When “Gods” Don’t Help

The queue last Thursday. Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much of a crowd as usual.

If “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” then, surely, the “Gods” must be able to ensure cleanliness, right?…If you know what I mean!!

Well, that’s what some in Nepal, to me, seem to believe anyway.

Given that, for the past few years, 1000 to 2000 Nepalese migrant workers have been leaving the country every day, and given that many of them must visit the Department of Passport at least once — to get their first passport — it’s not at all surprising that the Department sees a large number of daily visitors. I know it’s large because I have seen the crowd every time I have walked past it, which I have done often!

The Department (see image above) is on the Western side (see image below) of the former Royal Palace compound, part of which is now Narayanhiti Palace Museum.

Location of Department of Passport and Kantipath.

What I didn’t know about was the feces and urine lining the sidewalk along the Eastern side of Kantipath.

The first time I happened to walk along it, not long after my arrival in Kathmandu from Qatar, I was shocked by the sight and the stench! But it was only on a visit in the winter of 2013 that I documented what I saw.

December 13, 2013. The sidewalk was still as filthy as it had been the first time I had walked it with urine and turds in many places. Notice the black patch (of urine) around the base of the tree.

Clearly there had been a major problem with visitors to the Department openly defecating and urinating along the sidewalk. I assumed that there were NO toilets the visitors could use. I have a hard time believing that so many would choose to relieve out in the open, in broad daylight with just a tree and a wall for cover next to a very very busy street, over relieving in toilets!

Sure, some may argue that toilets may have been available but weren’t enough forcing the impatient and/or the desperate to go in the open etc. etc.

Regardless, apart from the sidewalk being disgusting and foul, it was also the site of a bit of…amusement!

Someone or some authority had taken measures to curve the practice — they had lined the wall with photos of Hindu Deities and other religious figures! (I took the photos below last Thursday.)

The image is that of Shree Krishna, one of the reincarnations of Vishnu, the God that sustains all of creation. Vishnu comes down to earth to restore social order as one or other avataar (reincarnation), like Krishna, as and when necessary.
Hanuman, who, in the Ramayana, moves a mountain.

Over 80% of the population of Nepal follow Hinduism. And I know enough about Hindu mythologies to know that the innumerable deities and other characters in them are incredibly powerful. They are even known to move mountains, literally…in the mythology anyway! (Look up the story of Hanuman!) Not surprisingly and understandably, most Hindus in Nepal have faith in their Gods, Goddesses and religious figures.

Obviously, for that reason, whoever came up with the “solution,” believes that people would be deterred from relieving themselves out in the open so flagrantly under the “watch” of the “Deities”!

It’s however one thing for average Joes — or people in a neighborhood — to do this (see images below) to address issues of littering etc., given the general trust and belief in Hindu Gods and Goddesses, but quite another for Department of Passport, or the municipality, or whoever was responsible, to have resorted to this “solution” in an area with such an acute problem.

Shiva, the God of destruction, keeps watch over an area people in a neighborhood in Naya Bazaar have a tendency to litter!
Ganesh, Shiva’s son, keeps watch over an area people in a neighborhood in Samakhusi have a tendency to litter!

Not surprisingly, desperate — or sufficient — passport applicants appeared to not have been bothered enough by Deities “seeing” or “watching” them defile the area so!

Serving so many people every day, of course, the sensible way to address the problem would have been for the Department to build toilets in the premises or for the municipality to build public toilets in the area!

But, that would have been too sensible a thing to do….


Anyway, following that discovery, I had made a mental note to NOT take that sidewalk when on that stretch of Kantipath. Except, I failed at it at least a few times I am sure, which, as it turned out, was just as well!

One of those times I failed was one February day in 2015 when I discovered that they had indeed tried to address the problem sensibly!

In February, the wall appeared to have been repainted recently and they appeared to have done something more to curve the problem. This signage appeared in a few places on the wall.
It reads,”Please use the porter potty next to the gate.”

I must, however, confess that I didn’t confirm the existence of the porter potty. What I did notice, however, was that it did not address the problem either.

The next time I forgot to avoid that sidewalk, last Thursday morning, however, I was pleasantly surprised!

The porter potty signs were gone, the sidewalk was clean, the base of most trees were dry and clean, and the strong, horrible stench no longer permeated the area! There were still some signs of urination here and there BUT no turds anywhere!

Really impressed, I went in search of the reason behind the apparent DIFFERENT behavior of the recent passport applicants, convinced that there had to be one!

And sure enough, there was: toilets in the premises of the Department of Passport!

What’s more, yesterday morning as well as the day before yesterday morning, I took the sidewalk to confirm, firstly, that last Thursday wasn’t a fluke — that, for example, someone hadn’t cleaned the sidewalk earlier that morning — and, secondly, to locate the tree I had photographed in December 2013.

While I did notice a some signs of urination both mornings, I discovered just one turd…next to the very tree (see below).

Clearly, this trees has the dubious distinction of being one of the favorites among pissers in the area!
The appearance, yesterday morning, of the tree I photographed in December 2013. As you can see, it has a smaller patch of black around its base, but also a lump of turd (see arrow), the ONLY turd I encountered in the last three visits to the sidewalk!

The handling of this really minor problem in many ways shows the kind of attitude those in positions of authority and power in Nepal have towards the people they are supposed to serve. It shows, at the very least, the level of disregard they have for the people they are supposed to serve.

Having said that, I must concede that I am perfectly aware of — and willing to consider — the possibility that the assumptions I have made here could be all wrong, that indeed there is a perfectly valid explanation for what everyone walking past that stretch of Kantipath must have seen and experienced until recently!

I am willing to entertain the possibility — though highly unlikely — that those defecating and urinating in the area are NOT passport applicants, and that those responsible for addressing the problem by putting up the images of the Deities and religious figures are NOT Department of Passport or municipality officials etc.

What do you think?


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Three additional examples of solutions to issues/problems that do not really address the root cause, not much different from the one detailed above.

The following is about an incident at the Tribhuwan Internationl Airport in Kathmandu.

Click here for the original Facebook post, except the link to the article is broken. 🙁

The following is about the justification for a measure taken by the Ministry of Labour and Employment to allow only women above 30 to go work in the Gulf.

Click here for the original Facebook post, but the link is broken. Click here for another article which pretty much reports on the same.

The following is about the justification for a provision in the constitution barring Nepalese women from passing on her citizenship to their children.

What the paragraph refers to as “these provisions” are those in the BS 2072 (2015 AD) constitution. As you can see, the above paragraph summarizes the logic behind the provision that discriminates against women. Click here for the article the above extract came from.

The following is about the situation with Nepal Airlines domestic services and the measures they are taking to hide their incompetence with running the company, according to an article published in Ratopati. Even though almost as old as Thai Airways, the airline serves the whole domestic market with only two small planes flown by a lone Captain and two Co-pilots. And yet, they’ve come up with quite an ambitious flight schedule apparently (see image below).

“[According to the flight schedule] the two planes are supposed to make four flights a day. One plane is supposed to fly twice. In other words, they have created an impossible schedule of one captain and two co-pilots making four flights at one time! For one plane to fly, you need one captain and one co-pilot.”
The following is about an investigative reporter exposing some really really shady and dangerous practice in the medical fraternity in Kathmandu and that costing the editor — the EDITOR — who published the story, their job.

The Kathmandu Post (Aug. 8, 2018). Upholding shamelessness. “Perhaps I wonder what we aspire for. I look at the way people conduct their social functions, at the makeshift structures that are created at home for social events. I have seen them in rich and poor household alike, across religion, caste, and ethnicity. The common thread is that there is a project mindset. Let’s get it done. It is about quantity and not quality. It is about having 5,000 guests but not ensuring the guests have decent parking or excellent food. It is about showing off to your own family members or friends or colleagues. It is not designed to provide experience. We miss out on small things. We do not care about the key things that make the experience special. We spend millions on flower arrangements and decorations but no attention is paid to the toilet. The state of toilets at all major hotels and party palaces are pathetic. But people do not complain because only people who are used to clean toilets expect clean toilets. So this vicious circle of mediocre facilities being accepted as mediocrity reigns continues.” Emphasis mine. [Added on Nov. 26, 2018.]



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