Nepali Times
Under My Hat
One helluva move


Among the priceless items of heritage that we are in danger of losing to the relentless march of civilisation as we know it are our glorious superstitions. There are those who do not value our traditional faith in these beliefs which have been handed down from one generation of Nepalis to another since time immemorable. Today, these customs are in danger of being discarded into the dustbin of history.

For instance, the practice of blowing into your forefinger in case you accidentally touch your throat with it. Countless people through the centuries have prevented gotire with this simple, yet cost-effective, remedy. Similarly, it is because we believe in Black Cat commandos crossing the street that our national leaders are safe and sound, mostly sound.

Superstitions have a role to play in development as well. We can concoct new superstitions to combat corruption, for example, by spreading the belief that stealing is a sin and those who accept kickbacks will notice their fingers falling off one by one. That should clean things up.

We have other natural and supernatural wonders that are also endangered. One of them is Hell. People have forgotten that there is such a place, and it is vitally important in this day and age to re-invent the concept of Hell as a deterrent to control corruption, smuggling, urinating on Tundikhel, and other ills that plague contemporary Nepali society. To find out exactly how things are going on in Hell, we were recently granted an exclusive interview with the Devil in his secret hideout. Excerpts:

Q: Mr Satan, let me play the devil's advocate here and ask you a hypothetical question. Suppose we said you are personally responsible for many of the misfortunes that have visited our nation in the recent past, how would you respond?
A: At this present point in time, I'm afraid, I can neither confirm nor deny those rumours. But it is a matter of policy in The Netherworld (and I said this to CNN this morning) that we make life a living hell for all and sundry. We have managed all, now we are working on the sundry.

Q: Giving you, as Devil, his due, is the declaration of a state of national calamity going to affect your activities in any way?
A: Well, I may have to go underground and lie low for a bit with my cousin, Beelzebub.

Q: Poor devil. It is alleged that you have a hand in making lesser mortals engage in nefarious activities like corruption, smuggling and even urging them to become miscreants at Tundikhel.
A: These reports are grossly exaggerated. I will frankly admit to you-and this is totally off the record and if you quote me I will force you to print a retraction and vehemently deny I ever said it-I have on occasion mistaken the Tundikhel for a urinal.

Q: Be that as it may, hasn't this perpetual state of tension between Heaven and Hell gone on for a bit too long? After all, it is having serious consequences on the tourism industry. Will you at some point resume negotiations with God?
A: No way in hell. You see, these tensions benefit me.

Q: How exactly?
A: Well, some of the guards at the pearly gates are on my payroll and they misdirect the new arrivals to purgatory from where, after intensive training in being bad, they come to me.

Q: We hear rumours of a serious energy crisis in hell. Some returnees have told us that the fires are not burning as fiercely as in the past and there is a draft. Are you caught here between yourself and the deep blue sea?
A: That is correct. It is due to a temporary shortage of CNG caused by universal pollution control measures, and unfortunately we in Hell are also affected. But we will soon be switching to burning tyres to tide over the shortage. Things should be nice and toasty then.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)