Nepali Times
Here And There
Miami’s vices


Humans, I now believe, were meant to live at sea level. We are, after all, distant relatives of water creatures. Our ancestors crawled out of the primordial soup, grew legs and lungs and eventually became us. That is, they started falling in love, making art and committing genocide on a regular basis.

I sit now by the Atlantic Ocean in Miami Beach, Florida, almost at the southwestern extremity of the United States. I'm in a concrete and steel building but I feel as if a one metre wave could slop onto the beach and get my shoes wet. How else to explain my new propensity to stay up late (reading of course), in defiance of Kathmandu's mandatory bed before midnight rule? I don't seem to get so tired here. And, errr, everyone gets to wear shoes wet, even here at my desk and computer on the second floor.

But I have to say, the breathing is easy. Nothing like a sea breeze to blast away the pollution. There's plenty of oxygen and fewer clothes here. Hindu orthodoxy is nowhere to be found. Not that there isn't plenty that's familiar to a Nepal hand here. Miami politics is wild, weird, wacky and wicked, just as it is in the Himalayan Kingdom.

Famously, a somewhat colourful senior official of the law department here was drummed out of office a few years ago for biting a woman dancer on her posterior. In public and very hard. He's now back in politics. Call him our Khum Bahadur Khadka, with a few differences. Here our monarch is King Jeb Bush, of America's great ruling dynasty. They may not have united the country in a heroic series of battles a couple of hundred years ago, but they're working at disuniting it in the same manner.

Miami is home to a proud local populace with a deep culture that feels itself under lasting siege from incomers. Our Newars are the native Floridians, descendants of the original settlers and even the American Indians who've been here as a people for thousands of years. The outsiders are from everywhere else in the world-cold bits of the US and Canada, the Caribbean, South America, Haiti and especially Cuba. In fact, it's the Cuban politicians that make this place seem as if it were run by the Nepali Congress Party in full grab. They're colourful, lively and rather unashamed of how much they manage to accumulate in their time in office. No wonder these guys want nothing to do with Fidel Castro and his communists.

There's a very relaxed attitude to life here. Like Nepalis, people take 'sun baths'. They relax a lot. They drink alcohol at lunchtime or early afternoon, they love food and fun and tell jokes about most things, especially politics. That is now disappearing in Nepal, I'm sorry to say, shattered at first by the growing Maoist rebellion, then the Narayanhiti massacre and finally by the failures of the Nepali ruling elite to take the situation seriously. When I first came to Kathmandu, I thought I'd arrived in South Asia's version of the Caribbean. Now the country is danger of turning into Haiti.

I suggest that our aid sector sponsor junkets to Florida, instead of Northern Ireland or Sri Lanka, so Nepalis can see the road ahead more clearly.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)