I started work on the first draft on November the first and reached 75,038 words and an ending just now as I taxi at the end of the runway. Done. I am clear about what needs to be achieved in the second draft and have a clear sense of how I need to deal with the technical issues. The advice would be to stand back at this point, and I would normally. But I want to catch certain intircate things before I forget them! Then I will let it rest, have it read, and take it from there.
MB was driving me back through central Kathmandu this morning. I had just given a lecture on communications to a bright group of first year business students. Kathmandu is back with a vengeance, dusty roads, tangles of telephone cables, traffic slow moving and often jammed. The chaos of a city returning to work. It is the dry, cold season and the pollution is starting to build, dust everywhere, street dogs and litter all over the place, horns honking. I happened to look up at a nondescript building and I experienced a momentary sense of wonder. Amongst all the confusion I realized with force that we only come this way once and how privileged I am simply to be alive. Out of the contrast and juxtapositions of living in this place rises a sense of being and the infinitely precious, tenuous nature of existence. From the squalor and chaos it rose into my consciousness like a clear, unpolluted stream. Such experiences remain for me one of the great mysteries and paradoxes of living here.
It would take a brave person to predict the outcome of the next few days and weeks. Counting of the votes continues with the Proportional Representation votes still to be started on. The party that is losing control, the CPN-Maoists, are rumored to be pulling all their candidates and planning a new series of bandhs. They are complaining about the election, that it was rigged, unfair, etc. It’s rather like a football team finding themselves in a position of being relegated from the Premier Division and turning round and saying the referees were biased, that the pitches were the wrong size, the weather was unfair. Much stamping of tiny authoritarian feet.
Otherwise all is starting to return to normal after a couple of weeks of disruption. Streets are busier. This is a small country with a fragile democracy, feeling its way through. It is impossible not to feel proud of the voters that opted to shake off the politics of fear, violence and coercion in what seems at the moment to be such overwhelming numbers. How it will all pan out is not certain. I cannot imagine that either the government or the people will be prepared to tolerate an endless series of bandhs, especially after the electorate has spoken so clearly. We take voting and democracy pretty much for granted in the west. It’s a privilege to be a witness of its transforming nature here. It is a huge threat to anti-poll and anti-democratic forces. As Churchill said in The House of Commons on November 11th 1947: Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. As true then as it is today.
…with the exception of an IED that went off somewhere near us last night – probably a controlled explosion, today has been very, very, quiet. All transport banned from the streets. Have just come back from a walk round our neighbourhood and went by the polling station at the Blue Horizon Academy down the road which was heavily guarded throughout the day. Polls close at 5. By four o’clock the media were reporting a 75% turnout in Kathmandu, so the attempt to impose a bandh and shut the process down failed – as it did largely over the last ten days. I get the feeling people have had enough of that intimidation and being deprived of their livelihoods. What happens now, and what the make -up of the assembly will be, who knows? But for now, from the very limited experience I have personally and from the media who are reporting sporadic acts of violence around the country, it looks pretty good. Nepalese friends seem delighted at the high voter turnout in KTM. Now, this assembly has to draw up a constitution and political make-up of the country which is where it floundered last time. Maybe, depending who gets in it will happen this time round. If the pols. screw it up this time it cannot be good for Nepal. The best thing about today, apart from the brilliant turnout? Not a single solitary motorbike tearing down our narrow little lane. I wish there was a way to make these reckless idiots accountable
50,000 words and counting Achieved my goal of 50,000 words during November just now. Going to carry on until the end of the month/end of this draft. Definitely worth continuing. Will read through what I have again and again and resist making nuts and bolts changes and carry on working.
All is quiet ahead of the election tomorrow. Had two has walks yesterday and Saturday. Took Tikki yesterday. She was exhausted but had a lovely time! Beautiful walks in the south of Kathmandu with members of the Dhaka Hash. Exceptionally clear weather in the afternoons, we could see the Himalayas from Lantang all the way down to Annapurna Massif. Stunning. Kathmandu in her smoky bowl, the deep green bump of Shivapuri then behind, grey and most of all white, the Himalayas. Massive all consuming. Scale became meaningless.
Onwards and upwards.
Fingers crossed for Nepal tomorrow.
It is quiet in our corner of the city today. The lane outside our house, usually busy with life of all kinds, hawkers calling, motorbikes and cars passing, people talking and an occasional cow mooing is quiet. It is mood quite unlike yesterday when tuk-tuks, taxis and some buses were plying their trade and shops were starting to reopen. Today the Bandh seems to be holding, There have been instances of IED’s being discovered, crude and homemade, and petrol bombs being hurled at buses with some success. Unpredictable, random but not so far an epidemic, especially here within the ring road. I take advice from the RMO (Risk Management Office) and am keeping my head down. Yesterday I was out and about a bit, but today I have taken advantage of the relative calm and am enjoying not having any distractions at all – no shopping and other business to attend to. Just a walk up to the office later to get the CoP. The violent intimidation by those who want the election cancelled seems to a bit more effective today. It’s a battle of attrition. I hope more than anything that people vote and there is not too much violence and trouble on polling day – Tuesday and that the elections go ahead. From my limited circle of friends I would say people are heartily sick of it, want to vote, get the election over and carry on living. After ten years of a (an arguably futile and certainly destructive) civil war, thousands dead and the fabric of society turned inside out there is no real taste for the techniques being employed by the anti-election forces. I hope that peoples resolve holds and the lid stays on.
The argument of the CPN-Maoists is that it is undemocratic for the government to suppress opposition and that they should be allowed to stop people voting and get the election cancelled because the election is not being held in the way and at a time they would like. Usually fuzzy, warm left of centre, over this I think the government is doing the right thing and sections of society, like businessmen and taxi drivers who are standing up for themselves and their right to make a living are being very brave. Let alone the suffering inflicted on those who work on hourly wages, get paid and eat once a day and find no support in what is ostensibly a party arguing for the rights of the people and wanting their support. Interesting times indeed.