Nepali Times
Isn’t it good, red sandalwood


Hridayendra sarkar coming down with the chickenpox has the palace all aflutter. The little prince was rushed back from Gokarna to Nirmal Nibas this week where he is recuperating under the close supervision of great step-grandmother Ratna. All this wouldn't have made headlines in the tabloids had the Nabayubaraj not been proposed as a compromise candidate to save the monarchy. Now it looks like even that won't do the trick.


So the Indo-Nepal medical diplomacy is in full swing again: Ram Baran, Shekhar, and Sushil all trooped off to Apollo Hospital to meet a slew of Indian leaders and take the opportunity to have their heads examined. Ram Baran needs to treat his tarai schizophrenia, First Nephew Shekhar has to sort out his dysfunctional relationship with First Daughter Sujata and First Cousin Sushil badly needs a face-lift. Now that Nona is no more, the Sujata-Sushil rift has paralysed decision-making in the Koirala kitchen cabinet. With the two pulling a hapless Girija in diametrically opposite directions the centre-right party establishment even lost control of the NSU leadership in Chitwan because the Sujata and Shekhar lobbies cancelled each other out. The Ass's advice to the prime minister is to forget about unification of the Nepali Congress for now, just unite the Koirala family first. Next week exclusive on Ass: UML medical diplomacy in Delhi.


Comrade Deb Gurung (army security code name: "Zulu 16") goes down in history this week as the first minister to call for a bund. As head of the Ethnic Federal Republican Front, the minister of local development wants the Supreme Court to overturn its decision on Nepali language, and since there is no likelihood of that happening we'll all be forcibly bunned again on Friday as you read this at home. During the most unstable coalition governments of the post-1990 democracy era we used to have three bunds a week on average, but even during those dark and uncertain days we never had a government minister calling a shutdown, for fakir's sake. Deb Babu is ably assisted in this endeavour by our very own valley commissar Comrade Hitman whose work on behalf of self-described "backward" groups is well known.


The behaviour of the formerly-subterranean comrades in government is beginning to arouse suspicions that the Maoists may move from their strategic offensive phase into a strategic withdrawal and pull out of the eight-party alliance ahead of elections. Being in the opposition can give them an anti-incumbent advantage, the freedom to unleash the YCL, stone ambassadorial cars without triggering a diplomatic incident, and call any number of bunds they want.

But it will be difficult to convince the comrade ministers who have been getting fairly comfortable in their jobs. Comrade Hasiya (code name: "Zulu 26") has got so hooked to the limelight thanks to Melamchi she now wants to have the project no matter what. Mahara Babu (code: "Zulu 21") has three cell phones (Mero Mobile, Tero Mobile and Hamara CDMA) and none of them work properly. Getting a call during a press meet at Singha Darbar recently he was shouting "Hello! Hello!" and when it turned out to be a wrong number he yelled into the phone: "Don't you know you're talking to a minister?"


It's not a coincidence that Nepal is flooded with sandalwood en route from Karnataka to Lhasa. They hunted down Comrade Veerapan, so the business just moved north to Nepal which is why it is called \'red\' sandalwood here. The Ass can't figure out what the fuss is about anyway. It's not our sandalwood forests that are being chopped down, they are not selling it in Nepal so we're not breaking any international treaties. We are just facilitating trade between our two neighbours and everybody gets his share. Nepal is benefiting from being a transit point between India and China, and wasn't that supposed to make us really rich?

So, instead of working up all this self-righteous outrage let's allow the sandalwood trade to flourish, collect our freight fees, and if any sandalwood is apprehended by chance, we can always send it back to India and barter it for diesel.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)