7 Conclusions: Walking from Lalitpur to Kathmandu
I am not sure what exactly I had in mind, but I thought taking a long walk from Khumaltar back to Balwatar would be the best use of my time. Besides, all that dal bhat and carb overdose wasn't really going anywhere. I reasoned that if I really wanted to see how people went about their business in the valley that's home to 2.5 million people, I should just talk a walk.
Well, I did see what the general people were up to. I did see the uncontrolled, unsystematic chaos that unfolded organically in front of me. I did see a cow take a shit right where thousands of pedestrians walk everyday to work. I also saw that nobody cared. By the time I got home, I had a blog post full of things I got to see.
#1 The Pollution is MindbogglingI mean, where do I even begin. Long story short, I must have inhaled a kilo worth of dust and smoke while having to endure an equal amount on my face. Half way through my eyes were burning so bad, I had to fake cry. Was a weird scene for everyone else but dramas help, sometimes. People in Korea complain about bad air. Wait till they get a big helping of Kathmandu's dust holi.
It's no surprise. Nepal was ranked 180th in air quality in a recent global Environmental Performance Index conducted by Yale and Columbia University. The number of countries they studied; 180. We came last. We beat even India. F**k.
The smell is another story entirely. I crossed the Bagmati bridge and I swear to all the gods we have that the experience was nothing I would want to repeat again. You could smell acid, urine, shit, more shit, and then after a while you stop smelling anything. When the city's drain is channeled to one of the most important, sacred rivers in the country, who am I to complain what it smells.
#2 Everything is Imported
I am not sure if this happens to you but I see it nice and clear. Everything on the road and beyond is imported. Head to tail. Nothing is manufactured in Nepal. All the vehicles, all the helmets, the jackets, the socks, the underwear, the sunglasses, the phones. Everything. It's a real shame all our money is going out of the country.
#3 Traffic Light no worky
At a time when the National Planning Commission is drafting plans for Smart City, I thought maybee, just mayybee, if they are thinking about that, the capital must at least have functional traffic lights. Right? RIGHT? None. A minute walk in Japan has more traffic lights that work than walking two hours straight through the core heart of nation's capital. Crazy.
|I came across this banner at UN Headquarters on my way back.|
#4 People are Stressed
Everyone looks stressed. The taxi driver, the pedestrian, the dog, the cow. The whole city ecosystem is stressed. The best part is, if you are stressed, you stress someone around you and just like that, you trigger a chain reaction. I see a lot of it just has to be because of the environment that people have to live in. The city is, without a single doubt, unbelievably unlivable . The water supply is irratic, the roads are in dismay, the drainage system is the river, the air is so, so bad. Because citizens here have to directly deal with it on a day to day basis, the default state is stressed. That affects their work, their personal relationships and their overall well being. I just can't help but think how much effective brainpower the country is loosing just because it can't create a better environment for people to reside.
#5 The Army Seem...Different
With all the above said, I came across two barracks; One opposite to Patan Industrial area and one near Maiti Ghar. I stole a glance inside and they look nothing like the chaos outside. Clean, organized, well groomed. I guess you expect that from the army. The place oozed confidence, belief and hope that with the right management, public areas can also improve. Would I support a Coup d'etat and see what the army would offer? I don't know.
#6 Maintenance is Absent
Six months ago, a street light pole had mysteriously fallen down on the pavement. Six months after, the street light still awaits someone to at least pick it up and move it somewhere. This pavement is on the same road that the Prime Minister's vehicle passes by every single day.
#7 Entrepreneurs are of all shapes
I see budding entrepreneurs everywhere. I don't see people beg for money. What I do see instead is that these same people are carrying water bottles and are force selling it at a ridiculously marked up price. I was thirsty, they hand delivered it. I took one and said thank you.
I had to get that dust off my throat.