Saturday, March 14, 2009

From Kathmandu with Revolutionary Love (and a lal Salam?)

The last two weeks has been a mind boggling tsunami of meet ups, sight seeings, discussions, bureaucracy, interviews and reading. I have been flat out, and its hard to find the time to put everything up here that I would like to.

I'll start with a highlight of the trip so far. Nepal for a country that is among the worlds poorest has some really impressive architecture within Kathmandu. The Durbar Square was the historical palace, with temples and shrines dating back centuraries and a craftmanship that would outdo carvers and builders just about anywhere. Also there is the Singha Durba, which was once among the biggest buildings in South Asia, was built by one of the Rana Prime ministers. It is an enormous structure, built mainly on the basis of western influences. It is obvious and apparent that when an entire nations budget is the personal plaything of a family and a monarch, truly amazing feats of architecture can be achived (at the expense of the welbing of millions of people).

I think the most obvious of these momentous buildings is the Narayanhiti Palace, which until just a few months ago was the private dwellings of the Shah Monarchy. This is an enormous complex that looks out over the city and symbolically dominates the surrounding area. The king has now been disposed, and the palace has from a couple of months ago been open to the public, as a mueseum and a national treasure.

These days almost as striking as the palace itself is the enormous line of people out the front waiting to get their cahnce to go in, and to see the lifestyles of their previous rulers. This line, litterally a couple of hundred meters long is there from the time it opens in the morning to shortly before it closes at night. And this is some time after the Palace opened. The People of Nepal are now flocking to see what is now THEIRS, and to personally reclaim the treasures of their nation, on the site where they were previously forbidden to even walk along the footpath outh the front.

I walked alng the line and talked to the people who were lining up. I cannot really describe the excitment that people had to see the palace for the first time. The feeling was enhanced by a sense of achievement. The people had earned this. The King was only overthrown after the People's War led by the United Communist Party Nepal (Maoists) and the Janaandolan (Peoples Movement) led by the Maoists and other parties, that raged for 19 days before peoples power was finally able to dislodge the monarchy and send it into the dustbin of history.

And i cannot give justice with words to the luxury that was to be found inside the palace. It may suffice to say that no expense was spared. It is truly an enormous complex, that is filled with riches that i had never seen. I would think I would be correct in saying that even Australia does not have a private residence that can rival the Narayanhiti Palace. All this and I only saw half the palace, as the rest is not yet open to the public.

As the people- from all walks of life- walked through the palace there was three distinct emotions that I got from the crowd.

Firstly, amazement. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, the average person lives on less than a dollar a day, yet here the people were coming into contact with wealth that they litterally would not have dreamed possible-especially in Nepal, and even more so considering that a 10 or 15 minute walk from the palace doors there are people living with absolutley nothing. The reality of the palace and the lives of the Royals was overshadowing even the wildest of rumours on the streets.

Secondly, disgust. Once people got over the "wealth-shock" the air was less amazement and more anger. THIS is how THEY lived?!?! And all of this was on the backs of the hard working people of Nepal! The royals enjoyed this livestyle, carefree and open, while most popel in the country cant even read!

But the thrid and i think the biggest emotion in the people going through the palace was a real sense of pride and achivement. After 240 odd years of the Royals- now all of this was theirs! And it was directly on the basis of their struggle and sacrifice that they were able to finally overcome the monarchy. This was very clear in the people's minds who i talked too. Everyone I talked too had played some role in the Peoples Movement. Also was that despite the abject poverty that people were familiar with, it was refreshing for them to se that, despite the reality for most, Nepal DOES have a wealth, and if its resources and potential are focussed on the best interests of the many, rather than the private pockets of the few, then anything truly is possible.

And so the people i talked to here, and elsewhere, are optimistic. People are committed too and have high hopes for the "New Nepal". While it isn't certain exactly what that is yet, if the masses who have fought and sometimes died about have anything to say about it, "New Nepal" will be something radically different to anything this tiny himalayan nation has ever seen before.

So as i have said I have been busy. Yesterday I interviewed someone from the Blue Diamond Society, which is a LGBT rights group here, and i ave also met the Vice Chairwoman of the Constituent Assembly Purna Kumari Subedi, who was the one time head of the All Nepal Womens Organisation (Revolutionary) aslo. There is much more to come- Watch this space!


rachel evans said...

Hey Ben - great blog. Look forward to the interview with the gay group. We may be able to get it reprinted in the queer press in Ausland, if you would oblige?

I'm almost 100% certain we could...let me know...

In struggle,
And - victory for El Salvador!
Rachel Evans

Mr Acharya said...

Hi ben Nice to read your post. Really you understand Nepal and Nepali people, having resource Nepali are poor. We are rule by autocracy rana later shah and political instability ....Let’s hope new new Nepal can be seen by our generation