Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Nepal: Where the money equation doesn't work.

Time to ponder on another of the great injustices of the world and it essentially comes down to the equation of time = money. I have realised recently that the equation has no bearing outside of the western world where I am pretty certain that you substitute leisure time for money (or working time) in the constant struggle of earning enough money to be able to have more leisure time. Outside of the commercially developed countries this isn't true. In fact, when faced with a country which has an unemployment level of almost 50%, time and money are completely unrelated which has caused something very unusual in Nepal.

To compare India and Nepal is an easy thing to do. In India unemployment and the lack of of any prospect of work has left many working age people stupid. Unwilling to learn or do anything. If I said this in England it would be considered racist but it is undeniable fact that many, but by no means all, Indians living in poverty care for nothing. They await the next day with the same boredom that they lived the current. It is disheartening to experience and it also explains the gormless expressions, the constant same questions (Name, Age, location, how many CC, how many litres, how many Kilometres per litre... etc etc etc) that get repeated by nearly every Indian I met. This feeling runs through the traveller community and is the only reason I am willing to express it. Basically they await the passing of time with “knowledge” that they have no control and that drives me mad, it is as near to soullessness I have ever experienced.

Nepal is the polar opposite. I see people with absolutely nothing to do all day and with no reason to do anything as their future is as bleak as any Indians yet they do things. They become great musicians and they study even knowing the study is probably pointless. I know a guitarist here, Bishnu, who is considered Nepals greatest guitarist. He works in a local bar for 300Rs a day (less than $4) and he teaches for a small bonus yet when he decided to try and make a career from this he had to buy his own guitar. A western one because the Chinese and Indian copies are shite. He has to pay the price of the guitar we pay + crazy import taxes, it could never be bought outright so he will spend years paying for it. For maybe 3 hours a day, 6 days a week he plays at the local bar earning his keep and he probably practises every day for at least an hour or two. Bishnu is an excellent musician who you can't help but love to watch play. Every note he plays registers on his face and in his body movements, he loves every second of it.

Next is the drummer, Bimal. He earns the same per day but every session, or two if he is lucky, he breaks a pair of drum sticks. A “new” pair of Indian drumsticks costs 150Rs ($2) or a good western brand costs 600Rs ($8) but last longer. A huge chunk of his wages goes on new sticks and then he has to buy a drum kit too because he isn't allowed to practise at the bar. 25,000Rs for a drumkit which he bought almost 2 years ago and has paid off about 10k. (over $300 and $100 respectively) Besides learning a trade everyone studies up to at least the equivalent of high school. Bimal is studying commerce between practising his art and earning a living. Then to top it off he is giving large amounts of his earnings to his family who lives in a small, 2 room building which also has to house the drum kit. I can't imagine the sacrifice Bimal's family had to make to get this drum kit but they must have weighed it up and figured that the huge wage their son is bringing in (and, in Nepal, it is huge) will eventually be worth sacrificing a bit of food each day.

I've asked if Bimal could teach me the drums, two reasons really. Firstly, like I said in my previous post, watching them play made me want to be a part of it and I regret not putting in the effort when I first failed to learn. Secondly it gives the chance to really find out about a community, and to make friendships within it, which is something I haven't really allowed myself to do on this trip. Bimal is a great teacher and I already feel, after just 5 lessons, that I will be able to play at least one live session with the band before my 2 months in Nepal are up. I will keep you updated on the band and my progress, maybe even some videos/pictures.

Off for a ride upto Muktinath. As far as local knowledge goes we will be the 2nd and 3rd westerners to go on motorbikes. No petrol stations the whole way......

1 comment:

Sudhir said...

Loved reading your logs mate!
Way to go..