In all the hullabaloo last week about the discovery of the Tibetan Wild Ass (Latin Name: Equus asininus) in Upper Mustang, one small bit of news that was tucked away in the inside pages went largely unnoticed by the seething masses and the international community. It was the fact that Nepal has just overtaken the United States as the most litigious country on earth. And we have no one else to thank for putting our up-and-coming country in the Guinness Book than our prime-time minister who, in a far-sighted and statesmanlike move, declared that instead of a roof over every Nepali head, he would first put a ceiling. Architecturally, this is a sound move. Legally, it is a masterstroke. Politically, it was either a coup de grace or a coup d'etat. We'll let you know as soon as more information becomes available.
Be that as it may and notwithstanding the where-to's and who-so-for's that are nagging everyone in Kathmandu's cocktail circuit, it was on the way to my dentist for the monthly instalment payment of a root canal I had done in 1984 that I noticed a long line outside the Bhattarai, Bhattarai and Bhattarai Law Associates, (Pvt) Ltd. Being a naturally inquisitive person, I went up to a three-year-old toddler waiting patiently, all by himself sucking a pacifier, and asked him what was going on.
"I'm suing my Dad."
"Whoa. You sure you want to do that, what does your mum think?"
"She's suing him too."
"Did you ask your grandparents for permission?"
"No. But they are suing my great-grandparents."
"But aren't your great-grandparents dead?"
"Yeah, but Atty. Bhattarai says it doesn't matter. He says he'll sue anyone dead or alive."
Shaking my head, I walked on to the dentist's to find there was a queue there too. It had snaked out of the clinic, past Ghanashyam Ghee Bhandar, and ended in the vicinity of the Bagalamukhi Cold Store and Supermarket. I joined the line, prepared for a long night out in the open. Being a curious kind of guy, I struck up a conversation with an elderly woman slightly younger than me. She was carrying a large sack, and I inquired as to its contents: "Stocking up on spinach, I see?"
She glared at me, the kind of look that Helen of Troy would have reserved for Agamemnon, the brother of Manalaus, King of Sparta. She spat out: "No, I sold all my land and withdrew all my money from the bank." She didn't have to tell me how expensive dentists are these days, but had it got so bad that you needed a sackful of cash to pay for tartar removal? "Don't you understand, I'm going to put all this money where no one else is ever going to get at it: gold teeth."
I wished her well, but didn't want to tell her that usually unreliable sources in government had told us Singha Durbar's next move would be a ceiling on the number of teeth an average head of household is allowed to possess: 26, of which 6 incisors, 4 canines, 6 pre-molars and 10 molars. We don't yet know what the democrats want, but the republicans even want a cap on all crowns!