THE PERSONAL THING. I’m usually lucky enough not to miss anyone or anything. I suppose I’d only long for freedom if it were missing. Is that a gift or a weakness? Could I be accused of being robotically insensitive? I was vaccinated against homesickness when, as a child, I spent four years locked up in a boarding school, which was luxurious and, at the same time, similar to a fascist barracks with iron discipline.
Another reason to explain this lack of nostalgia is due to a psychological fact, which is more normal and understandable. It is perfectly defined by the expression “missing”. We miss those who have disappeared from our lives, from the little house we shared or from the gatherings we held at sunset. It is a small discomfort felt in the solar plexus that could be mistaken for a knot in the stomach.
Obviously, only those who stay suffer from it, because the one who has left has metaphorically and literally his head elsewhere, because, in order to avoid suffering mishaps during the journey, one has to focus on the present and take care of each of the steps he takes, as if he were walking along a cliff. And I don’t miss anyone because I’m almost always the one who leaves.
But, damn it, our Valencian friend has been the exception that proves the rule. After staying with me for two weeks in this pension in Sauraha, Nepal, when he left the day before yesterday to return to his homeland (passing through Kathmandu, Delhi and Madrid) I noticed that curious itch of homesickness. It was an unusual event, and I said to myself smiling: “Well, man, now it will turn out that I am a human being!
THE VIRULENT ISSUES
Because of the coronavirus epidemic, the Beijing government has just closed its borders with Nepal. I think it’s wonderful, although it would have been logical for the Nepalese to make that decision. Will they do the same with the other countries bordering Southeast Asia?
This crisis is bringing with it a host of unexpected problems that would have been unimaginable a few weeks earlier. One of these concerns the Nepalese border towns, which were supplied by the nearby Chinese bazaars, since the Nepalese people are located at great distances, and now have to be fed by army helicopters.
Those who have not yet received the promised aid to be evacuated from China are the thousands of young Nepalese studying there, many of whom are in Wuhan, the epicentre of that virulent earthquake.
Chinese tourism had already fallen to zero even before the borders were closed, and now it is almost the same for Korea, India and Sri Lanka. This, of course, means that many hotels in Nepal are practically empty. And this has happened at the time when the Kathmandu government announced with great fanfare the beginning of the “Visit Nepal 2020” publicity campaign to get a spectacular increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting Nepal this year.
WALKING IN THIS BIG GARDEN
Addiction specialists say that it is very bad to drink alone (But I like it!), and the Valencian friend’s company prevented me from continuing this “bad” habit. Anyway, we stuck to a vampire schedule and only uncorked a few bottles after waiting for the sun to set. He defined it by saying, “We are teetotalers by day and drunkards by night. One day when he invited me to dinner at a luxurious garden resort by the Rapti River, we discovered the existence of what is, without a doubt, the best beer in Nepal. It is called “Red Himalayan”, it has a taste as peculiar as its color, and it was served to us under pressure.
With Mr. Tolstoy, apart from playing “bloodthirsty” backgammon games, we spend a lot of time watching the domestic videos that the Russians film in their homes or while driving; and I, on seeing the nonsense that they do, exclaim daily: “Even if it is hard to believe, you Russians are crazier than the Nepalese or the Indians!”You have to be a bit kamikaze to drive on Russian streets and roads, because you go through red lights at full speed, and the same goes for stop signs! Terrifying: very long trucks will overtake others, forcing those who come in front of them off the road.
When I look at each of the continuous and spectacular accidents (if I don’t see it I don’t believe it), I ask myself: “Were those drivers drunk or didn’t they even know how to drive?
The funny thing. A car was driving around with a giant boar in the back that stuck its head out of the window. Even more difficult: a small car carrying a camel that, inevitably, would also stick its head and neck out of the window. A man standing in the open trunk of a car while holding a six-foot refrigerator.
The scams. They sell medicine capsules that are empty: “Take five a day and you will see improvement”. They do the same with some beer cans, of which there is an empty one in a pack of four: “Buy four for the price of three!
The most incredible thing about that incredible Russia: a cat taking a long, pleasant bath in a basin full of water from which only its head was sticking out.
Let me give you some information about these meetings with Mr. Tolstoy to help you visualize the scenery. He and his Nepalese wife occupy a square room on the top floor of the house which they are building in stages. To one side, and cornered by the wall, is the double bed, which serves as a playground for her two nice little nephews. She is the lovely Ritica who I started calling Pichurrina when she was just a baby, a nickname she has now kept, as this is what the whole family calls her. I don’t remember the boy’s name because he’s been given the nickname Kale (black). Even though Mr. Tolstoy and his wife have not had any children so far, it is clear that he loves children, for he plays patiently with these nephews, enduring their barracking without losing his smile.
The limited dimensions of that room have not prevented them from also putting in an oval dining table, a refrigerator, a small table with an electric stove, a couch, and a matching armchair in which Mr. Tolstoy spends most of his time holding political discussions over the Internet with his compatriots. But we haven’t finished yet, because the two stray dogs he adopted shortly after arriving in Sauraha are also sleeping in the same room. As with the children, he is very loving with them, and on winter nights he takes care to cradle them with warm quilts in which he wraps them until only their snouts stick out. Pure doggy love. Well done. Congratulations.
The city of Pokhara, with its beautiful lake and the wonderful views of the Annapurna, is one of the must-see destinations for tourists visiting Nepal. However, I did not know that the Pokhara region was also renowned for the leopards that live there; but I learned about it when I read the following news in the “Kathmandu Post”:
“A leopard went into the bazaar of a village called Kavre and injured 11 people before being lynched by the people.”
Let me make it clear to you that normally this type of incident has a different ending; like that of a thirty-five kilogram leopard that, after entering a school in another nearby town and forcing teachers and students to leave by legs, was locked inside until Forest Service agents arrived, sedated her and transferred her to Chitwán National Park precisely here.
Also in the Pokhara region, and in the village of Tanahun, they caught a leopard which they then took into the jungle. He was the seventh cute kitten to fall into the same trap set by the Forest Service, which was after them because they had killed nine children in the last two years. The most recent drama was that of a little girl playing in front of her house; they recovered the body with a broken neck, but she had not tried to eat it or received any more injuries.
Um, this sad ending was not intended. I’m sorry.
And that’s all for today, my dear nincompoops. Bom Bom.
The Cosmic Chronicle, by Nando Baba