Nepali Times
Under My Hat
Very, Very, Very, Very Important Person


Let me say right at the outset that I love Mongolia and Mongolians. In fact, both Inner and Outer Mongolias are my favourite places in the entire Eastern Hemisphere. Nepal and Mongolia have a lot in common: they are both landlocked yams sandwiched between two large stones, both countries have a vibrant vodka industry (the most popular Mongolian brand is called Genghis Khan, and ours should be called Jung Bahadur, but for some reason no one has thought of it yet), both Nepalis and Mongolians love yak noodle soup, and we both share a glorious tradition of bringing everyday life in Ulaan Bataar and Kathmandu to a standstill as a token of our delight that foreign dignitaries have decided to pay us a visit. After all, it is not every day that the President of Mongolia decides to visit Nepal to declare a chukka jam and temporarily shut down civil aviation.

One useful indicator of the importance of a visiting dignitary is the number of hours that the Ring Road on Tin Kunay is gridlocked. Anything below two hours and you can be sure it is just a Very Important Person (VIP) passing through, for example the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister of Togo. But really Big Guys will block the Koteswor intersection for a minimum of four hours, or more. This usually means that it is a Very, Very, Very, Very Important Person (VVVVIP), flying all the way here to receive Kathmandu's Keys from our Mayor. Now, I'd think twice about giving the keys of my town to complete strangers. Never know what they'll do with it. Anyway, a V4IP arrival is a signal to get the hell out of this city and that is what we tried to do, but it was too late. The whole city was already grinding to a halt. Going by the bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on Sunday that stretched from the Saat Dobato to the airport, our preliminary assessment was that the State Visit of the Mongolian President could be classified as a moderate intensity visit.

The really Big Ones are Magnitude Ten disruptions reserved for SAARC Summits, Greek Foreign Ministers and US First Ladies-that is when the entire Ring Road and the airways come to a standstill for the duration of the visit as a mark of respect for the presence in our city of the distinguished visitors.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, by the time we got to the airport we found out we needn't have been worried because all flights were running late: air traffic had been affected for the same reason that ground traffic was at a standstill. As I write this, we have finally taken off, and before long we are already into our second Jung Bahadurs with tomato juice, and we have raised a toast to the age-old ties of friendship and goodwill between Nepalis and the good people of Outer Mongolia. The flight attendant comes on the intercom to ask us to stow our baggage in the oval head rockers, and to inform us that the pleasure in the cabin is automatically controlled and that in the unlikely event of the pleasure falling, oxygen masks will drop, and we should then clobber our nose and mouth and bleed normally.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)