January 15, 2021
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Nepal Diary

Season Of Gloom

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Season Of Gloom
Winter has descended on the Himalayan kingdom.
The skies above Kathmandu are crystal clear in the icy night and the mountains loom darkly behind the hills. As in Delhi'the colder months bring a sense of gloom and doom. Everything seems worse when you're shrouded in layers of wool'shivering nonetheless. Dead leaves rattle in the trees. Dogs lie with their noses pressed under their tails until well after sunrise. Even the ubiquitous western hippie tourists are dressed like Eskimos'instead of their usual mass-produced'tribal-warrior like clothes. On the diplomatic cocktail circuit'guests cluster around braziers and complain about hosts who make them stand outside. More Scotch than ever goes down their whinging throats. It's said that even the police are finding it too cold to extort money from late night drivers'although I can personally testify that this isn't true. Not even winter's frigid entropy can stop the long arm of the law from dipping into the citizen's wallet at every opportunity. Well-padded foreign employees of the United Nations and other aid agencies tell their drivers to fire up the heater in their Toyota Land Cruiser'but only when they're in the car'not when the poor chauffeur is awaiting his masters' pleasure. Drivers sit outside posh buildings'huddled around rubbish fires. The newspapers trot out tales of woe to while away the winter. There's a sugar shortage and the rapacious hoarding businessman is to blame. A labour dispute in the hotel industry will devastate Nepal's tourism-dependent economy. The government sits idly by as the local version of Rome burns'too lazy to even lift a fiddle bow. I tell myself the phenomenon is purely seasonal. Like the weather'this too shall pass. There's a silver lining somewhere'something to make the cloud more tolerable. Perhaps another whisky will do the trick. Why not? It's winter.

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