Submitted by Ben Ayers on Tue, 2010-05-04 07:48.
Nepal has fallen victim of yet another nationwide strike called by the Maoists in their attempts to gain political control of the government. This strike has been called indefinitely and the Maoists claim to use all of their cadres (100,000 strong in Kathmandu alone) to enforce the complete blockade of all businesses, transportation, and government services until their political demands are met. Today, even people riding bicycles were sent home by angry Maoists armed with sticks and slingshots posted at nearly every intersection in the city.
I’m tempted to wax political here, to launch into a deep rant about the futility of politics based upon disruption and the irrational quest for power, but that is neither my place nor my interest at the moment. My focus is pushed, rather, to this afternoon, our Nepal Director, and her husband.
Ang Chokpa married her husband Pradeep six years ago, and just over a year ago their first son Louis Dawa was born. Pradeep is a civil engineer and he has recently taken a relatively well-paying job working for an American contractor in Afghanistan. He was back in Kathmandu on a few weeks’ leave to see his family, and was scheduled to fly out this evening for another six-month stint in Afghanistan. But, given the strike, he was forced to walk two hours through the empty city to reach the airport and catch his flight.
The afternoon was grey as a gunboat as Pradeep said goodbye to Louis and walked out, with his suitcases and an umbrella, into the rain. Chokpa walked beside him and their son wailed for his father as the pre-monsoon shower turned the dirt alley into mud.
This image is burned into my mind today. It broke my heart and left me standing speechless in the dooryard. It was as if all that this country has yet to overcome had drenched me to the bone. The empty city populated with children with sticks and slingshots, young men with their suitcases and umbrellas, shuttered businesses and an economy in ruins. It seems that the youngest and brightest can only choose between riding busses into Kathmandu, alive with revolution and the sweet hint of violence, or walking to the airport in the rain to work in someone else’s war.