Tansen, April 11
Hello, Nepal IV and friends from the front lines.
We’re in the calm of the eye of the hurricane right now. The violence and disorder of the past months (or years, depending on how you count) wound down exceedingly quickly in the past several days as closures of government offices and schools and businesses, then a cessation of political campaigning, then a suspension of sales of alcohol, and finally a ban on operation of motor vehicles went into effect.
The very heart of the eye was yesterday–the actual day of the election. Deckie and I have maybe had a skewed view of the atmosphere, since Tansen’s district (Palpa), Gulmi (next door, to the west) and Okhaldhunga were singled out by the national media here as being the most peaceful districts in the country on the day of the vote. Nonetheless, to us a particular sense of pride, confidence, some excitement, and (mainly) interest seemed to prevail among the citizenry. The tone of the national media suggests that the atmosphere was similar throughout the country, except for a handful of violent episodes and a few dozen cases of screwups at individual voting stations.
Deckie’s and my perspective was shaped by a happy accident. When we arrived, on April 6, having completed our visit to the Terai, our plan had been to spend a day or so here, then move on to Pokhara. But Dieffenbach–the cur!–never told me what a strikingly pleasant place Tansen is. So we immediately decided to stay longer. And then we met a delightful Magar family on our first afternoon, and a visit to them the next day resulted in their inviting us to come live with them for a week. The family has been attentive to the political process for months (or years, depending on how you count), and so the subject of the election was very much in the air around their house. (I should add that the deliberations of the family–father, mother, and five twenty-something daughters–led them all to decide to vote for the Maoists. They’re all very intelligent and well-informed, so their electoral decision should be taken as a measure of the degree of their–and the country’s–frustration with the degree of incompetence exhibited by the governing parties over the past months (or years,…)).
Motor vehicles started showing up on the roads again around mid-day today, booze will undoubtedly be available by tomorrow, and offices and businesses and institutions are scheduled to return to normal sometime next week (after an additional delay of several days before and several days after New Year’s Day this Sunday).
But the real passage of the eye will come when the results are announced–which we are told will happen as early as tomorrow. Nobody within our hearing has paid particular attention to the possibilities. But if the announcement says the Maoists were roundly defeated, I have to believe that they will raise holy hell. So stay tuned.
Meanwhile, though, yesterday was a very, very good, heart-warming day for the country. Syabas, Nepal! Well done!
— Chris Jeffers