May 7, 10pm
There is a reason that you have not heard from me in a few days. There was a bandh (bond-da) in effect. Yahoo, it is over… at least for a week.
A bandh is a serious event caused when the two political parties are in opposition. A bandh is a strike when all commercial operations are halted, virtually shutting down the entire country. Even if you oppose the bandh, you, as a citizen of the country, are expected to respect it.
All stores are closed, with the exception of the pharmacy. You cannot buy food, clothes or even get money from the bank or the ATM because there is no way for supplies to be replenished with the use of all motorized vehicles prohibited.
A bandh is a serious situation and must be respected. The common citizen is effected, from shops being closed to farmers not being able to get their product to market.
Each evening during the bandh, permission is given for shops to open from 6-8pm. This way citizens can attempt to purchase staples and tourists can go to dinner. As we sat on the second story balcony eating a wonderful plate of vegetable appetizers, the pharmacists across the road ran out into the street screaming the news that the bandh had been lifted for one week. We were the only clientele in this restaurant but staff came out of the woodwork to join in on the cat calls, whistles and cheers of joy that rang from our balcony and all balconies along the street.
Music was cranked up, blasting from long-ago blown speakers and pouring out into the street below. Dueling balconies competed for the loudest whistle and most boisterous males jumping up and down in synchronized dance, obviously filled with joy over the news.
We had to join in with yelps and football game style screams. We had been a part of the oppression. We were one with the locals, sharing in the feeling of freedom from control. We danced, smiled until our cheeks hurt and reveled in the amazing camaraderie shared between these happy people; the Nepalese and us visiting Americans. Namaste to all of Nepal. What a blessing it is to share this time of emancipation with them.
Hopefully the powers that be will work out their differences within a weeks’ time and spare the people of Nepal the hardships that are caused by bandhs.