Street children

The dust swirls up in the air and then down again, just to land underneath another set of tires. The sun is at its hottest now. Cars spouting. The drivers don´t hesitate to use the horn. The two boys sit in the back of the scrawny tempo (a kind of moped and bus mixed). Before it has stopped, they have already slid off and come running towards me. Krishna and Rajendra are brothers, only nine and ten years old. After their father injured his leg in a flood, an officer in their village sent them into town to beg. The mother is dead. Little dirty hands are held up.

  • One rupee, Madam, one rupee!
  • Hey, what’s your name?

Uncertainty. The two of them twist and scratch their dirty clothes. Their noses running under large children’s eyes.

  • One rupee, Madam.
  • – What do you think about begging, I ask Krishna and Rajendra who are eagerly keen to study my camera.
  • – We don’t like it, but we have to do it.
  • Big Brother Krishna suddenly becomes lively. – But we certainly don´t want to go to school. The little one nods eagerly.
  • – No, we certainly don’t want to.
  • – Where are you going now?
  • «We’re going by tempo to Jodibuti and we’re going to beg on the road.
  • The boys smile as they run off, ten rupees richer.

Krishna and Rajendra are just two out of many. Every day children are coming to Kathmandu to find jobs, many of them experience exploitation and choose a life on the street.

Kundura (16) works as a tempo assistant and picks garbage that he sells. He has been living on the streets of Kathmandu for three years. His background is typical of those who live on the street.

  • My father drank and beat me. Finally, he tied me up with wires and beat. When I was unleashed after that, I hit him in the middle of his face as hard as I could, and then I ran off.

Kundura beats with his fist into the air to show how hard he beat his father in the middle of his face. He smiles happy. His pals nod silently. They haven’t wanted to tell their stories. Kundura is the only one who wants to tell why he landed here.

  • Then I took the vegetable bus to Kathmandu. I came here at four o’clock in the afternoon and slept out at night.
  • Why did your father beat you?
  • He was angry and I was angry because he used to beat me.
  • Have you traveled to the village since then?
  • No, never, not once.
  • Do you miss the village?
  • Yes. I was born in the village, I like the village. But now I like Kathmandu.
  • Do you want to go back to the village?
  • No, I’m too lazy to do that.
  • It is perhaps too expensive too?

The pals laugh well. Kunduras´ village is just outside Kathmandu. It costs under a dime to go by bus there.

  • No. That’s not why I’m not leaving.

In a small brick house in the dust-filled center of Kathmandu 20-30 street children are gathered to learn photography.

Jitendrahas has shown up with his two best buddies, Maira and Anir on thirteen and seventeen. Jitendra is the oldest of them. He is 22 years, has wild, curly, uncombed hair and wears a filthy orange T-shirt with a big picture of Britney Spears.

  • I said he was too old to come today, but then he got this weird look on his face, so I hurried to say that it was okay, says Rewat Raj Tumilshina, the ex-street boy who along with three buddies runs a center for street children called «Our World». Rewat landed on the streets after an episode where he was beaten by his mother. His parents argued a lot and divorced when he was five years old, which is very unusual in Nepal. After many years, he joined a rehabilitation program and was supported to start the street children Center «Our World» where he himself would be the role model and help children who live on the street.

Jitendra and Anir decide pretty quickly to go to Bolka, a storage place for rice, grain, fruits and vegetables which arrive with trucks from the villages. At Bolka there is also garbage. Garbage, litter and again garbage. Tons of garbage as far as the eye can see.

  • See where you’re going! Rewat says. Around my sneaker knughs a half-crushed bottle. In between the garbage lies the remains of a buffalo. I look worried at the boys’ thin plastic sandals as they run away from us.
  • There, the boys are crying thrilled. There!

A little girl walks around in the filthy river looking for paper and plastic. She’s got half-length hair and dirty clothes and can’t be more than ten years. The grey, poisonous Bhagmati river contains ten times higher pollution than desirable and is filled to the brim with old garbage flowing. Around 4000 Nepalese children work with garbage. They pick plastic, metal and glass bottles and are very prone to cutting injuries, infections and dog bites. Many of the dogs here have diseases, like rabies. Children also easily become ill because they work in the most polluted parts of the city. All the boys cough, but Maira, the smallest of them, coughs the most. A rough, sore cough. The fine particles of dust get sucked into the lungs and can in the long run cause diseases like asthma and cancer.

Jitendra takes the camera and fires away.

  • Now it’s my turn, Maira cries out thrilled.

Maira gets his chance. Snap snap. But then the two mates stop, looking at the camera like there is something wrong. After a while they come back to us.

  • It doesn’t work.
  • Doesn’t it work? Rewat says and takes the camera to look at it. Before we know it, he’s taken out the camera film to see. Oh, no! All the pictures ruined.

On the sidewalk outside the photographic store, Rabindra sits down with his forehead in his hands and stares down at the asphalt.

  • He is depressed because it was he who destroyed the camera, Jitendra says. He and Anir try to play with Maira and say it´s ok, but Maira can’t smile now.

We go back all the way to the garbage sorting facility and further up the river to Kalimati, the big market. Here there is full activity; shelters bursting with the most amazing merchandise and sellers who scream with great baritones what they have to offer. Children’s hands rapid sort the various items in and out of sacks and boxes.

Maira follows all the time right on the heels of Rewat. If Rewat takes a step to the right, Rabindra does the same thing. If he stops for a moment, Maira does the same. Jitendra and Anir are discussing where it’s a good idea to go. But suddenly they begin to walk in opposite directions. What’s going on? Soon they stop. Shout to each other. Not long after, they’re back on the heels of each other.

An elderly man lays on his back on the sidewalk. He’s looking dead.

  •  Here I used to live, Rewat says as we pass by.
  • Look, I say horrified and point. – Is he dead?
  • No, he just sleeps, Rewat says and laughs.
  • Do you have bad memories from here?
  • I have both good and bad memories from here, he says thoughtfully.
  • You escaped from home?
  • Yes, I escaped.
  • How old were you then?
  • Six years.

Rewat becomes quiet. We agree to go somewhere to grab a bite. Before entering the small sidewalk restaurant, Anir, however, has disappeared again. Rewat looks worried.

  • He’s a little different that boy, he says.

But Anir follows us all the time with his eyes from afar. When he sees that we are standing and waiting for him, he suddenly pops up from nowhere, just as quickly as he disappeared.

We sit down in the corner of the restaurant. Then Anir goes and get seated at a different table. He refuses to eat anything.

  • I don´t like to eat in such places.

Rewat looks at me.

«I want them to learn such normal things,» he says. How to behave together with ordinary people.

Eventually, Anir comes and gets seated close to Jitendra. Then he lays the chest over the table and holds his hand in front of his mouth.

  • What do you think about this life?

They all become quiet and look at each other.

  • We don´t know, really, Maira says with an innocent look.
  • What do you think of him, then? I say and point at Rewant. Anir mumbles something, his hands in his face.
  • What? What does he say?
  • Ramro, Maira says. – He is good.

The children dine. But Anir only takes some water.

Most street kids never go home again.

  • Look at us, Rewat says and point to his pals. – We’re not going home neither. We have looked after ourselves all the way, earned money, gotten us food and roof over our heads. Why should we go back now? We might go to visit, but that’s all. In this small house we can have up to ninety children at once! Why? Because we care about them, because we understand them. To succeed in this field you really have to care for the children, he says.

Kathmandu, May 2005. Research: Jitendra Bajracharaya, Bhupendra Basnet and Margunn Grønn


Maya´s story

Maya Thapa (53) is one of many disabled people living in Nepal. Life has always been hard, but now that she has lost her only daughter, it has become unbearable.

  • We used to think that money is not everything, but now we think there is nothing bigger or better than money.

In front of a grey stone house on a dry river bank in Kalanki, east of Kathmandu, a smiling man in a wheel chair greets us, waving both of his hands. He is Akal Thapa. His friendly being is easy recognizable as he is sitting in a wheelchair. His hear is tousled, on his lap sits his two and a half year old grandchild Uswal. Both Maya and Akal Thapa are disabled, neither of them can walk anymore. We follow Akal inside the living room, where Maya is waiting in the dark. She is sitting on top of the bed, wearing a red t-shirt and a green longi which village women wear for work. Her hands are clutched around her knees. She is the only woman I have seen in Nepal with short hear. It is too hard to wash it. At the wall behind her, hangs a picture of two young beautiful people. It is her daughter Purnimas wedding picture.

It has only been four months since it happened. The two children lost their mother and Maya and Akal their only daughter, only 23 years of age. Maya takes a deep breath before she starts telling the story.

  • We used to have a poultry farm, and our daughter used to take care of it. It was a cold and rainy night. At half past seven it was getting dark, and it was cold and muddy in the farm, so our daughter went to change the bulb to keep the chicken warm. We heard her scream for help. Then we found her there, her body lying on the floor. We tried to move her, but it was not possible, Maya says through the tears. Akals body is shaking.
  • The wire that killed her was underneath her body. There was no more hope. She had died in a minute. Then she was brought to the hospital and declared dead, even if she was still warm, Maya says crying.

While his grandmother is speaking, the little boy becomes restless and starts moving around on top of the bed. Maya gets down to prepare a bottle of milk for him. She can not walk anymore, in stead she moves close to the floor, her feet crouched underneath her body. But it hurts for her to move like this. The small one is drinking thirstily, waving the bottle to show the us what he can do. After finishing the bottle, he keeps our attention by pushing a small green plastic chair in front of him, all the time studying us closely to see if we are watching.

Maya met Akal in the hospital. Both of his legs had been amputated after he served in the Indian army as a young man. Once he was posted at the Chinese-Bhutanese border where there was heavy snowfall and the weather was icy cold. The soldiers used to make fire to keep warm, and Akals legs were hurting. Six months later, after having returned to the village, he started feeling pain and the doctor said he had to amputate both of his legs.

Suddenly the door opens and a little girl wearing a school uniform comes running into the room, throwing her ruck sack down to the floor, jumping on top of the bed to be with her grandparents. She is their oldest grandchild, Roshani, three and a half years old.

Maya and Akal used to rent a flat on government land but they were chased away and had to move. Then they took a big loan, to make their own home here in Kalanki. The first year, however, the flood came and water filled their apartment. It was impossible to live there. Then they took another loan and made a second floor. They now owe almost 300.000 rupees. Their daughter had a good job and a steady income, but after her death it is not possible for them to pay back the loan, soon they will not have money enough to send their granddaughter to school, they can hardly feed themselves. Both of them are sick and need expensive medicines, still they have to take care of the children, as their son in law is working. They are trying to make a living by selling batics to foreign people, but since tourists deserted Nepal, there are no market to sell anymore. Disabled people in Nepal have the right to claim 150 rupees per month from the welfare office, but for people living far away from this office, it may be even more expensive to collect the money from this office, which does not even have a ramp for wheelchairs.

  • There are no dreams left, Maya says. – All of them are gone. I would like to see peace in Nepal, people being able to stay in their own villages, working together for peace. And we would like to do something for this, but because we are old and disabled we are not able to.

Akal gets out of the wheelchair and humps on top of the bed, where he gets seated next to his wife. Then he lifts up his grandson and places him on the lap.

  • People are dying, and even if life is not good, it is better to live with each other in peace, Maya says. – We are only one nation, but political parties are arguing and fighting each other. I think they are trying to destroy this country. People tell me not to cry, but I can not help it. We had a daughter and because of her and the grandchildren we could have done something. But since our daughter died, we are not able to do anything and cannot dream of anything. The last year it was hard for us even to survive. Most of the days we are crying and life is passing, just like that, Maya says.
  • We used to think that money is not everything, she says. But now we think there is nothing bigger or better than money.

Kathmandu, January 2005. Interpreter: Indira Amatya


Caught in the crossfire

It is evening, we sit in warm clothes around the crackling fire which is warming the few guests who have come to the national park, Chitwan, at the border of India, to look at tigers and rhinos. The dry wood is threatening to fall out of the fireplace, before Rabindra pushes the tree root in place. Suddenly we hear a shot. The gunfire comes from a few hundred meters away. Everyone becomes quiet.

  • They are just cleaning their guns, the manager of the hotel says.

We wish to believe it. The manager does not want the guests to leave because of fear.

The Kings promise after the coup d´etat in February this year is to restore democracy within a hundred days, reestablish human rights and make peace. According to the King, the coup was according to the peoples will, chaos and anarchy was threatening to take over. The latter we can agree about.

But people have no confidence in the King. One of the first things he did after taking over the power in February was to deprive the citizens of their rights to information, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of speech, private property rights, the right to privacy, and he removed the prohibition against preventive custody.

  • The King is not really interested in making peace, says an academic we meet at a café in Kathmandu. Outside the café, two policemen are checking people´s drivers licenses.

  • In the night the Maoists come and demand that we close the roads with giant stones and trees. The day after, the security forces come and demand that we remove the same stones and trees, a man says, whom we meet in the road near Butwal. – It is impossible to get to the market to sell our vegetables and goods.

Along the main roads to Chitwan, large quantities of tomatoes are being thrown and milk poured out. The goods don’t make it to the marketplace because of roadblocks which often contain bombs. This way the Maoists show how they have the real power in Nepal. With an important exception: Kathmandu. With his 30.000 soldiers posted in the Valley the town is kind of a last fortress for the not so popular king Gyanendra.

The day the King took power, all the telephone lines were dead, most of public communication was stopped and the few news media still operating were all sending the Kings speech.

  • We don’t even know if it is ok to send news about missing and cidnapped children, vaccination programs and children health, Raghu Mainali, leader of the Community Broadcasters Association says.

Even if people have had enough of the Maoists, it does not mean they are supporting the government.

  • Peace is all we need, tell them that, says a man. – We need protection from the army.

But the army´s presence in the villages also makes people feel unsafe, because it increases the risk of crossfire.

After the coup d´etat Great Britain and the USA are considering to withdraw their military support to Nepal. India also has a Maoist movement many places in the villages, and therefore wants to continue its support, even if India also was negative to the Kings draw.

It is evening again. We are the only guests left and the hotel staff ask us if we can come to sit by the fireplace with them. They save the wood for the guests, and if we don´t come to sit with them, they will have to freeze this evening. Once again we find ourselves sitting by the crackling fire in the black starry night. One can tell the most unbelievable things here. Dhurba is drunk and starts to confide. He does not like his job.

  • Every day I go down to the bus station looking for new guests, he says. – But it is a terrible job. We are may be 80 in total (approximately 60 hotels) doing the same thing, looking for tourists, and each day only a few tourists arrive. Sometimes someone comes who have heard about this hotel before, other days no one comes.

Because of the political situation, the tourist industry in Nepal is suffering.

  • Today nobody came, Dhurba says.
  • I´m taking big risks, the hotel owner says. Every time I drive tourists from the airport I am afraid that the Maoists will stop me and say that they need my car. There are lots of women in the Maoist guerilla these days. You see a woman and then she opens the jacket and ops, she has a gun there.
  • We don’t belong to either side in this war, Dhurba says. – We are independent. We just try to make a living. We must have lentils and rice. Without rice there is nothing. Without rice you cannot do anything, without rice you are nothing.

– The Kings initiative is taken in the name of peace, but we feel that the Kings action may be the right step for the wrong reasons or the wrong step for the right reasons, says Baburam Giri, leader of Nepal Human Rights Association, one of few human rights activists who has not yet been sent to jail. – We feel it is not comfortable that the human rights have been restricted, it is not welcome.

In the meantime people prepare themselves for a new blocade.

– We don´t have the possibility to think about democracy, first we need peace, says Shalik Ram, one of hundreds of thousands who have fled from the village and stranded in Kathmandu.

Chitwan and Kathmandu, February 2005

Research: Margunn Grønn and Bhupendra Basnet

Literature: Kathmandu Post and Nepali Times.


Life in the jungle

We have taken the trip from Kathmandu to the jungle of Chitwan, close to the Indian border. Here the Bengali tiger lives alongside with rhinos, leopards, monkeys, bears, snakes, wild elephants, pigs and you name it. It is in the middle of the day, and we are resting at the hotel after a long journey.

Suddenly we here a roar. We run over to the windows. We can almost not believe what is happening right in front of us. Another roar. It´s the elephants who are coming to take a bath in the river. Three tourists sit on the back, ready to get a shower from the trunk. – Dooooper – Doooper. Give me water, give med water, the elephant tamer says. But it is out of season, the water is too cold and the elephant does not want to get into it. Stirred it runs several meters in the water and before anyone knows it, they are all in the water, both the shocked tourists and the colossal elephant, which has now laid over to one side and is kicking its giant feet in the water.

The tourists splash and crank with their hands, terrified to end up under the heavy colossus that seems to be completely out of control. The elephant tamer jumps up on the side of its big back, while shouting and hitting with a small stick. Eventually, the elephant gets up, slowly, on his feet. Two of the tourists climb hesitantly on his back again. People from the area, both tourists and people working in hotels and restaurants, gather at the riverbed to see what is happening. Once again, the two deeply soaked tourists are thrown into the river. A liberating laughter spreads among the spectators and more people are coming to see.

In the evening we sit by the fire together with the hotel staff. It is cold in January. The stout and charismatic chef begins to tell stories in Nepali. Every time he finishes a story, the crowd bursts in laughter. Once he was so tired after having done the dishes all day, that he fell down from a ladder and ended up in hospital. Laughter. Later he tells stories about all the guests who have visited the hotel. An Englishman who was there recently, arrived in a helicopter and spent money like water. Eventually he was so broke and unrattled that he asked the hotel staff what in the world he was going to do. They suggested he needed to go back to his work in Kathmandu, that maybe he had some important things waiting for him there? The man thought about it, yes, they were certainly right, but how could he go there without any money left? Then the staff collected money for the cheapest microbus they could find. He came in a helicopter and left in a microbus. The crowd laughs in tears.

Chitwan, January 2005

Peace is all we need

Chitwan is one of the many places which have been hard to reach the last number of weeks. But daily life has to go on, in one way or another.

Basu, the young man who runs the restaurant, is working from seven in the morning until the last guests have gone late in the evening. Earlier he used to visit his parents at night, who are old and cannot manage themselves anymore. – They don’t have enough rice. I need to help them, the man with the kind eyes says. – It is cold and they are freezing.

Basu used to study trade, but has now been working the last nine years to support the family. – I must prioritize my parents now that they are old. That is what´s most important. I would like to get married, but first I need to save the money necessary. The problem is that the boss is paying too little. 1500 rupees is all I make in one month. I have asked for more, but his only answer is no. “How can I pay more when no tourists are coming”, he says. Now I don’t want to ask him anymore, he only turns mad.

  • Yesterday a man was shot right there in the forest, the guide Dhurba says and points to the green forest behind us. – It is the first time here in Sauraha. It was a man in the army who was shot when he was walking alone in the evening. Now we don’t like to go out anymore after dark.
  • He should have been more careful, one of the official guides says. The one who always wears a green ranger uniform and looks at the birds through the binoculars.
  • Why is that?
  • A soldier should know better than to walk alone by night, he says.

The guide shakes his head. Basu, the young man running the restaurant, becomes sad.

  • Now I don´t dare to go to visit my parents anymore.

Chitwan, January 2005

Elephants never again

  • I don´t like to go into the jungle, a young man wearing a cap called Mojo says. He is one of the touristguides we meet at one of the hotels near Chitwan national park. – I do it only because I have to, because some tourists have asked for it. The truth is I had decided never to do it anymore.
  • Why are you afraid to go into the jungle?
  • I used to take tourists on “jungle walks”. It used to be my job. Once I went with another guide and a foreign couple. It was in the afternoon, and we had been walking all day without anything to eat or drink. It was burning hot and I was so thirsty. It was my turn to walk in front, when we got a message that there was a wild elephant coming towards us, and we should turn right to avoid him. So we did, and tried to avoid him this way. The only problem was that the elephant also changed his direction and came directly towards us. We did not know, because the elephant came totally silent… He breathes through his trunk, he does not make a sound. His teeth were as big as this – Mojo shows me the upper part of his arms. – One knock, and you are no more, he says.

In the panic that followed, the two guides agreed to go with one tourist each, the tourists were afraid and did not know what to do. When Mojo went with the girl, the elephant came chasing them, challenging them. They were trying to get to the river were a canoe was coming, but the elephant followed them into the water, they ran as fast as they could and according to Mojo, hardly escaped the elephants deadly bite. – The german girl started to cry, and when she cried it was as if I cried too. That’s when I decided never to go into the jungle again.

Mojo breaths heavily. – I can do a lot of things, rhinos and bears I can handle, a bear at least you can fight. But a wild elephant, there is nothing to do against such an animal.

  • The wild elephant comes here because of the elephant breeding centre, Raj Gurung one of the authorized guides of the Chitwan national park explains. We have taken the canoe over the river to the national park, where we are sitting at the riverbed. He explains to me all the traces we find. – Look here, he says, the leopards have just been here to drink.

  • I have never seen wild animals attack without being provoked, if it is not to live a happy life according to their instincts. They don’t want to bother anyone besides from that, he says. – Why should the wild animals come here and look for people? They don’t do that, they only have to come if they don’t find enough to eat in the jungle. Then they come to eat from the farmers fields around here.

According to guides who have been working in the area around Sauraha for the last 15-20 years, the number of animals in the forest is dramatically decreasing. They suspect it is because of the floods, sweeping away the vegetation, leaving desert behind, and because of the many people who come to collect firewood from within the forest.

  • The government should provide them with some option, Raj Gurung says. – People live to close to the wild life. Why do they have to live so close to the national park? When a rhino attacks and kills a person, they blame the rhino. But the rhino is just following his natural instincts.

Since the insurgency began in 1996 poaching of endangered species in the park has increased rapidly because of reduced security posts within the park. No military longer dares to stand guard there.

Chitwan, January 2005

Christmas Greetings

We tried to make the atmosphere of Christmas like home, but it was not so easy, as everything is so different here. We were going to a big Christmas dinner event with the other Norwegians in Nepal, but then I found out that I did not have a proper dress to wear, so I cycled on Gards tall Indian bike, which goes like a shot, right down to a Tibetan store in the area, to buy a Tibetan dress in silk fabric. That was all good. But while I biked in this dusty traffic and the sun burnt and the many people I passed shouted loudly if we were to buy some vegetables today, I thought to myself; this is for sure the weirdest Christmas celebration I am ever going to experience.

Luckily, my mother and mother-in-law had brought some gifts from Norway, which Kristoffer could open, and all cards were read several times, but most of the packages were unfortunately confiscated by the Nepali Postal Service. Well, well.

After that we went to Chitwan at the Indian border on a Christmas holiday, where we sat on an elephant, had a bath in the river with it, looked at rhinos and crocodiles from a traditional boat, we went on tiger safari in the jungle, both by jeep and by foot. It was a remarkable and fantastic holiday, may be the best one ever. I am only sad it is over.

Big hug to all!

Christmas Greetings from Nepal, Desember 2004

A different day in Kathmandu

  • Look what is happening to our country, one of thousands who have gathered in front of the manpower agency says in despair. People are throwing computers, chairs, tables, wires, papers, telephones and other office equipment out of the windows, while the crowd screams.

It all began at eight o clock yesterday evening when Nepal Television showed pictures of the twelve murdered nepalese, who have been kept hostages in Iraq the last twenty days. One of them had had his throat cut over, the others were shot, all of them laying on their stomachs on the floor with blood stains on their clothes. After that we could follow a serial of encounters with the mourning families here in Nepal. One mother laid on the floor, she had no strength left.

The twelve assassinated nepalese are among thousands of innocent poor who have applied for jobs abroad to support their families in Nepal. They all represent different areas of Nepal and at the same time the many poor of Nepal. The manpower agency which sent them to work in Jordan, later in Iraq, is very unpopular here in Kathmandu. Poor people have paid high prices to get work through the agency, but have waited for months without any work. These twelve thought they were going to work in Jordan, but were later sent illegally to Iraq to work there in stead. Therfore the whole nation of Nepal has followed their destiny carefully these last twenty days after they were kidnapped by the islamic military organization Ansar al-Sunna, straight after passing the border of Iraq.

Already after the Nepal Televisions news yesterday evening, I should have understood that these disturbing news would cause some reactions here in Kathmandu. Two hours later, at ten o clock in the evening, some people started to throw stones at the Moonlight Consultancy Pvt. Ltd, the manpower agency which is situated in Lalitpur close to where we live. Today it continues with riots all over the town, tires being set on fire to obstruct traffic and people demonstrating. The anger is not only directed towards the manpower agency, but also towards the government which the rebels think have done too little to rescue the kidnapped and to support their families.

Around 11 a.m. we see smoke from the roundabout here in Jawalakhel and Gard goes out to see what is happening. Someone has placed burning tires in the middle of the road all through the roundabout. Gard accidently becomes witness to a group of people breaking into the manpower agency. They soon start to throw office equipment out of the windows at the top of the building. Computers, chairs and tables are being thrown out to the sound of glass crushing and the watching crowd screaming. The streets are full of people, several thousands altogether, as Gard gets uncomfortble with the high level of tension and decides to escape.

At this time I am home where I only vaguely hear something, like a choir from the distance. I get worried and calls the office situated in the centre of town, which I have not been able to reach today, because everything is closed down and the traffic stopped. Only a few have made it to work. One of my collegues, Jitendra, warns me that there are riots all over Kathmandu, tires on fire, people vandalizing office buildings and shops, arsoning etc. The rebels have already destroyed a mosque. – You better stay at home, he says.

As this happens, Gard is in the middle of the heat in Pulchowk, Lalitpur. He suddenly discovers that he must pass the agitated crowd to get home in safety. A computer is being thrown out of one of the windows in the third floor and the crowd screems in extacy. Then chairs, tables, papers, wires, telephones and other office equipment follows. A police car drives past, but does not stop, understandably maybe, as hundreds of people are taking part in the incident and more than a thousand are watching. The crowd claps and cheers as the police car passes slowly without stopping. – Look what is happening to our country, a man says to Gard. – You should not be here. – Go! – Go!

Gard looks down to the ground as he slowly and carefully passes the crowd. Shortly after the phone rings. It is Tirtas, our maids husband with an anxious, crying daughter in the background, telling Tirta to come home. Tirta keeps repeating one word in nepali which I later understand means curfew. From two o clock today, if there are people in the streets, the army will open fire, she explains, waving her arms like shooting with a gun. – Sut. Sut, she says. Then she puts the pizza in the oven, and off she goes. Tirta is running a bit late because of the pizza, and before saying goodbye we laugh nervously at the idea of the royal nepalese army fighting little tiny Tirta in the streets.

At two o clock the whole city is deserted, only military guards and a few dogs (and maybe cows) can be seen. It is dead quiet. We discuss to buy rice and potatoes in case it will be more serious the next time something like this happens. After a while some kids go out to play and it all feels more relaxed. We watch BBC World, but agree that World Asian News are better. Then we watch Nepal Television and Gard thinks the destroying of the arab mosque in Kathmandu looks a lot worse than what he saw in Pulchowk earlier today. Then we put Kristoffer to bed and everything seems to be back to normal.

Kathmandu, September 2004

Kathmandu the day after

Today everything is back to «normal». Only the normal thing is another curfew…

Everything was calm this morning, and after yesterdays events we gathered that it was all back to normal again and I prepared to go to work. We soon heard a chopper swiping over the area and we found out that the curfew was lifted only untill 9.30 a.m. After that everything would be closed down like yesterday and we were not able to leave our homes. So everyone stayed at home, relaxing or fixing things in the home, children playing. We found out about the curfew too late to go shopping for groceries. Our maid called and explained that she was not coming and that we should keep indoors. Actually, everyone is nice and explains the situation since we can not understand the information on Radio Nepal, the state channel, which announces strikes and curfews.

We found out that about 100 buildings in Kathmandu were destroyed in yesterdays rallys. Both employment agencies, foreign travel agencies with flights to Arab countries, a mosque, two leading publication houses as well as public and private properties were attacked. At least two persons were killed and dusins wounded in clinch with the police.

Kristoffer is content, however, having his mother at home. So we are awaiting the situation, not knowing how long the curfew will continue, hopefully only today, so that we can go shopping for groceries tomorrow.

Kathmandu, September 2004

Third day of curfew

Kathmandu is normally loud and noisy, but today everything is quiet. Nobody knows how long the curfew will continue.

Today is the third day of curfew, everyone stay at home and it seems like the whole city is asleep. Actually, it is so quiet I can sometimes hear the roar of the elephant in the Zoo close to where we live. Sometimes we see people on the top of their roofs, looking around at the dead city, only some dogs barking and birds flying around. People who have gardens may sit outdoors, but they are also quiet today. The only activity I can see is when someone is hanging wet clothes to dry on top of their roofs. It really is a dead city. The only thing we can hear are choppers and people turning on their radios when Radio Nepal is transmitting news in the morning and afternoon. We saw one aircraft yesterday leaving Kathmandu, and heard another one today which I could not see. Yesterday we also saw a military jet.

Yesterday afternoon the government lifted the curfew for two hours between 5 and 7 p.m. It was crazy, the whole city of Kathmandu was suddenly on its feet, people were moving fast to the shops to get groceries (or to open their shops), cars and bikes were moving, the streets were full of people, there were lines everywhere. I never experienced anything like it. We were following the news carefully the whole day, afraid to lose the opportunity to go shopping for groceries in case the curfew was lifted. But it really was no problem, because at five o clock the whole town was totally changed within a minute. We walked restless like the others to find a place to buy babyfood, rice, wheat, beans, lenses and all the things we think we will need if a serious situation occurs. I think white people must have been more worried than nepali people because I have never seen so many white folks here at the same time. And the shopkeeper smiled from one ear to another as we left the shop, having emptied our pockets for all our money.

This morning the curfew was also lifted from 6 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. Everything suddenly seemed to be back to normal, people seemed happy and smiling, more shops had managed to open since yesterday, drivers were using their horn like it was some kind of celebration. I relaxed at home with my twisted ancle, while Gard and Kristoffer went out for some air and another big sack of rice. We are talking about what we will need or not in an emergency situation and how it might be. We don´t know how long the curfew will continue. Some people think the curfew will go on for days, others think it might be over on Sunday.

Our didi, Tirta, is telling how people were fighting to get water from an outdoors tap yesterday morning when the curfew was lifted for limited time. And yesterday evening on tv we could see people trying to fill their kettles and casseroles with water dripping from a tube in the rain. Today it was better and more relaxed, Tirta says.

Kathmandu, September 2004