I went home to Nepal after 2 years to see that the country had gone backwards in development and social change. But the smile in people’s face and Himalayas were as prevalent and defiant as death. Here is the first part of my experience. Roads.
The first welcome after escaping the chaos of Tribhuwan Airport was by armed police patrolling dusty roads of Kathmandu, barking stray dogs, street vendors and darkness.
The roads seemed much wider but gave a feel of a battlefield with the dust, bumps, noise, speeding bikes and microbus and pedestrians crossing roads dodging the death. I felt like I was in the middle of the Valley of Ashes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby and the two eyes of Shwyambhunath temple were the eyes of Dr T. J. Eckleburg.
At hometown in Chitwan, the roads were even wider but the mountain (I mean literally mountain as high as buildings) of dust meant it was almost impossible to see a meter away. The trucks emitting the clouds of black smoke would make it even worse.
The construction of roads seemed to be going on massive scale in town, on highways and in hills of Gorkha. But later knew that these construction were on pace of a sloth posing millions of peoples health and safety a dreadful threat.
Apart from the dust and smoke thewe was unbelievable intolerable level of bully from the drivers and helpers of public transport; bus, taxi, rickshaw etc. One day the bus in Tandi to Narayangarh route took us from Tandi to Bharatpur and stopped saying that’s the journey done. When asked with a city warden lady she shouted that was our mistake to take particular bus. Frustrated I reported to the traffic police and he would just node his head and wouldn’t speak.
The other day in Kathmandu the taxi wouldn’t go in normal meter, demanded triple the fare I had paid other day. Again went to police and he replied that the taxi driver can decide if he wants to go or not and in meter or whatever price. In the matter of 3 minutes there were around two dozen thug taxi drivers surrounding me which was scary in fact.
In the long route going to Gorkha from chitwan, the bus was so overcrowded, when it approached near traffic post near Gorkha, asked some of the passengers to drop off and walk. I was so tired that couldn’t be bothered calling traffic cops who wouldn’t help anyway.
Population went bigger, public vehicles got smaller
Another surprising and completely illogical and damning thing about roads in my hometown Ratnanagar was that I noticed the population had almost doubled, house number increased, shopping centres and hotels opened. But the public transport had gone smaller!! There were smaller vehicles where you could hardly crouch. There used to be small auto rickshaws which were thrown out of Kathmandu because they were too pollutant, could carry around 12 people. Now they were still running plus there were many smaller vehicles that hardly carried 4-6 people.
I wondered whoever gave permission/ route permit to run that vehicles in Chitwan must have his head filled with pig’s shite otherwise normal person with common sense wouldn’t permit such crazy idea.
Everyone out of house were wearing mask in Chitwan. This was like everyone was out from operation theatre or as if there was some epidemic going on and everyone was dead scare to breathe. Well, Kathmandu is polluted and I would call it Narakpalika नरकपालिका (hell) instead of Nagarpalika (Municipality) but No one would expect Chitwan to be that polluted, being in the middle of huge rainforest and natural heaven.
But yeah, if you still run the auto rickshaw which were thrown out 20 years ago because they were so polluted, if you permit hundreds of tiny vehicles suitable for chicken, as public transport and dig roads leave the mountain of dust over people’s houses – what can you expect. So there were almost everyone (and me as well), sick with respiration related diseases and common cold, sore throat, sore eyes, runny nose. Despite the masks the smoke and dusts were clear winners.