"So man, why don't these villagers just kick these rocks off to the side of the road so the buses can get through?"
"Well, these villagers put the rocks there."
"Oh...so if we try to move them they'll get upset?"
My feeling on bandas is well documented. Imagine my surprise when I find myself wandering along a road next to an American named Chris (I think) explaining the finer details of this particular political stunt. Chris is a man who this time last week was actually standing on the top of Mount Everest which I found really creepy. Impressive, but creepy. In an aside, these guys seem to all be about town at the moment. If you aren't talking to someone who was on top of Everest this time last week then you are talking to someone about someone who was there.
We had just spent another glorious weekend at the Last Resort. Many of my friends will be leaving over the next month and it was kind of like our last hurrah. I organised a weekend of relaxing combined with a little adventure in canyoning and a high ropes course. The crew weren't all that enthused about the idea but tell you what, afterwards they agreed with me. It was LEGENDARY!
I think I will give you more on the activities later, this is yet another banda post. Ironically, on our way home, IN THE SAME TOWN as the banda with the burning tyres with the photo that makes me look guilty and menacing we were stopped by a banda. This one was was so far in progress that 2 dogs were actually taking a nap underneath the bus that was blocking the road. We actually knew about this one ahead of time and as one of the staff (Raju) went to check it out we milled around enjoying the scenery. It had rained enough overnight that we had a beautiful view of the hills around us. The Bote Koshi raging below. And there was the sweet squelching below my feet as I realised I had stood in a rather thick mud puddle.
We collected our backpacks and walked around the two buses parked in the middle of the road. We loaded ourselves onto another bus that was trapped between this banda and the next, and went along our merry way. Liz and Rosie on the roof, Sanjana, Katherine, Rory, Ulli, Flo, Richard, Rhian and myself wedged somewhere between a smelly t-shirt, 400 eggs and a bag of spinach.
We descended from our chariot again to walk through the next banda, and it was here I found myself next to Chris. Kind of ogling at the idea that this guy my age has been standing on top of the world last week. It turns out that the villagers were unhappy that the policemen in town collecting taxes had had a scuffle with someone over his or her willing to or not to pay their tax. I really don't know how you resolve an issue where the people that tell everyone to disperse and break it up (the police) are the people you are protesting against.
My dear Nepali friend Sanjana (who was also my partner through the glorious high ropes course) chimed in to help explain things to Chris. "My Country, My Pride. That's what we say. When I am standing out work looking out the window at the amazing mountains around me I just think, My Country, My Pride. But then I look down, and I see the sewers backing up because no one has collected the garbage in 10 days and I think 'my country, my pride'. This is kind of one of those moments."
It took us 5.5 hours to do a 3 hour bus ride.
Fast forward to today. There is a complete traffic ban. The "Newars" have declared a banda as they want an autonomous Newar state. The Newars are the most populous people in the Kathmandu Valley. I put them in inverted commas because there appears to be a great deal of suspiscion that the Maoists are really creating havoc behind the scenes and pulling the strings. It's kind of like someone declaring that Melbourne be declared an autonomously white-ruled zone.
As I rode to work there wasn't a single car or bus. There were about a total of 10 guys waving red flags trying to get people to band around them but for the most part people were ignoring them (or probably swearing under their breath because they would have to walk for 3 hours to get to work). Their demonstrations definitely lacked the militancy behind any kind of Maoist protest we have seen in the past.
I have got to the point where I now accept bandas as a regular occurence. But they can't expect this one to work...can they?