The opposition Maoist party organized massive gatherings recently to stop ministers and government officials from entering Singhadurbar complex, the official seat of the government of Nepal. Shouting of slogans were supplemented by songs and dances. The dancers included Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Nepali film actress Rekha Thapa. The crowds were jubilant. But not all participated spontaneously. It seems the revolutionary party that prides for having wide range of supporters had paid people to participate in its protest program. Here’s a story:
As the driver clutched the brakes, the old man’s head banged against mine. And a whiff of pungent, alcohol-drenched breath sunk into my throat. I wanted to puke. In self defence, I put out my hand and held the man by his shoulder, meaning to keep him at an arm’s length.
Two women who were standing nearby told the man to behave himself. But they were confronted with euphemism and adjectives telling them how men had the liberty to touch whatever and whoever they wanted. The sexual innuendos were a complete turn-off and I put down my hand and stood back as far as possible from him, in a bus that was crowded with passengers, as though it was the last bus home.
I realized what the women and I did to keep the man at bay, had actually had a reverse impact on him. And what began was drama.
“Don’t tell me to stand off. This is my bus too. Almost all the districts belong to me now. If you can’t stand me, you all should get off the bus.”
People laughed at first.
The tirade continued.
“I got paid four hundred today to gherao the Singha Durbar. The Maoists are also paying my house rent. It’s fine as long as they are taking care of me. When they stop, I’ll kick their ass.” And he laughed like a child.
Much of the rest of the journey became this man’s theatre-of-the-monologue.
“We went on the streets today to bring Parchanda back to power. He has to become the Prime Minister again to set things straight in this country.”
The two women who had been standing next to me continued their conversation to avoid him. They were now engaged in gossip.
“Did you hear about this one? She accused her closest friend of having an affair with her husband and refused to talk to her anymore. Just see! They were the best of friends.”
And the man interrupted, while his words were addressed to me, “That means the husband is the bad guy. See Babu, you should not get a husband like that. Get a husband who loves you in and out.”
By now, I was disgusted enough to continuously stare at my own feel. It was so revolting, I would have just got off and walked the long distance, had it been during the day.
The women continued, “And she owed him fifteen thousand rupees!”
Interruption again, “Fifteen. Money is nothing. It’s all about manners. You tell an old man like me to behave myself. Mother …….s! What have I said? You should all be standing up for me to sit down. I’m a thulo manchee (great man) of this nation. That Parchandey and Baburam are kids I toyed with. Do you hear?”
One of the women said, “We don’t want to hear your talks. Please stop talking. Or just get off the bus”
Another clang of laughter. “For twelve or nineteen thousand rupees, my son goes to places like Humla-Jumla to light the country. See how bright he’s made the nation for you? And you ungrateful people, worship Parchandey who makes big speeches. That Parchandey is not even a strand of my pubic hair!”
“Shut up!” a young man yelled. “Watch your words! Can’t you see women in the bus? Do you want to get beaten up?”
The pungent laughter again, “Babu, I’m old enough to be your father. No grandfather. (Chuckle) And this bus is mine. You can get off if you don’t want to travel with me. But I tell you, tomorrow, people will take Parchanday around the city like a dead cat. He thinks he’s too smart. Making people suffer like this. Look how we have to cram into buses to get to our destinations? Papi! Is he supposed to behave like this with the poor janta? Leader of the people, making us suffer. They’ll treat him like a dead cat tomorrow.”
“There’s a sick Aama sitting next to you. Can you shut up?”
He put his palms together and said to the old lady, “Sorry, Aama. Let people kill Mahendra or Gyanendra. What do I care? But Parchandey should become the minister. Can’t you see how hard we’re working on the streets for that? But we’ll kick them all if they don’t work for the people. Those p…. hairs, making us suffer like this…”
When I got off the bus, he was still going on with his bawdy outburst.
I couldn’t help laughing, as I walked toward my destination, over how I had had to duck my head to keep his stench off my face. It was one of those annoyingly helpless moments. And his laughter rang in my ears. Poor chap, I thought, another one of our confused puppet citizens.