the number of troops to a maximum of 15,000.

   Based on past experience, it is unlikely that Nepal would try to interfere in the UN chain of command for Gurkha troops or demand the evacuation of the force in the face of mounting casualties. The presence of Nepalese soldiers would alsobe unlikely to provoke antagonistic reactions based on nationality. Indeed, the formidable reputation of Gurhkas as impartial fighters might well help to defusetense situations.

   Nonetheless, such a proposal raises challenges that many governments are reluctant to confront. If a Gurkha force is assembled and used, the United Nations would be taking a large step toward acting as an independent, supranational body. The force could only be used if the major powers on the UN Security Council supported its intervention. And only the United States is capable of providing the airlift the force would need to reach trouble spots andoperate there as long as necessary.

   Once its job was done, the United Nations would almost certainly have to take control of the territory in question for an indeterminate time. This raises fundamental questions about the role of the United Nations in building a new world order.

   It is time these questions were confronted. Improvised multinational military contingents are simply too slow to assemble and pose too many political and operational problems. A viable alternative must be found. Pragmatism must be allowed to outweigh cynical objections that Western governments seek the political benefits of putting Gurkhas at risk in chaotic situations in place of their own soldiers. -

   Mr. Farrell is a military historian and Mr. Lingle an economist teaching at the National University of Singapore. They contributed this personal comment to the International Herald Tribune.
--------------------------------------------------------------------- SOURCE: Xinhua

HEADLINE: nepal's security arrangements guided by national need

DATELINE: kathmandu, september 6; ITEM NO: 0906054

    nepal's home ministry has made it clear that the country's security arrangements are guided by its own national requirement and distinct characteristics. a spokesman of the home ministry said in a statement monday that nepal need not be dictated from anywhere else in the matter concerning the security issue. the home ministry statement came in response to recent rumors saying that nepali security units are used to help indian intelligence sector. the spokesman reiterated that any activities directed against nepal's neighbors cannot be condoned and nepal stands firm on its policy not to allow its soil to be used against its friendly neighbors. a country has to be sensitive on matters of its security, the spokesman said, adding that nepal has been enjoying cordial relations with its neighbors on the basis of mutual cooperation and wants to promote her relations with all friendly countries on the basis of mutual respect.

SOURCE: Xinhua

HEADLINE: private sector operates postal service in nepal

DATELINE: kathmandu, september 5; ITEM NO: 0905031

   a private corporation has started postal service to provide post box facility to the clients in nepal. the private corporation
--everest postal care private limited, a non-governmental organization, will provide post box at the general post office of the country. it is the first time in the history of the country that a private sector enters the postal service sector, local daily "the kathmandu post" reported today. the company has space to accommodate 4,000 post boxes and the clients should pay 500 rupees (about 10 u.s. dollars) a year along with a deposit of 500 rupees for the post boxes.

SOURCE: Xinhua

HEADLINE: nepal to get grant from canada

DATELINE: kathmandu, september 5; ITEM NO: 0905175

   canada has promised to provide nepal with a grant assistance of 174.2 million rupees (3.55 million u.s. dollars) for the twin otter aircraft support project. a memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed here today by representatives of the two countries. the project aims to assist the nepali civil aviation department and the royal nepal airlines corporation to extend the life of the twin otter aircraft, to improve the fleet's operational strategy and to enhance the capabilities of nepal's air transporation institutions, said the nepali finance ministry here today. the grant assistance would be utilized for the procurement of spare parts of the twin otter aircraft, providing training and making available the services of experts for the department of civil aviation and royal nepal airlines corporation. the canadian-made twin otter aircraft are mainly used for domestic flights in nepal.
------------------------------------------------------------------ SOURCE: Xinhua

HEADLINE: encephalitis claims 36 lives in western nepal

DATELINE: kathmandu, september 3; ITEM NO: 0903141

   encephalitis has claimed 36 lives in the mid-western region of nepal this year. according to the information from the mid-western region health directorate, 193 patients are being treated at bheri zonal hospital and 64 others in other hospitals and health centers, the national news agency rss reported today. bardia district in the region is reported to be the hardest hit by the outbreak of the disease.


HEADLINE: Indian cops face trial in Nepal


   Five armed Indian policemen arrested after illegally chasing a suspect into Nepal July 8 face trial for their border incursion, Home Ministry spokesman Sri Kant Regmi said Friday. Regmi said the five have been charged under the Arms and Ammunition Act for illegal posession of arms, and their case is being heard in west Nepal 675 miles (420 km) southwest of the Nepalese capital. The five were arrested with a revolver and six rounds of ammunition and a pair of handcuffs July 8 at Nepalgunj. Nepal protested the incident, prompting New Delhi to issue a public statement that the Himalayan kingdom's giant neighbor ''continued to respect Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity.'' The Indians crossed Nepal's border as they pursued a kidnap suspect, angering Nepal. Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao regretted the incident and promised it would not be repeated.


*********************************************************************************************** Date: Fri, 9 Sep 1994 14:05 EST From: Subject: Update on Nepal Environment

Nepal Environmental Update: Sept 1994

The following extract isfrom ESCAP "Environmental News Briefing ofthe REgions'Press: July 1994" for Nepal

1. Forest Conservation in Parbat District: Parbat is a middle hill district in West nepal about 550 squ. km in area and about 20,000 ha of forest. Mahesh hari Acharya, the District Forest Officer, [my student/assitant in 1987/88 at Institute of Forestry], reporteed that his office had exceeded th target by 37 natural forest plantation areas have been handed over to the local community by 1993/94. [The scale of the forests handed over is disappointing at 52 ha, or 1/4 of 1per cent of the total forests.] there was a plan to rehabilitate 30 more ha, again underscoring the limited scope government forest action.

2. Wildlife Monitoring of rhinoceros inChitwan National Park have put the population at 440 to 460. These included 333 adults and 113 youngs. 159 females were identified and the sexes of 63 individuals could not be determinied. In 1975, the rhino population was 270-310, increase depite 59 rhinos killed by poachers. Bardia national park has 38 rhinos too. [This brings up the question of culling rhino population once theri numbers exceed the capacity that can be supported at Chitwan, which ecxperts think is 358.]

3. Air Pollution by Himal Cement Factory has again been criticized. The factory recently unveiled a 24 million Deutsch Mark Wet Scrubber technology for reducing dust from the factory. The author, Anish Sharma, contends that thistechnology is not worth themillions since all it consists of is a series of tanks from which the factory exhaust is made to pass through to wet and trap dust, anybody in nepal could have done it. Moreover, the dust is only 3% of the pollutant and noxious fumes of sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxid e are allosed to pollute the air and health of Chovar and kathmandu residents. The technology alwo will produce a ddense fag that will hide the sun in Chovar except for the noon .

4. Construction material a threat to Kathmandu environment. According to Achyut Luintael , an environmental engineer, over one hundered brick kilns are operating in the valley supplyig the building boom. This industry not conly consumes valuable farm lands but also fuel and produces dust and carbon dioxide. Similarly sand dredged and excaved and gravel mined from reiver beds and river levees are already altering the characteristics of river bed systems in aresa such as Kapn, Bhaimal, Gothatar,Dhapasi, and Mulpani VDC. and rivers such as Manahra, Hanumante, Dhove Khola. The construction boom has also encouranged recent immigrants from the Terai and this has increased cultural and economci conflict for jobs and services.

5. Environment-friendly hydropower? asks Deependra Nath Sharma. When Kulekhani and Marsyangid hydel projects were built, some 3,500 and 1800 people were displaced with meager cash compensation. It is expected that Chisapani, Pancheswor, Chisapani, West Seti, and Budhi Gandaki hydels are materialized more people will suppfer displacement. The author is also worried aboutthe large workfore that will come to anew project area and induce antisocial activieties including alcoholism, hoolignaism, gamblisng, and prostitution and

************************************************************************* From: Abi Kumar Sharma <> Subject: South Asia Bulletin To: Date: Fri, 9 Sep 1994 10:50:25 -0700 (PDT)

South Asia Bulletin - Special Issue on Nepal

South Asia Bulletin, volume XIII, Nos. 1 and 2, special issue on nepal is guest edited by Nanda Raj Shrestha, dept. of geography univ. of wisconsin at whitewater. This issue (carries eight articles on Nepal) contributes to some of the contemporary issues of nepal for debate, such as development, land reforms, gorkha varti etc. I find the special issue thought provoking and helpful to understand better e.g. the whole notion of development. It is, indeed, very impressive effort by Dr. Shrestha to provide the forum for such important issues of a critical body of thought that speaks to many causes of our problems.The articles are as follows: 1. Enchanted by the mantra of Bikas: A self-reflective perspective on
   Nepalese Elites and Development. 2. Prospects for Land reform in Nepal. 3. The road to Shangri La is paved: spatial development and rural
   transformation in Nepal. 4. Unintended consequences: the ideological impact of development
   in Nepal. 5. Circular migration and families: A Yolmo sherpa example. 6. Soldiers, sovereignty and silences: Gorkhas as diplomatic
   currency. 7. He's no good: Sexual division of labor and habitus among Nepal's
   Marpha Thakali. 8. The Vadi community and prostitution.

thanks. abi sharma.

******************************************************************** Date: Fri, 9 Sep 1994 20:16 EST From: To:

Persecuting Buddhists in Nepal:

We have this glorious myth of religious and communal amity in Nepal, partly constructed by the Panchayat polity and partly reinforced by the powerfyl vested interests that benefit from the undue legitimacy to caste privileges.

It is often pointed that Hindus and Buddhists get along quite fine and old Lichavi and Malla king patronage of both religious persuasions are often alluded to. Allusions are also made to everday life where people of both faiths visit both temples. Granted we have had few widely known cases of violent suppresion on one faith by another but the reality of hunky-dory, pally-pally religious amity are misleading if not disingenuous.

History shows that even during malla times, a distinct State involvment to promote Hindu faith and social orgnanization along caste lines was instituted at the expense of other faiths. Merchants to Tibet, mostly newars, were made to undergo repurification rituals and the reinstitutions of caste because they were declared to have lost their caste purity by the contact of non-caste Tibetans. This was done by the ruling authorities at the advice of royal priests.

During the Rana times, the integration of Hindu regressive legal code in the Muluki ain was even more blatant. One of cardinal principles of civil life, namely that every was equal before the law, was explicitly trampled to give special immunity to Brahmins. This resulted in Tanka Prasad Acharay suffering humiliatin with this life intact so he could be the prime minister while other freedom fighters were martyred.

The Buddhists, namely of the Theravada faith, the yellow robed monks were specially singled out for Hindu-inspired persecution by the Ranas.

According to the Sangharam Kondanya in Dharma Kirti (Aug 1994), Juddha Shumsher Rana decreed on 30 July 1994 ( 50 years ago), that no Nepali Bhikchus and their proselytes can preach their faith and all Buddhists must lieave the mingdom, ie, kathamandu valley in 3 days. This is in ironic in a country which proudly says it is the birthplace of the prince of peace, Gautam Buddha. Among those who suffered exile were: Dharma lok karma Sheel (Prgjyananda), Subodhananda, Pragjyarashmi, Ratnajyoti, Aggadhamma, and Kashyap.

The exiles Bhikchus (monks) from Sarnath, Kushinagar, and Benares under the initiation of Bhikchu Amritananda formed the " Dharmodaya Sabha" under theleadership of Chnadramani Mahasthabir on 30 Nov , 1944. The Sabha networked with all the Buddhist institutions in India and mobilized public opinion of the religious persecuation that led to the banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal. The campaign led to the inclusion of Vicchu Amritananda in the Buddhist Goodwill Mission constituted by Buddhist Monks of Srilanka in April 1946. The mission succeeded in persuading the government to give visa to Buddhist pilgrims to Nepal. Meetings with Padma Shumsher, Amritananda was successful in having the decree exiling Buddhist monks withdrawn.

*************************************************************** Date: Mon, 12 Sep 1994 10:16:40 +0700 To: From: Mona Shrestha <> Subject: A thought (fwd)

                         JUST A FEW WORDS

The irresistible, delicious aroma and the sensitive nose of mine arouse my hunger 'ever-ready to gobble down' delicacies offered by the endless sprouting up restaurants and fast food centers of Kathmandu - not always filled with bideshes - no more. We at Kathmandu are really learning to eat out, aren't we?

Delicacies have done wonders to people (pun intended). So, I came across a couple of well-feds (88 would be appropriate if you were playing Bingo!!!), claded in tight jeans shorts, at a wonderful bookstore in Lazimpat, and I heard them getting into an argument with the sullen looking sales boy. I watched them giving their arrogant ethnic identity. No more just Nepalese, the so called mosaic of different culture and ethnicity. Is somebody trying to apply the old theory of "DIVIDE AND RULE" on us?

Fashion follows food. Clothing is too " basic". Fashion has gone into us so well in Kathmandu, everyone is trying to look SWELL. Then there was a woman in hot pink silk saree knocking at my door- so fluent was her English and so serene was her looks. Displaced, deprived, she landed to Kathmandu with no destination, she needed Rs. 500/- urgently but is not looking for any work. The incident was not of a rare kind. Beggars have learnt to dress up too, be it on their own land or foreign land, haven't they? 'APPEARANCE FOR PROFESSION" applies everywhere.

There was a shopping spree just before Nepal bandhs. For some matching pair of shoes to dazzling filigree for the scheduled parties had to be tended. Meanwhile for the most it was hectic trip to groceries. Some green grocers were selling off all kinds of grocery with the falling price as it grew dark, while the well-informed ones had no panic - happy to finish up with some perishables. Why worry! the bandh actually would be only for one day and not as proposed three days. How witty! they had their own way to apply "VON THU'NEN THEORY".

As I walked down the road, I wondered if anybody really prayed for Kathmandu. Hark! .... didn't I hear the noble FATHER MAHARJAN "...... amen", just then.

Note: Sharing a thought, coming back from Kathmandu.

Mona Shrestha, Human Settlements Development Program SERD, AIT.

**************************************************************** Date: Sun, 11 Sep 1994 15:54:48 EDT To: The Nepal digest Editor <> From: "Pramod K. Mishra" <> Subject: Women in Hinduism VI

Dear Editor,

     An honorable Hindu marriage as practiced today in most parts of India and Nepal is at once solemn and ridiculous, at once a carnivalesque affair of endless feasts, absurd rituals, rip-off dowries, cheap Hindi songs and costly dances (if you don't swing your own male hips to the tune of the "English band"); and a sad occasion of searing lonesomeness and alienation. No matter how much we brag about the free-for-all, innocent atmosphere of Rodighar between hormone-plagued tribal boys and daring girls, about tribal customs of wooing a mate by playing on-the-spot duet contests while returning from a local fair, the socially adored kind of Hindu marriage remains a contradictory event, immensely crowded and acutely lonely.
     For the parents of the groom, their son's marriage promises a cook, a housekeeper, the bearer of male progenies, frequently a swelling dowry, and, far from least, an elevation of their social and family status through this connection to an influential family. The unfulfillment of any one of these cherished hopes results in a moaning disappointment, to be blamed either on the son's crooked crossing of stars or on the bride's forbidding presence. For the relatives and caste members, the wedding of one of their own young hotblood threatens with envy while promising a reward of jamboree, a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity for gustatory surfeit.
     For the groom himself, this occasion certainly guarantees the quenching of his lifetime's fantasies, his wildest bedtime imaginings, the culmination of everything he had seen, imagined or heard about carnal satiation. In most parts of Nepal, as he sets out to look for a bride, stealthily either himself or publicly through me/iddlemen, he never forgets the doll he had seen in the movies, whose body seemed to melt at human touch, whose dance looked like those of the nymphs in the court of Indra, whose voice sounded like that of a kokil, the cuckoo, and whose shyness surpassed even the lajwanti weed--all these virtues about a prospective bride drilled into him from childhood. But whereas in the movie, the nymph was a nymph, a public woman, here for marriage, the first and foremost condition must be that she be a virgin--unspoiled and chaste. And don't forget! A two- legged mule.
     Thank God, in Nepal, he can at least have a look at the potential bride! Even a remote one. In most parts of India, a boy's look at a girl for potential marriage erodes the girl's honor and shames her family's prestige. (Now my city-bred, cake- eating friends would rebuke me by saying how ignorant I am and how open the customs have become in Bombay, Delhi, and Culcatta, and invite me to walk with them through their streets. My legs are tired; I can't walk anymore, my friends! Let my pen do the walking for now)
     What do the girl's parents do in the meantime? Well, on this side, things are not rosy at all. There is hardly any promises, only headloads of anxieties. When a young Hindu female reaches puberty, survives the Sitting in the Cave trauma, and everything along with it, her parents begin to worry about her future chances in the marriage market. In the case of the boys, it's the job market that begins to worry most parents these days.
     Wherever schooling is considered superfluous for a young female, such as in the rural areas both in the Terai and the Hills, parents' concern for their daughter's marriage becomes an obsession. In the case of the Hindus from the hills of Nepal, the parents wait for a suitable boy to send a messenger with the request for the daughter's hand.
     Now your curiosity may get out of hand and ask, Who is a suitable boy here? Well, the definition of a suitable boy has changed from time to time, with changes in social, cultural, and political mind-frame. However, much of what makes a suitable boy remains the same.
     In the days of the Panchayat system, and I'm sure during the time of the Ranas, too, a suitable boy had certain specific ingredients. First, the boy must come from the same caste. This was an uncompromisable component, non-negotiable; this criterion seemed eternal for the upper castes. The only exception for the Chetri caste could be that if he came from the Rana family, so much the better. If not, then there should be some link, even a tenuous one, even a manufactured one, would bring glory to the family; as closer the blood line to the royal palace, the better the social prestige. Prestige and power functioned as sisters, for everyone knew that if the boy came from a family close to the palace, if the boy's father and family belonged closer at the helms, even as gate keepers and cooks, even as tobacco fillers, it didn't matter what the boy did. Even if there was muddy water in his brain instead of sharp intelligence, he would surpass any son of a gun who had nothing but gunpowder of intelligence inside his skull.
     In those days, old money carried infinitely more value than any upstart wealth, earned by the sweat of the brow, or by felling clear the forest of the Terai and smuggling its timber to India, or by becoming an employee at the customs department, or even by embezzling the office budget and taking bribe from the poor, helpless villagers. These avenues of getting rich fell perfectly within the ethical parameters of these otherwise moral pillars of Nepalese society. In fact, that constituted the core of morality and virtue. If you got nowhere in terms of material gains even after seating in such chairs, the society branded you dimwit, and dimwit you were, for you couldn't move anywhere except down.
     The new money was not good enough, however, in the marriage bazaar among the highest circles. It did not carry the fragrance of fixed deposit, nor the thrilling odor of a hidden treasure- trove; instead, it had the cheap smell of unrecognizable donor currencies, of the poor villagers' dirty sweat, or of the herbage of the forest. So preference was justifiably given to old money, not to prima donna-rise to pelf. But when old money didn't come fast, then of course the preference had to shift to quick money. Money after all was money. You can't ignore Laxmi, can you?
     The girls in such middle class well-to-do situations definitely began to go to college in recent years, for parents thought the boys wanted college-going girls, on top of everything else, to run the household, and, in some cases, to earn an extra buck as office clerks or school teachers, while the boy thought he would display his college-passed possession for everyone's envy. Illiteracy and even high school education had become outdated to be an aspiring, competitive commodity in the marriage market. However, the education of most of the village girls, more or less both in the hills and the plains, remained blissfully limited to counting the numbers and recognizing the alphabet. What need for a girl's education? You need education to wash pots, cook food, and change the diaper? So what applied to men during the Rana regime applied to women now.
     Like men in any time and place, some of these boys were shrewd fortune hunters, too. The fortune they hunted for was
"source and force," most readily understandable Nepalized terms of the otherwise cow-eating language, because what it meant could be directly convertible into cash, like a delayed bankdraft, late but cashworthy. Now these boys, making marriage their career- opportunity, violated an age-old wisdom that said, "Chchori dinu aafoo maathi, buhari lyaaunu aafoo muni." (Better to give daughters to your superior; safe to bring a bride from one ladder lower). This advice was followed very often, not only to impose the age-old rule over the daughter-in-law, but to make sure that the daughter also remained under servility. But some of the fortune-hunters violated this traditional rule and eventually became, at best, a sort of "gharjoin" (eternal guest at the in- laws), at worst "joitingre," hen-packed husbands, butt of ridicule among the mainstream, who loved to rule over young women.
     In the case of the hilly Hindus, the marriageable girl had to wait for a suitable boy's musical knock at her father's door. If more than one knocked, the parents would feel proud of her and brag about it, not without reason. They could make a choice, and the girl felt tickled and vain of her beauty and her family's standing. And when nobody knocked for a long time, blame fell on her heavy shoulders. She is ugly; she doesn't have this; she doesn't have that. And in the case of those who had neither renowned family (that also most often meant wealth and power) nor blinding beauty, the poor unmarried girl felt lost, most despicable, for she had no other quality to attract grooms. Nor resources to live a dignified life.
     Among the Hindus of much of the so-called Hindi heartland in India and those in the Nepali plains, the business of marriage worked, and still does, slightly differently. In this case, the boy does not take the initiative. Once they see moustache sprouting on their son's undernose and their kitchen in need of a youthful cook, the parents do not borrow eyes and ears to scout suitable young females of impeccable thirty-two virtues as well as of noble birth and prestigious clan. In this case, the boys parents among middle class Hindus, after investing their money in the fixed deposit of their son's education, wait like a cat in ambush for a big fat mouse with a bulky purse. Here, the boy's worth is counted in terms of how many representatives from how many prospective girls' families come to ask for the boy's hand and how much money they offer. It's like auction, folks--auction of a livestock, or furniture, or anything. Bidding begins, and the highest bidder wins the prize-bull, only to turn him into a load-pulling bullock, castrated and sensible. Other criteria of marriage--caste, family name, and other variables--remain the same, but money clinches the matter. In the case of these Indian and Terai marriages, this price for the groom's head is honorably called dowry. Although illegal in India, it exchanges hands anyway. Even the law makers and the law enforcers chomp their paan and grin, extending their empty purse, "An elephant has two sorts of teeth: one to show off, the other to eat. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
     The groom in almost all cases, unlike most Nepali arranged marriages, does not even get to see the girl's face before sleeping with her. It's not that the girl remains unseen. No, she is seen accompanied by all the suitable rituals and paraphernalia, including sweets. But the eyes are different from those of the groom. They are borrowed, fat-layered; those eyes don't see; they only smell--only money. Most often the boy's parents see the girl when the whole thing is a done deal and on condition that they will not refuse marriage. So seeing or not seeing the girl doesn't count in the last analysis. Eyes are here only to smell, not see. In cases where the girl's father is not rich because he does not possess enough land or he is not an embezzling official, the girl and her mother intensify their prayer to Lord Shiva's consort to send a suitable boy marriage. The girl's parents suddenly transform their money-grabbing hearts into an idealistic one and look for boys who have high ideals, who can defy their parents' greed for the sake of the noble deed of doing good to the poor girl by marrying her. But the days of Gandhi are gone, and with them went the courage of most Indian young men in this respect. Ideals, spirituality, and philosophy only in speech and while talking to the foreigners, folks! Carry on! Carry on!
     I spent ten years, off and on, studying and traveling in India in the seventies and eighties, and during my stay there I would lie if I said I found a single soul who could vow to forsake money and defy his parents for idealism and marry a girl at the expense of displeasing his parents and society. Parents would suffer strokes, if that happened; parents are parents, after all. You worship them; you don't cause heart attacks, do you? You can not disobey them, can you? Be a good boy, at times a naughty boy, but don't disobey. Marry for cash. Idealism has come down to this pass, folks. Most Indian young men, no matter what their degree in--engineering, medical science; no matter what their position--the highly prestigious Indian civil services occupied by highly belabored, information-crammed young men, PhD professors--remain dowry seeking boys. They take dowry, they assert, only to pay for what their parents have invested for their education. Some even argue that dowry maintains a social stability, bringing folks of the same economic status, makes marriage more durable, makes it sealed in heaven. What about those who never go to school? They take dowry anyway, to maintain social stability, to make marriages durable.
     At times I wonder if these information-crammed, rote-heads ever become men, capable of facing life and the world with judgment and perspective. Those shy, purdah-loving women become pot-washing, male-child bearing chattels and the men become wage- earning slaves. The mission of their lives becomes making compromises and satisfying the family, the clan, and the caste to perpetuate the cycle of similar births and similar marriages. All their energies, all their extrapower, all their enthusiasm they spent in populating the earth. An important function, of course. The woman sacrifices all her ambitions, and because she has been made dependent from childhood, she easily submits herself to her husband's wishes and to her in-laws' dictates. Submission alone, however, is not enough, for it very often does not mean money or fair skin or the birth of male children or some other gain.
     This is arranged marriage in both India and Nepal, and this kind of marriage, with the consent of the family and caste accompanied by the ritual of fire, is graded as the highest in the Manusmriti and the present society. It is called Brahma Bibah, marriage around the ritual of fire, sanctioned by the four-headed Brahma, the progenitor of the universe. In fact, there are eight kinds of marriages described in Manu's code of law. The worst is demon marriage; the best is marriage around fire. All other marriages come in-between. Except for Brahma marriages, which are arranged marriages, other kinds of marriages hardly take place in the Indian heartland without dire consequences. The case of Nepal is different. The presence of strong tribal cultures and their practice of different kinds of marriages has functioned as a catalyst in the way some Nepalis actually behave in marriage practices.
     So what is an arranged marriage, then? How does it look? Let me attempt an answer. In an arranged marriage, the parties most at risk, bearing its consequences the most, participate the least. Marriage becomes a matter of ritual, a means to serve the caste, the joint family, and a convenient arrangement to run the household and populate the earth. Noble functions all these, no doubt. But more remarkable than any of these is how the groom and the bride are judged, their suitability determined, and their worth measured.
     The amount of money received as dowry becomes a matter of social pride and life's achievement. By taking hefty dowry, the groom's father wants to get back his investment in his son's education, if the son is educated, and to show off his caste men and society how preciously he fathered his son. But in order to accumulate enough dowry for his daughter, many fathers save money by not sending their daughters to school and college. Once she is married, her husband will take care of her education, they say, will take care of her ignorance.
     Now what is the value of a young female in the marriage market? Let me use my favorite expression. She is reduced to her meat, to her skin, to her eyes, to her hair, to her money, to her father's prestige. Where is the human being we make so much fuss about? A Hindu marries money, caste, family, clan, eyes, skin, hair, a mule, the potter's oven of a womb to bake male scions, anything but a human being. But where is the human being one is supposed to treat as partner, as mate, as spouse, as someone with a soul and a mind? Or soul and mind don't matter if they belong to someone else, particularly to a woman?
     An arranged marriage gives you everything, but where is the human being? Otherwise, if you marry a woman just by looking at her, either yourself or through somebody, then what is she if not the skin, the bodily bulges or lack thereof, the body itself? Who cares for the soul, the mind, the whole human being? Abstractions all! As for the bride, marriage is her blind fate. Only Shiva's consort can bring her a good husband. It's not for nothing that a woman laments in a song in Vidyapati, the fourteenth century Maithili poet, "Which penance did I miss in my last birth that I was put in a Hindu woman's body? I'm a young woman, but, alas! my husband is a child." And children many Hindu men remain--naughty, tantrum-filled, but eventually obedient sons of obedient parents.
     On the other hand, a Hindu girl marries her husband's job, his last name, the red dust in her hair, consoles herself,
"Lekheko hoonchcha, dekheko hundain." She can't even think of marrying this lofty animal, HUMAN BEING. She couldn't even recognize him if he showed up without announcing his caste, his clan, his job. She would look up to her parents, and they would say, "But we don't know his caste, his clan, his money! He is nothing!" Some daredevils would venture a reply, "But he is a human being, father or mother!" " But what is a human being? We haven't grayed our hair in the sun, my daughter. A human being is what if not his caste, his color, his clan, his money, my dear? A human being without these components is a misnomer. And don't you try to be one yourself; your in-laws won't like it." And she would understand, for she has been taught what the word husband means as opposed to a mere human being. What is that strange beast called human being? The creation of a poet's fancy? Or a madman's raving? So hail Money! Hail Caste! Hail Clan! Hail Meat! Hail Skin! Hail Hypocrisy! Down with this friend called human being!

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