Driving along a pitch-dark street of Kathmandu, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, I had an unnerving experience and a sobering realization.
In spite of the week starting really well with my having a ritual performed Monday morning by a Hindu priest as per the recommendation of a Tibetan-Buddhist nun to appease (charm?) ‘nag deuta’ (snake God) and to ensure only good luck would come my way, the very next night this happens! (I paid some good money for it too, like Rs. 600, about US$6.00!!)
I was driving along a relatively wide two-way street when the only vehicle going in the other direction gave me pause. Not only did they have their brights (high beam) on, they were driving kind of fast and a little recklessly down the median, swerving left and right, in a hurry to be late to something…obviously. In between us — but on their side of the street — was a parked car, which was closer to me than them.
To begin with, his brights completely blinded me! With hopes of getting them to change it, I flashed my lights but got no reaction.
And, the vehicle continued to barrel down the median a little erratically, still. Even though they were considerably farther away from the parked car, I also realized then that we would be reaching the parked car at the same time — because of the speed they were traveling at!
Realizing that it wasn’t going to slow down, I slammed on my brakes and stopped a little distance from the car to give it considerably more space to maneuver past both the parked car and my car without grazing either, or sending me off the road etc.!
One of the ridiculous aspects of driving in the wayward traffic of Kathmandu, is having to yield (give way) to reckless drivers, for a number of reasons.
One of the reasons is that some don’t know how to drive properly AND don’t know traffic rules. Most DON’T drive defensively: they drive really really aggressively instead. As with getting any official paper or document, bribes are involved in getting a license, obviating the need to learn traffic rules. Not long after returning home May of last year, I remember seeing a TV program about a syndicate being busted for selling fake licenses! When you can buy a driving license, why bother learning to drive properly and learning the rules?! I am convinced that drivers in Nepal drive with their limbs ONLY, that they don’t use their brain at all!
Another reason is that they might be fine drivers and they might or might not know the rules BUT they don’t give a shit! That may be either because they are only concerned about themselves and where they are going, or because they have “source and force” (money and connection) and this is one of the ways they throw their weight around.
Yet another reason is that they are the “force” in the source-force combo, like, for instance…the police (excuse the pun)!
As I sat in my car waiting for it to pass, I looked out to see who/what the moron was! It was a blue pickup truck belonging to the Metropolitan Police (see image above)! If you are wondering, no they weren’t giving chase to a fleeing suspect in a vehicle or anything like that.
In reflex, my jaw dropped! But no sooner had that happened, I came to my senses: disbelief was replaced by,”Oh…yeah…of course!”
And that, in turn, was immediately followed by, “What would they have done to me had there been a mishap?”
The sobering realization, I am sure you have picked up on, was how little I believe in — and trust — them! There I was, worried what the police would “have done to me” had I gotten in an accident because of them!
That, to me, says a lot about how rules, regulations, law and order in our country has gone so wrong, to say nothing of everything else. For a long time, when we used to have an autocratic form of government — an absolute monarch — we used to have just one family that was above the law.
Now, average Nepalese, like myself, are asking, what are rules and regulations?! WHAT is law when they apply only to people without “source and force”, while those with “source and force” can bend it to suit their needs?!
On the streets of Kathmandu, the reckless rule!
We are a State that has sidelined the rule of law.
What would have gone through your head had you been in my shoes?
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