What do people do when there's nothing in the usual scheme of things to do? They think of alternatives to the usual suspects, or, as time wears on, begin thinking of all the things they should really be doing.
But why is it such a problem to have nothing to do? Is it not something of a city-centric, western-something obsession with some of us that we always have to be doing something? Of course, if one's very survival depends on doing something every day – if you are a daily wage labourer, that is – then this argument holds less water than a flu-bugged Maoist supporter. And to some extent, everyone's 'survival' is affected by a banda, especially those who depend on the free flow of commerce, kirana pasal to five-star hotel.
But if we do have the luxury of contemplating using this leisure time better because we're not expected to turn up to work or school, what should we be doing? Nothing to buy, nowhere to eat, nowhere to drink, nothing to see (that we want to see), it's no surprise if we take the easy way out by plunging into sociable activities at each other's houses: eating and drinking and gambling and slagging off the powers that be.
Rather, should we not be contemplating what the whole idea of 'doing' is? As so many of us equate doing with being (punctuated with breaks of conscious non-doing, all the better to get on with doing more productively), then does not doing mean not being? Is this why we feel so listless and useless after a couple of days of enforced bandas?
Probably what makes it worse is the enforced aspect of it. After all, we have a ridiculously undeserved number of public holidays in Nepal and honestly, I don't see people complaining about the ones that they care about. It's the idea of the enforced shutdown that bothers people: the fact that what you can and cannot do on this or that day is determined by uncontrollable forces. You can't really plan for it, and you can't do anything about it. If you decide to brave the streets on a bicycle, you are as likely as not to have the air let out the tyres by teens who can't, you conclude, yet understand the labour theory of value.
So that's what it is. You feel like you have the air let out of you. And here's the killer. While you go about doing nothing, those who are enforcing the banda are having one heck of a productive time partying in the streets, holding rallies, listening to speeches, and dreaming of a final victory. For many, this is a paid-for holiday, a welcome, inspirational respite from overwork, it is productive non-doing. For others, it is actually work. As a passerby quipped upon sighting a group of cadre making their way up from Tripureshwor to join the May Day rallies, 'Well, I guess they have to do their job, too.' Jaagir pani ta khanu paryo ni.
So as you wander around trying to find something to do, perhaps a little wondering is in order, too. Not merely about your place in the grander scheme of things, about being and nothingness and all that. But about the meaning of your place and role within the smaller world of Nepali society, and that of all the others. A little more empathy, not apathy, might go a long way.