Fuel Shortage In Kathmandu: Mobility is Survival

Mobility is survival. It wasn’t taught to me, I learnt it by moving. As life in Kathmandu has been crippled with the shortage of fuel (gas, diesel, petrol etc) I realized how important traveling was to everyone. Moving to survive (whether for work or education or entertainment) is one thing but surviving inside the moving vehicle an entirely different story. To start with, the streets are tending to “emptiness” and the vehicles are tending to “explosion”.

microbus

Microbus heading to Bhaktapur, at Jadibuti, the 4-5 people who can be seen standing were all hanging on the vehicle

Yesterday I got on a micro-bus to go to Bhatbhateni. I was standing. My body was facing one direction, while my body in the other. As my bag kept slipping off my shoulders I silently prayed that the girl on the “seat” would hold it for me. She did not. I asked myself “Where is the minimum level of humanity in the Month of Love?” I kneeled down on the floor of the micro and as I arose from “my seat” the man beside said ” I thought there Was A Seat!” I payed the fare and left. Yes, I shouldn’t have got on the vehicle, you can argue. But there is no Choice these days as the next vehicle may never come.

Back to mobility is survival. There are a few tangible barriers to That Survival. Namely age, sex, height and weight. I think I benefit from all those (though being a female can sometimes be a hindrance). If I were 16-19 years I could have been different. I could be ANGRY, real ANGRY, depressed, hit the bottom, frustrated and yes, plan to go abroad maybe (thankfully such thoughts haven’t crossed my mind till date). But at 22 I am not angry. I am silent; sometimes I think it is only the Silence before the Storm. For now, the storm is yet to come. I’m used to everything and I have acquired the Prevalent, Inherent Trait of the Nepalese Poor (by WB definition and other economic terms). The Nepalese are Poor, But they Always Smile!! Yeah, I smile. Though there’s a varying degree to that “smile ness” of mine. So, I just smile feebly when the conductor in old bus park shows me the way to the hood of the bus, to go home.

A Fuel Joke

A school friend called me yesterday evening and the guff turned to fuel crisis. She said, ” Can’t trust any one these days. These women here ( at workplace) complain of fuel, then call someone on the phone and a bike lands in our office premises. They get on and zoom off. के गनु आफू ट्याङकीमा बस्नु भएन! (I can’t sit on the Fuel tank!). I was thinking about having a Truck-driver for boyfriend, or Safa-tempo driver but we don’t have diesel or gas either!!

And I was just checking my email and came across an invitation to a program. The date says 1pm today, but am home. Venue: Lainchor. I was glad I came across the mail too late for any action and thought:” त्यहाँ पुगेको भए, म चाहिँ कसका बाउको ट्याङकीमा बसेर घर फर्कनु नि??” hahaha 😉

I am not “Tall” and not “Obese”. But I can reach the iron handle in the buses and still make my presence in the public vehicles. I can find spaces to fit myself in buses crammed with human bodies. It’s hard for the old and the young ones (small kids)…Well, for now the Young are favored to Survive in the buses heading for the ultimate Big Bang Explosion. Worry not, oldies this too shall pass and you’ll SURVIVE.

Last night I had a dream. I was in a public bus and a woman turned back and asked a question about “Non-renewable energy”. I forgot the exact question but the essence was whether this dependency on it could continue for long. I explained to her about the Petroleum Age, as Schumacher states (ditto the things our RD Professor had told us!!). I dream News these days though I have long stopped watching or listening to them. I read of them if newspapers lie in front of my eyes only. Well, why should I read, hear and watch something I am already living??? Who has time for repeat broadcasts???? Who knows it better than me?

wait

A girl waiting for a vehicle ( that may come but will be about to burst!) and the line of vehicles on the other side of the road waiting for the Petrol Pump to Open in Jadibuti

On the day after the government decision to raise the prices of the fuel (the decision has been taken back now) there was a Banda in the valley. In fact we didn’t know of it till the classes were over. Despite that I hoped to get a vehicle from Bagbazar as there were some vehicles (who left home without knowing of the Banda) on the road. I reached Putalisadak. The street lights weren’t working. I was crossing the road from the zebra-crossing, was almost on the other side when a motorbike came from my left so, I let it pass (though the Rider should have done that!). A bicycle hit me from the right side. I was standing so it hit both my legs. It hurt so much that, tears welled up in my eyes in pain and went back at the same time. I didn’t even mutter an “Ouch” (which I usually do), only said “Oh!”(I wonder why), didn’t even turn to look at the “hitter” but limped to the other side. What could I have done? Organize another Banda (that’s what happens due to any Road Accident here), to the people who were walking? Slap? I don’t know. Sometimes, Silence Is Survival. And the silent walkers on the street, forced to do so, make me think they know it too. Nothing happens when you speak out too. Look, we went through 19 days of April Movement, took to the streets, spoke, yelled, debated, protested. Where are we now? It’s a New Day so a New Nepal each day. Same-same but different. The worst thing that’s happened now is the belief in Mass Protest is gone too.

pushpanjali

“Sathi-Bhai” running in Pushpanjali Hall in Jadibuti perhaps with a hope “And This Shall Pass Too” while the vehicles wait on the road for fuel

I don’t own a bicycle, nor a bike, cars are a distant dream, and don’t earn enough to spend on taxi rides either. I walk on the road and walk with good thoughts like, this is healthy living. This could be indeed a way to be “Free from Dependency” on something we cannot afford. It applies to both the Nepal Oil Corporation and “Oil” uses itself. Okay, this lack of fuel is mainly due to Terai Bandha. But who will address the problem of NOC corruption? Now, even NOC has come down on its knees and admitted it can no longer manage supply? Why do we think in such narrow terms? Why can’t we thing out of the box?

Let’s have a bicycle revolution in the valley. (If most did, I would too get one or just feel safer walking too, maybe!!) After all the years of beating about the bush on the issue I have learnt that Modernization is all about increasing efficiency. (Thanks to RD sir) .If fuels results in all that cripples life, why not be innovative? Why not promote electric vehicles (and all those who can afford them why don’t you buy them?). I know we have 8 hours load shedding. But ask yourself if you Never Wasted Energy when you had it too? How many hours you spent on chatting in your office? Or leaving the bathroom lights on? And isn’t there anyone in this country in the field of Energy Use who has been driven to Innovate a new technology? It’s sad (well, worse than sad actually pathetic) that the CAAN did not allow the test flight of a light air-craft built by the IOE (Institute of Engineering) students for the first time in Nepal. It’s killing that desire to innovate; it’s like striking an axe on your own leg! It’s Insane! I am outraged!

tshir

For now, life as a commuter has one slogan: It’s full of adventure like this one of my favorite T-shirts 🙂

I’m not an expert but it shocks me what narrow view everyone has of the thing called development. Such cheap, shameful imitations limited to westernization, writing a proposal to bring in foreign aid and being happy to do so, thinking any word , any act anyone with a “Blonde” hair or it Nepali terms “Khaire” does is THE THING TO DO, THE THING TO KNOW. Anything NOT” Ours” is “Good”. (Tradition, language, dress and the endless list!) Didn’t Nepal exist before the “Foreigners” came here? Didn’t our ancestors eat, live, SURVIVE and DEVELOP before them?? It has always been of my greatest interest to know how we lived before the “Foreign Invasion” in Nepal. Was perpetual hunger our trait? (Then I wonder if my any ancestors ever “existed” in the first place) They should have all been dead before reaching puberty!! Well, as they should have been malnourished and blah..blaha…blah..Did all Kings eat every grain in the “kingdoms” then??

And on a FUEL LEVEL How does the UN vehicles run empty on the roads when We Nepalese (though Nepalese work in the UN too) ride on buses those are on the verge of explosion? I know that giving lift to the walker is beyond the “Protocol” of the UN though it loves to get involved in everything, everywhere around the globe!!! A friend was telling me how the vehicle line for petrol in front of the Naxal police headquarters extended till Nagpokhari. Just then a UN vehicle came out from within the premises of the Police Headquarters!

There goes our sovereignty, there goes our bravery and there goes our “Swabhiman” down the drain. I wonder what Mr. Bhakti Thapa would think of it. The old man, who fought to save THIS country, I don’t know why, I just wonder what HE in particular would think of it! God knows why, hmm I think I know too because there’s no “Swabhiman” left in any “Nepali” these days…We’re sold as We think that’s development!!!

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8 comments

  1. although article is very long………..it’s interesting…….it’s a problem for all…….. dont pray anything……….just pray for fuellllllll

  2. … I just wish for an ounce of oil
    I just wish for glimpse of light
    I just wish for the foul out of sight
    And I wish for dreams of flight!…

    Just when the time has come we thought,It began end up in all the turmoils and then same old faces appointing their heirs and starting a new monarchy!
    Ah well, I am myself running away for complaining about these things; but I just wish, I can make a difference: someday, someday soon!! 🙂
    P.S.- How have you been dear friend?? Long time eh!! I thought both of us vanished!! 😉 😛
    Hope all is well!! 😀

  3. Man….if words were fuel, there would be enough for the whole country from you this one entry hehe…yaar couldnt read all, but yeah the last part…how the **** is the united states embassy having lights in every other marble stone every night…when the nation on whose land they are on is shrouded in darkness??? dowm with the petroleum revolution!!

  4. hey
    good article ……….

    i just wanna know are the ministers of our country really enjoying the crisis going on our country ………

  5. Hi,
    I happened to find your blog by accident, and I just wanted to mention that I found it very interesting.
    I am a foreign tourist in Kathmandu at the moment, but my friends and I have bought our own vehicle into Nepal. It is humbling to face the same frustrations that the Nepalese have, as we struggled to find enough diesel to drive our vehicle out of Nepal. We are lucky enough to be able to pay black-market rates, but my heart feels for the Nepalese who are not in such a position. I hope that when I return (hopefully soon) these dark days will have passed.

    Take care.

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