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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cycling Along the Border

I am cycling in the one-lane mini highway in Nepal-India border, close to Bhairahawa, heading west to nowhere. That is, not to a particular place for a purpose but for refreshment after routine activities. The sun is setting in the west casting a long shadow of me with my bicycle in the paddy field. Such a trip in a stretch of the border in eastern Nepal must have been practically difficult after recent developments with disturbance of communal harmony. Moreover, there could be no other place safer than the ‘Dasgaja’ for any criminal element from Bihar or Nepal. This is the same border which keeps feeding the populist Indian media with the speculation of overt ISI activity every now and then.

But I am confident about my safety in this part of Nepal and choose to continue my three year long trend of cycling trips. As the refreshing air blows beneath the mango and Sisau trees with pleasant fragrance of humid paddy fields, I become proud of Bhairahawa for preserving the substantial communal harmony and of neighboring Uttar Pradesh of India for having propensity for cross-border crimes less than Bihar. But as always, a disturbing experience comes to shatter my moment of pleasure. Few months back a Pahadi gentleman spoke with insight while expressing his discontent to the Madhes movement and its impacts: “Till now, the Madhesis were the second class citizens here and now onwards the Pahadis will be the second class citizens.”

I was impressed by his observation and would praise him for his desire to abolish the second class status for any Nepali citizen, but his next statement was stunning and represented the stereotyped view of many Pahadis on the Madhes issue and the nationality. “Earlier you could easily humiliate a Madhesi for no reason and he would not dare to retaliate” he proceeded: “but now they will talk head-to-head and threaten to bring other Madhesis even if they can’t confront alone.” This was the judgement of a well-placed and educated person of good repute.

As I cycle past a herd of goats being brought back after the day long grazing in the infertile land of Dasgaja, women and children behind them chatting in Bhojpuri, the sun hides herself in the west with the scattered cloud in the west still orange-coloured. The devastating floods in the easten Nepal and Bihar caused by Koshi have seen a blame-game among the governments of Nepal, India and the state government of Bihar increasing the sourness in the bilateral relations already strained by the PM Prachandas’s visit to China. But this part of Terai saw no floods this year though there were some in the Danda Khola last year.

This all reminded me an online conversation that I had with my friend few weeks back in the aftermath of oath-taking controversy of the VP. There he had proclaimed to have been involved in a mission ‘Save Motherland’ to resist any undue interference by India in the internal matters of Nepal. I had then casually lectured him on the role of restraint at the times dominated by mob psychology and bitter geo-political realities governing the Nepal-India relationship. This incident even prompted me to write and post an article 'Nationality crisis: The way Out' in my blog. After cycling in the land with no trail for few minutes, I dragged my bicycle turning it back to the road heading for college. I was perplexed to find myself entangled in the never ending mess of politics while actually I had gone there for ‘refreshment’.

On the way back, I consoled myself with other international developments as politics won’t now go out of my head. Two decades after the end of cold war Russia had dared to attack a strategic ally of Washington in its backyard, that too with full vigor leaving NATO to merely watch the fighting. As the US and Russian administrations kept spitting at each others face the allegations of genocide in Georgia and South Ossetia respectively, the scene was unprecedented. Each of the insightful articles by the Georgian president Saakasvili, the New York Times global analyst Thomas Friedman and the astute supporter of Putin, a NRN Jugal Bhurtel, all on the same conflict projected the different aspects of it. This war proved that, after all, no power equation in the changing world is going to last for ever. As I cycled past the school for the deaf, children were playing with ropes and talking in symbolic languages. My bicycle now began rolling at the highway speed as if a small proportion of the enormous leverage given to Russian economic and military power by the high price of oil was transferred to it.

08-09-2008, Bhairahawa

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जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !

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