The flight was all set for landing as the stewardess announced that the aircraft would arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport shortly. At this announcement, I tore my eyes apart from Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses to take a bird’s eye view of the Kathmandu Valley and the wider Nepal.
I looked. And I looked harder. Perhaps we were still too high up to be able to see the gleaming lights and the clustered buildings spread in a manner that could best be termed organized chaos.
But the limits of even such a term might be put to a brutal test as one tries to comprehend how exactly to go over all this with the power cuts that Nepal seems to be having.
“Load shedding bhairachha jasto chha,” the woman sitting next to me speculated: With the approximate ten-hour-per-day power cuts, of course, the obvious assumption would be that the power-cut was going on on full scale as the land looked dark and almost lifeless from where we were.
But when one is coming home after a long, long time, even such a flaw is forgivable. However, I’ve to admit that I did crimped my nose at the thought of an unlit home welcoming me. Sharing my sentiments, I heard the others onboard also complaining of this unmet necessity.
As the aircraft touched down, it was easy to sense the rising excitement: phone calls, lighthearted chitchats, the expected stuff. But in the air, there were also discussions surrounding the pollution, the substandard road condition, and the hardships that come with the Third World Country label in general.
Scanning Kathmandu with my Bangkok-returned eyes, I noticed that the airport Immigration was a similar chaotic affair as was the Customs. But again, this is how home is, and we know it.
Coming further out and being engulfed and embraced by the ten-degree Centigrade Kathmandu temperature as I was on my way home, I noticed the roads were in complete disarray as well, as per the government’s new policy. A part of me was glad to see that there was work going on, but a part of me was also disappointed to see what little progress that had been made with the agenda. After all, this road issue is old news for Kathmanduites. And after about three or four months, one would expect that the most basic infrastructure would be accessible in the most convenient of way.
My thoughts flew back to Bangkok. Leave Bangkok for a month and when you come back to it, you’ll almost certainly notice something new in the place. That place likes to develop, and develop fast. And thinking about how much a “developing” country like Thailand had advanced of course made me sad to think about Nepal and see how, despite this gap, Nepal looked the same.
The road, the water, the light, everything; it’s so easy to let it all get to you in Nepal, I thought.
Caught up with my frustration with how little we’ve developed, my mind took me to one of Rushdie’s characters, Saladin Chamcha. While this certain Saladin is in Vilayat or England, his father writes to him and asks him to come back home – after, all, if he was a stranger at home, he would be a stranger everywhere.
This immediately brought me back to my present.
Neither have I been living out of Nepal for eternal number of years nor are this load-shedding, poor road condition and no water scenario anything new to me.
So why was I looking at Nepal – looking at home – with his unsatisfied, foreign perspective-indoctrinated, scornful, superficial lens?
After all, I don’t want to be a stranger at home and hence a stranger everywhere.
Perhaps this is what the biggest issue with most people like me is. We’ve lived out of Nepal only for so long and yet things that failed to bother us while we lived here have now started becoming huge issues for us now.
This can be a very bad thing, or a very good thing. It can be very bad because it’s scary to learn that it perhaps won’t take us long to untie our roots. However, it can be a good thing because it has made us see what we lack and where we need to progress.
To which end we pursue this attitude is a funny conundrum. But here’s hoping that it’ll be used wisely and it’ll indeed be a happy homecoming!
The writer is student of Political Science at Thammasat University.