Tuesday, 3 March 2009

“Get one of the browns to do it”

A few posts back when I first wrote about Nepal I said something about being “home”. People close to me, probably only family actually, will know that that is a very dangerous thing to commit to. Maybe they don't fully understand either but to write it and post it was hard for me because of parts of my life which may be one of the reasons I got on a bike and started riding. There is no need to worry, however, because the great repercussions of that one word, the vibrations that pass through time much like the vibrations of a musical instrument, have been cut short. Nepal is not home and it never could be. At the time of my first writing I couldn't know this of course so now I will try to explain.

I still love Nepal. The people still smile as sweetly, the beer tastes just as good, the women are just as beautiful and the view is still incredible so what has changed? Well for starters I met the ex-pat community. It is a strange collection of people mostly from Britain who hang around only with other westerns. Ages range from about 25 to 60 mostly male but some women too. Mostly single and all angry about something.

Peter (names have not been changed to protect the innocent as there are no innocents)

Peter is large friendly seeming guy from Switzerland who has married a local lady. They seem happy together so no problems there. The problem is that Peter is a biker, like myself, who visits the same motorcycle mechanic I do. The mechanic, Raju, is someone I have immeasurable respect for. I cant explain this but when you take your bike to Raju you buy him tea. He doesn't demand it or even ask but you just do because it is right. Peter spends at least an hour almost every day at Raju's but I have never seen him buy a cup of tea, drinks plenty but never buys. He always has a job of course that needs completing and Raju (for some reason I can't quite phantom) will always go up and do the job no matter what else he is doing. I have never seen Peter pay for this work but I have been told that Raju keeps a running total and gives him the bill each month at which point Peter refuses to pay it, calls Raju a con man, eventually pays half and walks out angry. To make it worse when someone comes to Raju (a random person) for repairs Peter will actively tell that there is a mechanic somewhere else who will do it for less or he will tell the person how to fix it themselves.

Daniel (also Swiss come to think of it) was in the BB with me last night having a beer. He paid his bill and took his change (50Rs or about .5 Euro) and held it over a candle burning it. Owen, an Irish guy I met a few weeks back, and me tried to stop him but he did it anyway right in front of the waiter. (Try to recall my story about Bimal the drummer) 50Rs is about half a days wages for the waiter and I looked into his face as this money burnt. He struggled to stop himself grabbing the money and then walked off without saying a word but his face said it all. I tried explaining to Daniel the situation. That people work all day everyday here just to feed their family. That 50Rs covers the cost of rice and dal for a family of 10 for a day and what he was doing was the equivalent of burning 30 Euros. His answer was that he gave the money back to the universe. Owen and me got up and walked away.

There's a Welsh lady who moved here and setup business. All she does is bitch about the locals and how they try to sabotage her because she is white. When she orders a beer she clicks her fingers and doesn't look at the barman. Didn't have one nice word to say about any locals and specifically hangs out in western only areas.

Any number of people who have nothing to do all day but have opinions on how the country should be run and what is wrong with it but they have the perfect solution if only people would listen. They complain about the politics and the police. They are upset about the intermittent electricity supply and know what must be done to fix it. Hell even the weather could do with tuning up a couple of notches.

Back to the bike again now. I was adjusting the rear shock and needed the rear wheel lifted off the ground and the bike rested on blocks. There's a guy there who is mouthing off a lot and using me and my bike as a topic of conversation for no-one in particular. I had been working for going on 2 hours and he had been there the whole time. Raju had rightly walked off for a bit of peace and so I asked this guy to help lift the bike “Get one of the browns to do it”

I struggled and did it myself. When Raju came back he looked over my work and nodded his approval. He appreciates motorbikes the same way an artist appreciates fine art and so while everything is off the bike and he can get a good look at the engine he looks at everything. Gently twists the throttle and watches the carbs. A squeeze of the clutch just to get the feel. Nothing goes untouched and as I watch him for 15 minutes nodding and shaking his head I find myself strangely desperate for his approval of my bike. He finally gets up and with a smile on his face gives me a little nod and walks off. Later I ask him if he wants to ride it. “No friend but thank you” the other guy, the “get one of the browns to do it” guy, is on his feet before I have even finished asking Raju if he wants to ride it and is practically shouting that he will have a go.

They all hang in western only areas, have no Nepali friends and treat the locals like crap that should only be talked to when something needs doing. I asked one why he lives here “Oh I just love it here”. The place stinks of British Imperialism.

So what to do about it huh? Well for starters I have to avoid these people for the next 3 weeks. I have decided that whenever I meet someone I don't like I will just walk away and not get upset with them. I wont judge any more or I will try not to. I have my own flaws, plenty of them. Yeah that's it. I wont let people ruin this little slice of paradise for me and when I leave I will hold it as a memory. I wont make it something it is not in my mind but when I think back I will always smile at the place that was almost perfect.

I dedicate this post to Raju as it is the only honour I can truly give him. A man who knows who he is and doesn't try to be anything else, a great judge of character who can make you feel like everything or nothing just by looking at you. You will never know the effect you had on me. By accepting me, you gave me more honour than I deserve.
Stay safe and ride well friend.


Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you again Ol.
It's been my experience that ex-pat communities are the same all over and it seems that Nepal is sadly no different.

Stay true to yourself and walk/ride with the good guys. You'll know who they are!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful writing nephew. Your posts get more eloquent all the time. Ted Simon would approve. We are hoping you will eventually get to visit us. Alan