Communist Alliance: “A Game of Probabilities”

Really?

The question I asked last week while the alliance was declared. I was shocked. I mean, how could a party that is in the government (CPN Maoist Centre) decide to work together with the party that is a staunch opposition of the government (CPN-UML)? But Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) said:

“Politics is a game of probabilities to a huge extent.”

As far as I understand Nepali politics, the probability of Maoist Centre and UML coming together was extremely low. Not long ago, Mr Prachanda had broken an alliance with Mr KP Sharma Oli, almost filed an impeachment and Mr Oli gave a resignation from the PM. Not only did the Maoist Centre break the coalition, they went ahead and supported Mr Deuba.

We got another former PM Dr Baburam Bhattarai in this alliance. He had broken up with the Maoists, because of his bitter experiences with Mr Prachanda but he’s back joining hands with him.

What was going on? I thin

1.Polarization: Polarization has often been termed as negative but we always expected fewer political parties, didn’t we? This election-time polarization is most probably a step into that stability we wanted. However, this is not a complete polarization. Maoists did not leave the government to make this alliance. If this was a complete polarization based on political ideologies, I think we would be alarmed.

2. Selfish interests: The political leaders and parties of Nepal do everything for the “sake of the nation and the people”. Have we progressed though? The “leftists”, while making the alliance, again said that this is an important step in stability. I’m skeptic. Look, this is just an alliance, not unification. The larger probability is that after the elections are conducted and winning a large number of seats, Mr Prachanda, Mr Oli and Dr Bhattarai will play the same old blame-game, break the alliance and we’ll fall into instability again. I believe not many Nepalis will say, “We didn’t see that coming.”

3. Politics between the three major parties: The NC and the UML led government were polar opposites during the blockade we faced. UML (particularly the then PM Mr Oli) blamed it on India completely, went on against even genuine demands of Madhesh. Very few people remember that it was continuity of the stance taken by Late Sushil Koirala while he was the PM. After Mr Koirala’s resignation, NC stated it was not a blockade at all. Mr Deuba rose to power following Mr Koirala’s death. He showed an affection with the Madhesh. It was important in NC’s victory in Province 2. Maoists, showing the behaviour of opportunists, wanted to capitalize on that by making an alliance with NC but it did not bear fruit. Now they make alliance with the party that won the largest number of seats in the local level. I believe it’s the alliance that ensures survival of the Maoists and helps Mr Oli gain a upper hand in politics for at least a couple of years to come.

What could happen?

1.Communists win: While it seems good for us that one of the major political ideology becomes victorious, I’m a bit scared. Why? These Communist parties of Nepal are not the communists that are against democracy and capitalism but they still stick to the term because it lures common people. However, the US, NATO and the EU look upon even the word “Communist” against Democracy. I’m scared that they will try creating instablity if they see “Communists” running the Nepali government.

2. Political Stability at least for some years: The Constitution prohibits impeachment of the PM for the first three years but it does not prohibit breaking of political alliances or coalition and it also does not prevent the PM from resigning. I think this will be again used as a tool for instability. With an alliance of larger parties, it might be more stable but will they stick together for long? I doubt.

Conclusion:

  1. I am dubious that everything will be nice henceforth and there will be a political stability.
  2. I am scared about world-view regarding the “Communist” victory.
  3. I believe this alliance is temporary. If it becomes long-lasting, I would be positively shocked and smile from ear to ear.
  4. And yeah, I didn’t mention it above but this alliance could be a way for the UML to use government resources. Who knows?

[Note: First published as an answer to What’s your view on recent political development in Nepal regarding alliance of leftist party? on Quora]

Advertisements

Beyond Social Sites

Kite flying was a sort of “national sport” during Dashain some years back. The tradition is now almost dying. I don’t even see kites in shops these days.

ChubbyRash

Amidst the chaos and constant rush, I stumbled upon these cute fellows at around koteshowr area trying to fly kite even when the flow of the wind was very subtle. They happened to be playing in groups and constantly pulling each other’s leg. Watching them play actually triggered my memories and took me back to my childhood days and made me realize how we people are forgetting our lives beyond social sites.


I still remember me and my folks gathering up as soon as our Dashain vacation begun. We used to play cards, ‘okkhar’, ‘Langur burja’ and fly kites. Dashain, for us, was a chance to gather up and play for whole day till night, no one would ever tell us anything because we’re on vacation! Back in the days, we would see many kites in the sky which entails dashain vibes. We could easily identify the kite flyer through…

View original post 132 more words

A Ten Hours Tour to Palanchok, Nala, Sanga and Back

Alarm at Quarter to Four in the Morning (3 : 45 a.m.)

The word “alarm” is actually related to a sudden fear, whether it be a feeling or device. What was the fear that the alarm at quarter to four related to? Sleeplessness?Maybe. Loss of sweet dreams? Probably. Coming out of the warm bed? Most certainly!

Anyways, the alarm could not wake me up. I slumped into a sleep again. Mamu and baini had to make me wake up at quarter past four.

The Rush

Within the next fifteen minutes, I was ready for the tour. Mamu gave us tea and biscuits. It is said, “Don’t worship gods and goddesses after you’ve eaten.” It is also said, “If the god within you is weak and unhappy, the god outside cannot help you.”

The biscuits got into the stomach easily but the warm tea killed the taste buds on the tip of my tongue. Before the tea could be finished, Mamu’s phone rang. The reserved vehicle had arrived. The four of us rushed down and reached the means of transportation in no time.

I don’t know what I should call the vehicle. It was larger than a micro-bus but smaller than a mini-bus. Maybe it should be called mini-micro or micro-mini? I don’t know. The seats were much more comfortable than that of either mini- or micro-bus. After all, it was registered for tourists (green number plate). We had become tourists today. Nineteen of us from Pragati Tole, Dhumbarahi went on this religious tour.

Hustle-Bustle at Chabahil

It’s Dashain time. Of course, Kathmandu Valley is going to be empty! Chabahil is one of the busiest chowks (squares) but I had not expected a jam at 5 : 00 in the morning. Not today.

I have been through traffic jam at this before during my exams and it was because of the Melamchi Project. This time, the scenario was different. Hundreds of vehicles were placed obliquely on both sides of the road, affecting the smooth movement. These vehicles were moving to different places out of the valley. It took about fifteen minutes to come out of that traffic jam.

People People Everywhere!

From Chabahil to Jadibuti, we saw people on the roadside waiting for vehicles. These were the people leaving Kathmandu Valley for Dashain. They were going back to their homes from this city of opportunities (opportunists’ city?).

The migration of people from villages to cities is a global trend. Dashain is the most important festival in Nepal and people wish to celebrate it with their families. This inspires millions of people who come to Kathmandu for jobs and education go back to their homes.

The biggest crowds were at Chabahil, Tinkune, Koteshwor and Jadibuti. People at Chabahil, Tinkune and Koteshwor might go both east and west. Those at Jadibuti though, were definitely going east some via the Araniko-BP-Mahendra Highway and some via Araniko Highway.

Miserable Sights

Some of the sights I saw are really depressing. The first among them is the condition of roads. The Chabahil-Gaushala section of the Ring Road of Kathmandu is one the dustiest roads of the entire valley in recent times. Similarly, between Dhulikhel and Panchkhal, Kavre, the road has deteriorated. Reason? Landslide, which does not look natural in most places. There are signs that those weak hills have been scraped by dozers. We’re destroying natural state of mountains without considering the future consequences. How stupid can we be?

The sight of people leaving Kathmandu during Dashain was also sad. It shows how centralized development in Nepal has been, how opportunities are low in other parts of the country and how Kathmandu itself runs. Now that millions of people have left the city, the city life will cease, basic necessities will be difficult to find, the number of public vehicles will decrease, and so on.

When you visit a temple in Nepal, you expect to see a grand temple in Pagoda style. Unfortunately, one of our destinations, the temple of Palanchok Bhagawati does not have roof these days. The same feeling I had while visiting Manakamana two months ago, resurfaced. The reconstruction is slow. To whom and why are we showing our misery? Can’t we reconstruct our heritage’s ourselves? Businessmen around these temples make thousands of rupees daily, donation is collected independently (didn’t see this at Palanchok), development budget worth millions of dollars is frozen every year. And still we say, we are poor. We’re not poor, our mentality is!

IMG_1103
The first view of Palanchok Bhagawati
IMG_1076
A close-up of the present condition
पलाञ्चोक_भगवती_मन्दिर
Palanchok Bhagawati before the earthquake (Source: Punya, Wikipedia)

The fourth thing I must mention is the attitude of people. I find it strange that they speak a blatant lie and say, “How can I like in front of the Goddess?” This was the attitude of people who jumped the queue to get to the front. How can people lie so easily. Don’t they have a shred of guilt? Don’t they feel ashamed with themselves? What are they teaching their kids? They don’t even stop to think even for a second.

Maybe we are so accustomed to such scenes that we don’t look them as problems. But what are we doing and what are we showing to the world? Do we want to show to the world that we are beggars? Don’t we have dignity? Don’t we even  have self-respect? If not, why are we leaving everything at the grace of others? Why do we try justifying our wrong and immoral actions?

Time for some Legends of Palanchok Bhagawati

There are two temples at Palanchok. One of the Palanchok Bhagawati which gives the district half of its name–Kavrepalanchok. The other temple is of Kalika. Legends say that they are sisters. Kalika is the eldest sister, Palanchoki, the middle and the youngest is the Chandeshwori at Banepa.

Kalika was extremely fierce. She wanted too much Bhog because of devoured a lot animals and people. To control her appetite, her head was cut and buried on the ground (probably by Palanchoki or enraged people. A headless idol represents this goddess but her temple too is damaged severely.

During Baishakh Poornima, a huge mela occurs at Palanchok and Banepa. Chandeshwori is taken to Palanchok on a palanquin to meet with her sisters.

Another legend says that Palanchok Bhagawati, Naxal Bhagawati and Shobha Bhagawati, the latter two of which are in Kathmandu, are sisters and Palanchoki is the eldest. They are believed to have been carved by the same sculptor.

Somewhere between Palanchok and Dhulikhel

Although the line at Palanchok Bhagawati was long, we worshipped the goddess in less than an hour. After some grocery shopping, we went Nala Bhagawati at Banepa.
The day had become very hot but we lacked water. We saw a tap on the side of the highway between Palanchok and Dhulikhel. A locked tank that tapped the spring and made the water cool was also installed. The water cooled our heated bodies and even quenched hunger to some extent.

IMG_1104

At Nala Bhagawati

Although the line at Palanchok Bhagawati was long, we worshipped the goddess in less than an hour. After some grocery shopping, we went Nala Bhagawati. This temple was grander, four-storied and looked unaffected by the earthquake. A pleasant sight.

The foundations of Nala Bhagawati was made in the year 1677 Bikram Sambat (B.S.) by the king of Bhaktapur Jagajyoti Malla. Twenty years hence, the first storey was made by Jagat Prakash Malla. The second storey was made in 1699 and the third in 1703. The fourth storey and the golden pinnacle were made by Devanand, a rich man of the Nala area and his sons. The idol of the Goddess is golden and has eighteen hands.

IMG_1111
Nala Bhagawati

At Sanga

This was unexpected. Sanga is the border between Bhaktapur and Kavre districts or in other words Kathmandu Valley and Kavre district. It is a Bhanjyang (saddle) to the east of Kathmandu Valley. Here, on a hillock stands the tallest statue (144 ft. tall) of Lord Shiva in Nepal.

IMG_1120
Kailashnath, Sanga

Back Home

The journey back home was pretty smooth except a jam at Jaya Bageshwori. The usual problems of dust, smoke and traffic jams do not seem to end. At around three o’clock, our religious tour came to an end.

राजकुमारीकी र उनकी आमा

सूर्यले बादललाई सिन्दुर लगाएको त्यो साँझ
राजकुमारीझैँ सझिएकी 

कोमल हातमा गुडिया बोकेकी

एउटी सानी नानीका आँखाले 

आफ्नी आमासँग 

प्रश्नहरू सोध्दै थिए–

“आमा घर जाने बेला भएन ?

कति खेप बोक्न बाँकी छ

ईँटा र बालुवाको भार ?

कति समय लाग्ला बनाउन

हाम्रो पनि यस्तै ठूलो घर ?”

On Scientific Inquisition

We humans have always been guided by two fundamental systems: Faith and Science. Faith implores us to live life as it is and accept what comes in life as the will of God or fate. It has its own pros and cons, which I shall not discuss here. Science, on the other hand, urges us to transcend the boundaries that are created by our surrender to the fate. The advancement in medicine and technology is the result of inquisitive minds who studied the nature and imagined what else they could do with the knowledge they gained. They also disseminated the knowledge they obtained so that it would not be lost with time.

Suppression of knowledge and scientific inquisition in Europe during the Middle Age (5th to15th century) led to numerous wars, widespread famine and submission to fate. During this period in the history of humanity, also known as the Dark Age, several scientific discoveries are said to have lost. Scientists were termed “heretics” by the Church and were executed. The Renaissance Period, of which the Republic of Florence and Leonardo da Vinci are central, gave rise to art and through it, promotion of scientific discoveries, inventions and rediscoveries.

In the ancient Indian sub-continent (most of the times attributed to the Indus Valley Civilization), the Vedas and Upavedas, and later the Upanishads promoted the culture of scientific and logical discourse. Proverb such as Vaade Vaade Jaayate Tatwabodha (वादे वादे जायते तत्वबोध:), i.e. knowledge is gained through debates is alone sufficient to understand the importance of discourses in order to discover the truth of the world. The knowledge however came under the control of few people on the administration for centuries. The lack of effective dissemination of the ancient wisdom has created a lot of problems in the sub-continent.

Scientific discoveries have made things possible that were treated only as imagination in the past. The discovery of sea-routes brought people closer, the invention of aeroplane reduced the time for the journeys between different parts of the world, the invention of telegraph and telephone changed the way messages were shared. On the basic principles of navigation, aerodynamics and telecommunication, the humanity has moved from the Age of Cultivation to Age of Global Communication.

Not just that, humanity has also given up the instant submission to fate. In the Dark Age, Black Plague killed thousands of people in Europe. Venice, because of the lack of burial grounds, suffered the most. Instead of contemplating that the disease was spreading through the canals, they believed they were suffering the wrath of God and their loss was God’s will. In the modern age, humans do not readily submit to Faith when they encounter diseases. They investigate the disease, their causes and work on the vaccines and inoculation.

As students of Geology, a branch of science, we have gained some fundamental knowledge about the Earth and how it works during the four-year B.Sc. programme. We have learnt to observe the rocks and soils, to ask what they are and why they are there. We have familiarized ourselves with the Earth processes and the benefits and the problems they bring. We have studied about natural hazards and some ways to mitigate them. We can strive to learn more and publicize what we know. We can make the world a better place.

There is no doubt that the Earthquake of 2072 B.S. (2015) gave rise to a mass awareness about how that particular earthquake occurred. Some people used to say, with much politicisation, “There are two plates: Indian and Chinese. The Indian plate moves to the North to encroach the Chinese plate. Nepal is in middle. That was why the earthquake occurred.”

While I myself tried to remove politics whenever I could, there is a mass of people who believe the above statement to be true. They are right that Nepal lies in between two plates. But most of them are not aware what “plate” really is and that the Earth’s lithosphere is made of a number of plates. As a student of Geology, I feel that we have a lot to do to make the public aware of what the plates are and how they are formed.

We, ourselves however should be ready to face skepticism. Science is not a belief system. Whenever scientists come across hypotheses and theories, they first question, “Is it true? What are the evidences?” A hypothesis can become a major theory if evidences support it. The theory of Plate Tectonics is a common example. If the evidences from submarine navigation and Paleomagnetic studies had not been available, the theory would still have remained a hypothesis. Similarly, if a new hypothesis can challenge and prove that it is stronger than an existing theory, the existing theory, even if popular, will be discarded.

Many people put a blame upon science for the problems we’ve been facing. Sure, guns and bombs have been developed by science and are being used to inflict terrors. Nuclear weapons have threatened the existence of our dear home itself. The knowledge of making explosives and harnessing nuclear energy was not bad itself. Gunpowder and dynamite were used in construction works, and nuclear energy has become an important source of energy in many nations. That’s why I firmly believe that it’s not science that is faulty. The fault is on our crooked desire of using knowledge that we have.

In short, as a student of science, I appeal to everyone to gain right knowledge from the nature, from each other and from what our ancestors have passed on to us. I urge everyone to deliver the knowledge to the public and to the generations to come. Because only with the right knowledge, we the make the world a better place.

[The above article was intended to be the editorial for GEOWORLD Students’ Magazine, Vol. 8, 2017. It was heavily cut in the magazine for the sake of relevance and space]

“So it goes!”: A take on Slaughterhouse Five

I had never heard about Dresden, I had never heard about Kurt Vonnegut though I think I had heard the book’s name somewhere (I am not so sure) before I watched the Crash Course Literature videos on Slaughterhouse Five. At the end of those two videos, I felt I must read the book.

The first chapter of the book which seems like a preface or the background, is about Vonnegut trying to write a book on Dresden for more than 23 years. He thinks he can do it but cannot pull it up. While still writing the preface, he also adds a case of dialing a wrong number, which we know later on,  had been received by Billy Pilgrim–the main character of the novel. After he meets O’Hare’s wife Mary, he promises that he would not glorify war and call it the Children’s Crusade. Therefore, the Slaughterhouse Five is also known as The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death.

Billy Pilgrim’s Plot (Summary and Analysis)

Billy Prilgrim is a prisoner of war (POW) in Germany but he can time-travel. He can be in the moments of past, present and the future. Vonnegut says, “Billy has come unstuck in time.” The life of Billy Pilgrim is not shown in chronological order. In one moment he is a soldier, in another he is a twelve-year-old boy and quickly, he becomes an old optometrist who lives with his daughter in Ilium. He sees his infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age and even death.

On the day of his daughter’s wedding, he says he had been abducted by the toilet plunger-like aliens known as the Tralfamadorians. Billy says that he had been to the alien planet for years but nobody missed him because the aliens had warped the time in such a way that years would become less than seconds on the earth. The Tralfamadorians are able to see the fourth dimension–time and they can go to the moments again and again. The linear concept of time is absurd to them. On free-will, a Tralfamadorian says:

“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”

–Chapter 4, Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

The Tralfamadorians believe that what has to happen will happen. They cannot change the moments that have happened and will happen. They can see every moment that will occur but they can’t change the bad moments. They look for the good moments and find peace in it.

Billy Pilgrim himself has no free will. When he is twelve, he does not want to swim but his father forces him into the swimming pool. He does not want to come out of the water but it pulled out. He did not imagine marrying Valencia, yet he does. He wanted to die in the war but he survives instead of the characters around him who wanted to survive.

Billy Pilgrim also tries to find moment of happiness and solace but he never finds such an instance. In all the above examples, he is unhappy. Even in the moments he tries to be happy, he is reminded of the war and deaths. As the story progresses, we know that Billy cannot speak about the war to anyone and that has resulted in a mental disorder.

Billy’s mental instability is the result of the losses of his mother, his wife, his father-in-law and most of all, his experience during the war in Germany and in addition to that the fictions of Kilgore Trout. Despite his psychological imbalance, he is saner than the people who thought that bombings on Dresden were justified. Dresden was not a strategic point for warfare, there were no industries that produced weapons and hence, there was no logic behind the attack. Thousands of lives were lost for the show of unnecessary pride.

“So it goes”

This is a repetitive phrase throughout the novel. According to Nick Greene (2014), the phrase is repeated 106 times. Whenever death and destruction are mentioned, the phrase comes up. It is in accordance with the Tralfamadorian concept of time, life and death. The death is inevitable but there is nothing to worry about it. In other moments a dead person would always be alive.

I found this “Tralfamadorian” concept similar to the Bhagavad Geeta where Lord Krishna says to Arjun that there is no need to worry for someone’s death. The death is pre-determined. It’s not in the hands of humans to change it. And there is no need for regretting that.

Billy Pilgrim, too tries to take things as his fate and accepts that he had no power to change them. But it’s too difficult to get out of the trauma he feels. “So it goes”, might give him solace for a while but it is not a statement he wants to follow. It’s been dictated upon him by fate.

Some Memorable Quotes:

“Billy had a framed prayer on his office wall which expressed his method for keeping going, even though he was unenthusiastic about living. A lot of patients who saw the prayer on Billy’s wall told him that it helped them to keep going, too. It went like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference.” Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.”

–Chapter 3, Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

“Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does. I learned that on Tralfamadore.”

–Billy Pilgrim

“It was peaceful in the ruins.”

“American fighter planes came in under the smoke to see if anything was moving down there. They saw Billy [who was also an American] and the rest moving down there. The planes sprayed them with machine-gun bullets, but the bullets missed.”

“The blind innkeeper said that the Americans could sleep in his stable that night, and he gave them soup and ersatz coffee and a little beer.

“Good night, Americans,” he said in German. “Sleep well.””

[Americans had destroyed Dresden only two days ago. These lines brought tears to my eyes.]

 

References:

SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on Slaughterhouse-Five. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/slaughter/

Greene, N. (2014). 15 Facts About Slaughterhouse-Five. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://mentalfloss.com/article/58888/15-things-you-may-not-know-about-slaughterhouse-five/

Global Village

“We’ll create a Global Village,” they said.

And they laid

The basic foundations

To connect people

From different Nations.

***

The Global Village to people is dear;

It’s brought them near

And they understand

The world better than ever.

***

Is the world getting better, though,

I wanna know

When we are closed

In the closeness

Of this virtual world?

Are we going farther away

From our families?

From our friends?

From our neighbors?

From our society?

***

How do we balance between the world’s

Real and Virtual?

How do we carry on

Ourselves without

Being enthralled by stuffs

That are not quite real?