Wednesday, April 05, 2000

My house beneath Bagmati bridge

By Manandhar
I swear, I belong to a family that is more indigenous than the indigenous people. My forgather came here long before the Bagmati river started to find her way from Baghdwar. Can you imagine this? I know you can’t.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a legendary lake by the southern slope of the Himalayas. One day, Lord Manjusree of China came over that lake and sent all the water away. When he ventured on this heroic deed, my forefather was his personal secretary. By the grace of Lord Manjusree , our family has been living in the same place where our new building lies. Some other true residents also followed that great idea and settled in the fertile land permanently.

It was only after hundreds of years of our arrival that a river called Bagmati flowed by our land. The river was so naughty that it flowed just beside our parental property. “Poor river,” we though and pardoned her waywardness. We asked her many times to change route but she was stubborn and turned a deaf ear. We didn’t mind it for she looked ‘chwank’ in those days. Then we slept Rip-Van-Wrinkle’s sleep for thousands of years.

We didn’t know how easily time passed. One after another, dynasties came over here to rule and proved themselves good. Then the Ranas came and again “Kangresi’ Democracy followed. What next? The original Pranchayati Democracy followed. We were still sleeping. Yet, we were not unconscious and had at least some idea that weird things were taking place now and then, here and there. Even in those periods, some of our comrades tried to ‘reclaim’ their lawful property. It was not as easy as now. Some crossed the border and some failed.

Then came the ‘topple-or-be-toppled’ Democracy. Hooray! This was the golden chance to occupy the land that our forefathers left for us some thousand years ago. Since all the prime ministers and ministers can’t see other things in this great country beside that hypnotic chair in Singha Durbar, we were free to claim the land of our choice.

But it was not so easy. Some low level officers objected when we tried to build a house on our land. No problem. This is democracy. Money is the only thing we have left to call our culture. A handful of money can hush them for sure. It is a matter of joy for us that this Kathmandu has become the centre of commotion for the whole country. And the environment is so romantic that you can claim any land in this lustrous city provided you know some officials personally. Let’s first build a house and then think whether people will believe in its legitimacy. What if the Bagmati bridge stretches farther than our land. As I have said before, we have been here ever before Bagmati herself, let us leave that bridge alone.

So long as the government falls upon the hands of those who never care whether the Bagmati came first or we did, more and more houses will be built along the ever-narrowing banks of the poor Bagmati. Some day, one will have guts enough to build [ a mansion] just under the bridge and even pull down the bridge itself. Just watch. And if you really have power or money in your pocket, join us. It’s far lucrative than crying out of stopping the pollution in the river.
[2000-04-05, The Kathmandu Post, Post Platform]