One day later, I am supposed to board a plane to Jomsom at 7am. But the booking agency had other plans for me, canceling my booking without informing me. Of course! So, one wasted trip to the airport later, everything is pushed back a day, including my return to Kathmandu.
I take advantage of the early rising and being in a taxi already to head up to the village of Sarangkot where I can view the Himalayan range. On a good day, or early in the morning, one can look northward from this spot over the Pokhara Valley and the tops of the local peaks and see Annapurna I and II, each at least 100 km away, framing Machhapuchchhre (Fish Tail mountain), with the far off Manaslu further east and Daulagiri further west. That’s three of the top ten highest mountains within sight of this place. To realize how far away they are and to see them all rising in their imposing magnificence right before your eyes renders one speechless. There simply are no words to convey the experience. And it’s impossible to imagine approaching these mountains without having the Story of Separation in which we normally live completely give way to a sense of connection with all things.
Drew Dellinger helps us here:
16 million tons of rain are
falling every second
on the planet
and every drop
is your body
every motion, every feather, every thought
is your body
is your body,
and the infinite
curled inside like
invisible rainbows folded into light
every word of every tongue is love
telling a story to her own ears
let our lives be incense
like a hymn to the sacred
body of the universe
my religion is rain
my religion is stone
my religion reveals itself to me in
every leaf, every river,
every creature trapped in the gears
of corporate nightmares
every species made extinct
–Hymn to the The Sacred Body of the Universe (excerpted)
This is part of the wealth of Nepal and the treasure of the world. The Himalaya is the largest fresh water reserve on earth, the Third Pole, holding more snow and ice than anywhere else except the North and South Poles. One could spend a long while gazing off into this distance.
But the realities on the ground just now are diverse and difficult reminders of how dominant that Story of Separation truly is:
- A National Disaster Management Authority (Nepal’s FEMA) was proposed in 2009. Nothing happened.
- Convoys from India are being stopped at the border to impose tariffs.
- The Chinese don’t trust the Indian helicopters in Nepal.
- The Indians don’t trust the Chinese helicopters in Nepal.
- The government wants control of all donations to domestic NGOs. The NGOs are resisting.
- People are moving back into their homes.
- The destruction of the cremation slabs at Pashupatinath temple and the interruption of the normal channels for acquiring adequate wood for the cremations has forced Hindus into makeshift remedies that must be deeply disturbing to the devout.
- There is an ongoing race between looters of the historic sites and the recovery, cataloguing and safekeeping of artifacts.
- Relief materials not approved by government agents are being turned back at the border.
- Some relief materials are not reaching their destinations because the Indian Air Force helicopters sent for airlift operations are too small to land in rough terrain.
- Isolated villages inaccessible by roads are in urgent need of relief.
The Government is asserting control of all supplies arriving at the airport, including those sent on behalf of international relief organizations. On one hand, this might be the right thing to do if they were trying to control “leakage” of relief supplies to unauthorized agents. On the other hand, given the history of government oversight of relief supplies, one might cynically assume that this control is to prevent leakage to unauthorized agents so that “authorized” leakage to government intermediaries and profiteers can proceed.
It’s as though we’re talking about Ticketmaster here and nearly 3 million homeless in Nepal are trying to get a ticket for the big show. But we all know that “brokers,” “insiders” and “aggregators” are siphoning off the prime seats and they’re going to turn around and sell them at three times the face value. Unfortunately, there is precedent for this sort of thing in Nepal, which is why so many people don’t trust the government.
Everything is political, including the composition of the local district distribution channels for relief material. And there is ample reason, such as the eight year fruitless and ungodly expensive ($5B?) “constitution” writing process, to harbor doubts that this emergency response process will ever run smoothly, that it will become yet another victim of the ongoing tug-of-war between the major political parties.