The lights are out, again. And there isn't much to do but wait.
I am not completely sure, but I think it was Shankar Lamichhane (prominent Nepali writer of yore) who said, and I paraphrase, - "Poetry is everywhere, but who has to time to write it down? You should learn to read it from day to day experiences". I couldn't agree more.
Lately, I have found that wisdom is everywhere too. You just need to know how to read it. Reminds me of this podcast
of "This American Life" where a 23 year old kid went across the States on foot asking people what they had learnt from life (and what they would tell their 23 year old selves, knowing what they know now). Although I do not have that luxury, I have found that I tend to gather snippets of wisdom from the most unexpected of places. I'll use these couple of posts to share the wisdom I've found in the streets of Kathmandu over the past week or so.
This one comes from a cabbie. Although cabs are metered in Kathmandu, the drivers usually only agree to take you to a place on a predetermined price (without letting the meter run). This is illegal, but that is the only way they can make some money. [The few drivers that will agree to take you somewhere using the meter's price, will have rigged the meter to read so many rupees more per kilometer- so that in the end they will have ripped you off even more]. The "fixed" price depends on your knowledge of the distance to your destination, and on your haggling prowess. This one day, I entered a cab after the driver and I agreed on a price that I felt comfortable with.
Me: I thought traffic (police) monitors you guys closely these days. How do you guys get away with charging on whim ?
Cabbie: (Laughing)..What do you think will happen if you put a thief to monitor another thief ? Both will end up stealing !
Me: But I heard that there are (phone) numbers that customers can call and file a complaint, and that the police come for you right then?
Cabbie: Well, here is the thing that is wrong with this country. There are elaborate systems in place to monitor if a taxi driver is stealing 5-10 more rupees. And everybody is happy with the expenditure of resources on that. But when billions are being stolen higher up, no one seems to care.
Me: That is true. Maybe it is some weird power fix that is native to our race. We are so used to being powerless and helpless against people more powerful that us, we have stopped trying to raise our voices. But as a result, whenever we get the chance, we treat anyone who is any lesser than us like animals (case in point- street vendors from Terai).
Cabbie: Maybe. But there is no reason for me to follow the law until everyone else in every department is following it.
So, I guess a bottom-up approach to development has no hope in this country. I'd like to meet some corrupt official higher up one day to see if top-down is possible. If only it were as easy as meeting a cab driver.