Submitted by Ben Ayers on Sat, 2010-02-27 12:47.
Since the beginning of time, it seems, one of the main forms of political protest in Nepal has been the general strike or, in Nepali, the bandh. These bandhs occur with varying frequency depending upon the immediate political atmosphere, but tend to average around one per month. During times of turmoil this number grows significantly, often reaching one each week or more. The concept of a bandh is simple - any political group with a significant grievance or, more importantly, a significant number of young cadres with banners and torches demand the closure of all businesses and the halting of all vehicle traffic across the country. Anyone who disobeys the bandh risks having their business stoned or their vehicles burned by roving gangs of protesters.
Oh, the dark politics of aggravation.
As with so many things here, everyone just learns to deal with it. We shoulder the inconvenience and walk to work. I take the back alleys on my motorcycle, dart across the main squares where the protesters tend to congregate, enjoy the relatively pollution-free air and the city that transforms into some ghost town slowly crawling back to life.
This past Monday was a bandh called by one of the political parties in response to the significant delays in the drafting of the new constitution. It was focused only on the Kathmandu valley, but was surprisingly strict. All of our Kathmandu-based staff deliberately live within walking distance of the office, so the strikes don’t bother us too much. However, for our three field staff who have come to the city for a week of training and office work, the bandh makes getting to and from the office impossible.
So, we deal with it. Our field staff - Gyan, Jitna, and PT all piled themselves into our reserve of EcoPro 30° sleeping bags, pushed back the rolling chairs and meeting tables, and spent a few nights at the office.
One of the best parts of living in Kathmandu is the element of adventure and the ready opportunity to use one’s sleeping bag or to walk for a few hours. It reminds me aware that life is always an adventure, regardless of how comfortable we make ourselves. Which our staff did in great form -- as I came into the office on Monday morning, I found them fast asleep.