Category Archives: Multimedia Links

My New Anthem?

I had to share this… since my pitfalls in learning Nepali sometimes make me think, “I can only imagine… if I’ll ever learn!”

My personal favorite lyrics– “I can only imagine/when the day comes/when I find myself/with a loosened tongue,” “When they ask if I have eaten, will I say uh-huh or khae?” and “Surrounded by Nepalis, what will my mouth say?”

So enjoy this Friday fun video:

The “Sh*t People Say…”

There has been a meme (did I use that term correctly?) making the rounds in internet land… “sh*t _____ say to/about ______.” The number of videos out there is proliferating by the hour, and I knew it was just a matter of time before there was one that had to do with Nepal.

And of course, the first to pop up was “sh*t Indians say to Nepalis.”

I’ve wanted to write about the relationship between Nepal and India for a while… actually, I thought I did, but I can’t seem to find the post… perhaps I’m thinking about the comments I’ve made on other blogs that I know have touched on this subject before.

Now I’m not Nepali, so if I misinterpret Nepali sentiments, I apologize in advance, but from what I understand Nepal—a small country sandwiched between the two giants of India and China, often feels pushed around, particularly by India, since the border to India is quite a bit more fluid than that of China (visa wise, and geographical wise). It’s true that there are certain cultural characteristics that are shared by various groups in Nepal and various groups in India, but Nepal (and Nepalis) don’t like being lumped together with Indians… in all fairness, they are their own country.

I actually feel this sometimes too (of course on a very small scale)—I try to be careful and talk about “South Asia/ns” when I’m referring to more than just Nepal/is, but even among some of the gori significant others I’ve connected with online, “India” is sometimes used as a blanket term to mean all of South Asia. I know it’s not meant with any disrespect or negativity, being “Indian” is by no means derogatory, but the term isn’t a blanket catch all for the whole of South Asia even if India is the biggest, most populated country in the region.

I make the same argument about the United States. As the economic, political and social superpower in the region, it’s easier for us as a country and people to forget about others. A lot of Americans don’t realize that the term “American” could also mean someone from Latin or Central America, and I’ve met Canadians who are frustrated to be lumped together with the United States, because “Hey, we are our own country too!”

I’ve even seen it happens at the university where I work. We don’t have a lot of Nepalis (sadly) but we do have quite a few Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans, however the university’s South Asian student association is still called “ISO” for “Indian Student Organization.” I also remember another time when a European student was upset when he thought the undergraduate “International Student Council” had been run by South Asian students for too long; he stormed out of the vote saying, “You should call this Indian Student Club if only the Indians can win the leadership positions!” (never mind that that there was one Indian, one Sri Lankan, two Pakistanis and one Bangladeshi in those positions at the time—just because they had similar features doesn’t mean they are all from the same place, perhaps the reason the European student didn’t receive enough votes to win?).

I remember on one of the blogs that discussed this topic some Indians readers commented that they didn’t think there was any rivalry between the two countries, while most of the Nepali commenters said something to the effect of “oh yeah, definitely!” Our Irish friend likened this to the relationship between Ireland and England. Many Irish would characterize England as their “biggest rivals” and many English don’t even have Ireland (in that way) on their radar. It’s a matter of position and perspective.

Anyway, I digress… below is the link to the “Sh*t Indians say about Nepalis” video, I listed a few that I thought “oh yeah, I’ve heard this before…” or felt I could somehow identify with:

“You’re Nepali? So you are basically Indian.” (ouch).

“I have a Nepali friend in college… maybe you know him?”—this one might be true! Sometimes I feel like everyone of a certain age knows everyone else from Kathmandu.

“So you’re Indian…” “You look Indian…” “So you’re Indian…” “Your eyes man, your eyes…” (I liked the “eyes” comment. I don’t think P has particularly East Asian looking eyes, but I’ve heard people ask if he was Korean, Japanese, and Thai before.)

You don’t do Diwali? I thought you guys were all Hindus…”

“So you are basically just a cross between Chinese and Indian.”

“Do you feel more Indian or Tibetan?”

“Do you come from a long line of Sherpas?” (my mother’s brothers like to friendly-tease P about being a “Sherpa,” they don’t mean anything by it, but it is a bit racist. Not all Nepalis are Sherpa, and not all Sherpa are Nepali).

“You must love the mountains…”

“Nepalis just basically look like weather beaten Chinese.”

“You are drinking chia, don’t you mean chai?” (After a semester in India, I certainly fall in the “chai” category sometimes…. I also sometimes count “ek, do, teen, char, panch” instead of “ek, dui, teen, char, panch.” When I was in India I was scolded for saying “dui” for “two” by my Hindi teacher who said, “What, are you a villager from the hills or something?” and I replied, “I learned how to count in Nepali before I did in Hindi.”)

And just for fun… I thought “sh*t that white girls say to brown girls” was pretty funny.

Mini Videos of Nepal

I wish I could post the mini video directly on my site, but I don’t think I can. However there is a nice 30 second timelaps video of Kathmandu Valley/Nepal that gives some nice views of what the city and mountains look like. Check it out if you have the chance: http://nepal.tv/watch/nepal-trailer.

On the same site they have a few other videos, including a mini video about the take off/landing at Lukla Airport which those of you interested in an Everest trek might want to check out: http://nepal.tv/watch/lukla-airport.

Flash Mob in Nepal

I guess when you hear “mob” in the context of Nepal you might think of a banda–a strike or protest. But this was a mob of another nature…

A friend posted this on facebook earlier today, and I had to share. I guess on April 9th there was a dance flash mob in KTM’s Durbar Square, the supposed first to ever happen in Nepal.

I thought it was kinda cool…

On another note… Happy Nepali New Year 2068!

Recent Interesting Links

In the past few weeks I’ve received several interesting links from readers that I haven’t had the chance yet to share.

The first comes from Roshni whose friend is a deaf-blind activist living in Nepal, working hard to improve the conditions of other deaf-blind people living there. To learn more check out Tactile the World.

Another comes from Erin, the director of a recently founded nonprofit called “Edge of Seven,” which connects volunteers with service projects empowering girls in developing countries. In November the organization began construction on a dorm in the Everest Region of Nepal that will house 40 girls from rural regions of the country where higher education is not accessible. To see pictures of their construction project click HERE. If you want to learn more about the project feel free to check out the link above as well as the Edge of Seven blog. AND, if after reading up on the great work that Edge of Seven is doing, you feel inspired to volunteer, click HERE to get information on volunteer opportunities with the organization.

Sparkly Date Palm sent me two interesting links lately. First—a week or two ago there was an interesting article posted about three Nepali sisters who started their own trekking company in the Annapurna region of Nepal. At the time they started their business there were few, if any, female guides and porters, and the sisters broke new ground in opportunities for women in the trekking industry. To read the article click HERE.

Lastly—she also sent me information about a BBC program that aired recently called “Jimmy and the Wild Honey Hunters” which followed a British farmer as he joined Nepali honey gatherings while they climbed high into the Himalayas to bring back honey from precarious mountain ledges. It was an hour long program, and I just found a clip of it online, it looks interesting, so if I find the whole thing I’ll pass it along. But HERE is a brief write up on the program to get you interested.

“The Last Royals”

When it is quiet during my lunch hour, I sometimes like to shut my office door and watch documentaries that are streaming on Netflix. The past few days I was busy during lunch, so yesterday I thought I’d microwave my leftover rice and egg curry, put my headphones on and watch a National Geographic program called “The Last Royals.”

The description of the 50 minute show was “Though royalty has governed nearly every civilization, revolution and democracy have taken an enormous toll on the power of crowned heads across the globe. National Geographic offers an inside look at four enduring monarchs.” The cover of the film had a picture of Price William and Harry, so I figured it would mostly be about England, (I shamefully admit I thought I’d watch the program because my interest in the British royal family has been piqued by the William/Kate Middleton wedding—I know, guilty pleasures!)  but actually a sizable portion of the film was surprisingly about Nepal. (Later on I realized the expanded info mentioned Nepal, but I didn’t notice it when I started watching).

The film was put together by an American who came from the perspective of “Hey, America got rid of the British monarchy hundreds of years ago, and I’m happy with that. Why does England still have a fascination with the Royal Family?” (and by extension, what are some of the other monarchy situations around the world.) The film then looked at four monarchies—UK, Buganda (Uganda), Nepal and Tonga–offering different perspectives on why a culture did/did not feel the monarchy was important.

The UK monarchy was shown as a type of happy middle ground—the royals are more or less used for ceremonial purposes but don’t really have a governing role. People like them because they feel they represent tradition and culture, and many enjoy having them as national icons; however others find the royals’ use of taxpayer money as outrageous and their national symbol status unnecessary. The narrator transitioned by asking, “If they royals were deposed, would people miss them and ask for them back?”

Then he brought up the example of the Kingdom of Buganda (in present day Uganda), and how in the ‘60s the king was exiled from the country by the Idi Amin led military. Effectively the monarchy was dead in Uganda, but 30 years later, after Idi Amin was gone and the violence subsided the Bugandan people wanted the monarchy back, and the late king’s son was asked to return from exile. His role is purely ceremonial, but he uses his celebrity status to garner support for public interest projects like wells, schools, health programs, etc. It discussed how the monarchy was a powerful cultural institution, and a way to keep ties to tradition, and was useful in rallying the people and creating cultural cohesion. Thus it was ultimately shown as a positive example.

The next transition was supposed to be the “crisis” example—and what better crisis than the Nepali royal massacre of 2001? It gave a brief overview of what happened, and the controversy over succession rights (king was supposedly killed by the heir to thrown, should that heir, an apparent murderer, become king? And if he didn’t survive his injuries, the next in line was also rumored to have had a role in the massacre, should he be king?) As part of filming, the documentary crew interviewed Gayanendra, the late king’s brother who became king when Crown Prince/King Dipendra died. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in an English language interview before, so it was interesting to hear what he had to say. I was surprised to find him articulate. In my mind I always imagined him as a bumbling bad guy.

Next the film moved to Tonga, to give an example of a monarchy that was still culturally important, yet had too much governing power and whose people, or at least some of the people’s representatives, wanted a change. One politician leading an anti-monarchy campaign stated that the king could still be a figurehead, but it was time for more democratic representation. The king and his role had to be modernized for the new millennium.

Ultimately the film returned to Nepal and started talking about the Maoist insurgency and how Gayanendra not only took over the monarchy during the grips of a familial crisis, but a political one as well. Knowing the history, and knowing that ultimately Gayanendra’s actions after taking office and during the Maoist surge on Kathmandu together with his his unpopularity with the people ultimately led to the end of the Nepali monarchy in 2006, it was very interesting to hear the commentary on the potential future of Gayanendra’s rule in a documentary made about a year or two before the Hindu monarchy disappeared. In this case it truly was “the last royal.”

So I thought I’d share. Although I found the British royals part of the documentary kind of dull, it was interesting to learn more about Buganda and Tonga, and ironic to hear about the Nepali monarchy knowing now that it no longer exists.

The Royal Massacre

I realize that yesterday I mentioned the Royal Massacre, and that it shouldn’t be something just mentioned in a footnote—like, ho hum, Royal Massacre. A while ago I was writing about the general history of Nepal and got to the point where the Royal family of Nepal took back the reins of power from the Rana family in the 1950s.

So now we are up to the point where Birendra, grandson of Tribhuvan (who re-took the thrown), is now king. He began his reign in 1972 after his father Mahendra’s death.

King Birendra

Birendra was the first Nepali monarch to receive a formal education, studying abroad in India, the UK, Japan and even at Harvard University (from 1967-1968). Upon his return he married Aishwarya Rana (yes from that Rana family) in 1970 and had three children: Prince Dipendra (1971), Princess Shruti (1976)  and Prince Nirajan (1977).

Royal Family: King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, Princess Shruti, Prince Dipendra and Prince Nirajan

He ascended to the thrown as an absolute monarch, inheriting a country with banned political parties, and ruling through the panchayat system. In 1990 a series of strikes and pro-democracy riots broke out across Nepal, and due to this Birendra eventually agreed to become a constitutional monarch. He appointed a Constitution Recommendation Commission, and November 9, 1990 the new constitution was approved by the Prime Minister.

However quarrels continued leading to the Nepali Civil War between the Maoists and government forces between 1996 and 2006 (a post all of its own).

Which leads me to the massacre.

I’m not sure if we will ever really know what happened the night of June 1, 2001. Much like the American conspiracy theories of who assassinated President Kennedy, different theories about the Royal Massacre abound. The fact of the matter is—the Nepali Royal Massacre was the largest slaughter of a royal family since the shooting of the Romanov family during the Russian Revolution.

The more widely known story: Prince Dipendra was a bit of a troubled youth. Prone to drinking with a keen interest in all things military and a short temper. Not long before the massacre, Dipendra had been arguing with his parents over the choice of his bride. Dipendra wanted to marry his girlfriend Devyani Rana (also a member of the Rana family). Dipendra’s mother was against this match (due to the historical animosity between the king’s family and the Ranas… although Queen Ashiwara was also a Rana, so I’m sure I’m missing part of the story…) Tempers flared.

Dipendra and Devyani

On the night of June 1st much of the royal family gathered for an evening together including uncles, aunts and cousins. Missing from the party was Prince Gyanendra, younger brother to the king and potential heir (if Birendra and his two sons could no longer perform the duties as king).

Following an evening of heavy drinking, and still angry at his family, Dipendra was upset when he was scolded by his father for “misbehaving” at the gathering and told to leave the party. An hour later Dipendra showed up dressed in military fatigues with an MP5K and M16 and started shooting up the room, killing his father, sister, uncle, aunts, and a few other family members while wounding several others. His mother and brother escaped the room but confronted the prince in the garden, where he killed both of them, shooting the queen multiple times in the face (it was so badly damaged that her face was covered with a mask for the cremation ceremony). Before any guards arrived Dipendra turned the gun on himself.

Prince Dipendra survived his suicide attempt for three days, and was proclaimed king while in a coma. He died on June 4, 2001. While Dipendra lie in his coma his uncle Gyanendra (remember, the one conveniently missing from the party?) maintained the deaths were an “accident” but once Dipendra had died full blame was placed on him.

The country went through a period of national mourning—many people including P’s dad—shaved their heads as a symbol of death in their family, since the king was the “father” of the nation and revered as a god. The country was already embroiled in a civil war, and now they were without a symbolic figurehead.

Some people in Nepal suspected that Gyanendra was responsible for the massacre, and that Dipendra was blamed so that Gyanendra could take the thrown. He was third in line to the thrown (after Birendra, Dipendra and Prince Nirajan) and had been conveniently out of town during the party. It’s true that his son and wife were at the party and were wounded, but both survived (his son with only minor injuries). Feeding these rumors is the allegation that Dipendra was mortally wounded by a gunshot to the left side of his head, while he was right-handed, casting doubt on whether the injury was self-inflicted.

Gayanendra wearing the Nepali royal crown

Two survivors have publicly confirmed that Dipendra was the shooter, but many Nepali people still consider it a mystery.

Gyanendra assumed the thrown and was king until 2008 when he was forced to abdicate due to social pressure and rioting.

Now people have their theories—but I was at the former Royal Palace in the summer of 2009 and went on a tour with the daughter of one of P’s family’s neighbors whose father used to work at the Palace as a food taste tester (I know, one of those strange connections). The suspicious thing is—when Gyanendra took over as king he dismantled the house in the garden where the massacre took place—brick by brick. All that is left is an outline of the house on the ground. A few bullet holes still mar parts of the garden wall but everything else is gone. It makes me wonder what he was hiding.

If you are interested in more information, the BBC had a documentary on the massacre, which you can watch on Youtube in five parts:

Kumari and Indra Jatra

Yesterday was Indra Jatra. I know this only because I like to look at BBC’s “in pictures” each day and there was a photo from Kathmandu depicting the ceremony.

From BBC "In Pictures"

I don’t know much about Indra Jatra (so I’ll look up some information to share) but the festival caught my attention because I’ve been reading up on Kumari (or the “living goddesses” from Nepal). I find their stories fascinating and was thinking of writing about them for my writer’s group. Indra Jatra is one of the festivals that kumaris participate in.

Basically Kumari are little girls chosen from a specific Buddhist Newar ethnic group (Shakya) in Nepal who become the embodiment of the Hindu goddess Taleju (which is an avatar of power goddess Durga). Much like the Dalai Lama or Pachen Lama, the girls are a reincarnation of the goddess, and are chosen based on specific attributes such as “a neck like a conch shell,” “a body like a banyan tree”, “eyelashes like a cow,” “chest like a lion” and have to pass a test to prove that she is the goddess. Supposedly one such test comes during Dashain (coming in October), when the young goddess has to spend the night in a temple with 108 sacrificed goats and buffalos. Since Durga is strong and fearless, the Kumari candidate must also show no fear.

Various photos of Kumari in full regalia including headdress, full tikka, and naga (snake) necklace. Kumari are not allowed to touch the ground, so they are carried or ride in chariots when they have to go outside for religious functions

Girls are chosen very young (usually when they are only a few years old) and live out their childhood in a temple away from their families. They are worshiped and often sought for guidance, and I believe the Royal Kumari of Bhaktapur gives a tikka to the king of Nepal during Dashain as a blessing (at least, back when there was a king). Tradition holds that if a king does not receive tikka from the Kumari at this time, something horrible will happen. I remember reading somewhere (although now I can’t find the link) that supposedly when the former King Birendra went to take tikka from the Royal Kumari the Dashain before the Royal Massacre (June 2001), she cried (or something like that) which denotes a bad omen. Less than a year later ten members of the royal family including the King, Queen, two princes and the princess were dead.

The Kumari remains a goddess until her first menstruation, at which point the spirit of the goddess leaves her body to inhabit someone else, and she again becomes a mere mortal. Image the confusion for the poor child—having spent the formative years of her life worshiped and treated to every desire only to reach adolescence and be tossed back to her family (which at this point she hardly knows) and be treated like a regular person again.

BBC "In pictures" from today... girls dressed like Kumari dance in the street (although they are not real Kumari)

Another BBC "In Pictures"... a (real) Kumari peeks outside her temple window at the Indra Jatra festival

If you want to learn more about the Kumari I recommend watching the documentary “The Living Goddess” (watch trailer HERE), it is currently streaming on Netflix. Interestingly, when the documentary came out, the Kumari featured traveled to the US for the premiere, and she was temporarily “fired” from her role as Kumari because she became “unclean” from traveling abroad.  A purification ritual was performed before she could be reinstated.

So back to Indra Jatra—Indra is the god of rain and the festival is celebrated for eight days in the Kathmandu Valley mostly near Hanuman Dhoka. Classical dancers assemble in the square wearing different traditional masks and costumes to celebrate Indra’s visit. On the third day the Kumari is brought to the square in a chariot procession to watch over the ceremonies.

Pictures of Indra Jatra dancers

Deadliest Journeys–Nepal

The administrative assistant in my office found this video on Hulu yesterday and passed it on to me since it was about Nepal. So last night after dinner, a group of us sat around the table eating dessert and watching the show.

The voice over commentary is over dramatic, but it is still interesting to watch and see the conditions of one of the remotest roads in Nepal (from Surkhet to Jumla– a 185 mile journey that takes 4 days by truck).

Apparently the editing staff played around with translating Nepali to English, and in several instances the subtitles over dramatize what an interviewee stated (example– the subtitle said, “Damn that road that killed my mother!” when she actually said, “I’m scared of that road that killed my mother,”), or outright changed a good portion of the context. However, if you are like me and need to rely on the subtitles, you’ll get a general idea of what is being said. I’d recommend watching with a Nepali speaker so you’ll get a better understanding of what the local people are actually saying.

The program is only about 20 minutes long, and if you are not able to watch Hulu in your home country, I believe the video is also available on Youtube (but you have to sign in to watch it).

While looking for a picture of the road I found another posting that tells about the journey between Surkhet and Jumla with lots of great pictures– “The Karnali Express: Bumping on for 52 Hours (Jumla to Surkhet)” on the blog “United We Blog! for a Democratic Nepal.”

An example of the road between Surkhet and Jumla

House Hunters International- Nepal

I was contacted last week (through the blog) by an associate producer for the HGTV television program House Hunters International a show which “follows English speaking expats in their quest to purchase a house abroad.” The producers are “particularly keen to film in Nepal and are looking for people under the age of 50 who have owned their house in Nepal for under two years.”

She sent me the following description:

House Hunters International is a half-hour program currently airing on the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV).  The program is a spin-off of the popular House Hunters and has spent the last several seasons exploring the idiosyncrasies of buying real estate in other countries.

The production will be a world tour of locales in Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.  Whether Homebuyers are relocating permanently or plan to purchase a vacation or retirement home, HHI is about their personal journey of discovery and the making of life-long dreams.

The series is designed to de-mystify the international home-buying process by going behind the scenes of a house hunt where buyers and their real estate agents tour 3 homes.  Eventually, they make a decision to purchase the one they like best.  The buyers make the big move, and we pay them a visit to see how they are getting on.

At its core, House Hunters International is a travel show.  Each episode of this 26-part series will concentrate on the idiosyncrasies of the locales and what makes them special and different.  A great deal of effort will be made to capture rich visuals and to provide sequences where viewers will be exposed to local vistas, traditions, lifestyles and architecture.

I’ve asked around to see if anyone I knew might know someone who fits the description the producer is looking for, but I don’t know anyone buying homes right now in Nepal. Do any of you? If so, feel free to contact the producer (information below), and who knows, maybe someone you know might represent Nepal on this television program.

Michelle James
Associate Producer

LEOPARD FILMS USA
127 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010.
+1 212 843 2821
michelle.james@leopardfilms.com
http://www.leopardfilms.com