24-30 January 2014 #691

Living to eat

The reason the CIAA has such a difficult time controlling graft and corruption in Nepal is not, as you might expect, because it has a soft spot for beetle nuts. The real reason is linguistic and religious. In Nepal we don’t eat to live, we live to eat. We also love to eat. In this country, we will eat anything that moves, even if it not strictly fit for human consumption.

The crux of the biscuit is the verb in Nepali for ‘eat’ (‘khanu’), which is used for a lot more than ingesting dal bhat and tarkari. We don’t smoke cigarettes, for example, we eat them (‘churot khanu’). Beer is a liquid, but we never drink it, we eat it (‘beer khanu’). We don’t shoot the breeze, we eat it (‘hawa khanu’). When Nepalis greet you with “Khanu bho?” they don’t really want a detailed listing of your lunch in the order that you ate it, they are just saying “How’s it hangin, bro?” or words to that effect. When students fail their SLC, believe it or not they have to eat their report cards (‘fail khayo’). The great thing about kissing someone in Nepali is that you can also get to eat that person (‘moi khanu’).


And when they got elected to power, the Maobadis came to be known as ‘Khaobadis’ because they ate up other people’s money. On Tuesday, the new Constipation Assembly members didn’t take their oaths of office, they ate them (‘sapat khanu’). Which is why, to cut a long story short, here in Nepal, we don’t take bribes, we eat them (‘ghoos khanu’). So when someone like Dr Govinda KC wants to protest the medical mafia feeding up to 60 corrodes in ghoos for new hospital affiliations, he stops eating in symbolic protest. If Messrs Loktantra Man & Co over at the CIAA really wants to get to the bottom, as it were, of endemic corruption in this country he could start by reducing his personal daily intake of supari and go on a diet.


When actress Rekha Thapa ate a kiss on the cheek of a Raute Chieftain two months ago, she had expected the man to be eternally grateful. He probably was, but the rest of the tribe took serious umbrage at this insult to their hunter-gatherer slash-and-burn cultural way of life and refused the sacks of rice she gifted them. Now, the Rekha Thapa Foundation has donated three goats to the clan as compensation for the emotional stress she put them through by attempting oral rehydration therapy with the chief in full view of the national media. She has also offered a scholarship to a boy who was playing around in the dirt as a sign of goodwill. Slight problem: the boy, it turns out, isn’t a Raute at all.


One has to be impressed with the can-do attitude of the Newpal Police. No problem is too small for them, no detail too slight. They are leaving no stone overturned in their effort to make Kathmandu a safer place to live in. Break-ins are on the rise, there are armed robberies on buses, half of Kathmandu now suffers from asthma because of the dust we have eaten over the last two-and-half years in Lajimpat because of road-widening, and in response the Nepal Police has launched a drive against jaywalking. In an effort to show just how serious they are about stopping people from crossing the road anywhere they jolly well please, police have started arresting this latest threat to national security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Perpetrators are detained and inflicted 40 lashes with a wet rattan cane on their buttocks (‘kutai khanu’).

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