Freedom has always been one of my favourite words. The word I have loved to associate myself with, tried to associate myself with on any occasion I get. Free spirit, free soul, man of my own will et-cetera, et-cetera... On occasions though I wonder if I really am a free soul, free spirit, man of my own will - I wonder if I really have "freedom", for on every walk of life there are restrictions I face, restrictions I have to adhere to. While I write this, I am on a train heading towards Hull. I am going to a Dutch consulate to apply for a visa - a short term visa that I need to attend a workshop and a conference over a week in May, paid for by a good host I must add. Without a visa, I won't be able to travel to the Netherlands, and will be unable to present my paper at the conference. Its strange though as I am in the UK, a member of EU and have a valid UK visa for at least one more year - yet I have to go through this whole process of visa application to enter into another EU country. This is a strange country UK - member of EU but without free movement to and from other EU states unless you hold an EU passport, valid visa won't do! A member of EU that still holds on to its own currency GBP and not take up Euro. A member of EU that likes to associate itself more with the US than to other EU countries when it comes to its foreign policy - just look at the war in Iraq! Anyway, now I need to get a visa even to attend a week's conference in mainland Europe even though I hold UK visa valid for at least another year! When I reach the Dutch consulate, I am tied with more restrictions. To prepare the current visa application, I had simply used my earlier visa application for the Netherlands and changed dates and some minor details. My earlier application was for identical purpose a year ago and I did get a visa and had travelled to the Netherlands. But now the lady in the consulate goes over my application and asks me to change "Multiple entries" to "Single entry" and 30 days visa period to 7 days citing that I am returning after 7 days. What if I have my flight delayed for a day or two when returning? Will I be charged with an "overstay" and deported? I wonder to myself. Anyway, what I have learnt over the course of 6 or so years of stay in these foreign lands is never to argue with immigration officials...apparently, they are always right...Talk about being a free spirit!! ...continue reading "on freedom…"
It is 5:37 in the morning on Sunday and I am writing this in a hotel room in Manchester where we have come to celebrate new year 2063. I am not very fond of hotel beds, at least not on the first night as I cannot get much sleep due to the change in bed! And hence I am awake this wee-hour on Easter Sunday. Plus there are certain effects of last night's drinks and disco, which have probably multiplied with sleep deprivation. Anyway, the main cultural event is scheduled for later today so still some more hours of suffering to go through before I return to the comfort of my own bed later tonight! BBC News 24 is on and the first headline is about the protest demonstrations in Nepal. I watch the riot police beating up journalists and people from other walks of life mercilessly...and this is the start of a NEW YEAR!!! What happened to KG's talk of talks with the democratic forces? Smacks right in the face with the reality of our nation, and what to expect in days and weeks to come if not months or years...The constant criticism I have been hearing/reading of the so called TOP LEADERS NOT LEADING the masses seems to be vindicated by what I am watching now - BBC News 24 headline this morning is "police clashed with the journalists" and NOT the political leaders! Well, I wonder if any of our so called top leaders are really willing to be in the THICK OF IT ALL...if not, then why should the masses believe in what they say from the comfort of their houses or from the confines of the Reporters' Club. I am no political analyst but even to me, it looks so crystal clear - that our leaders are not leading the way they are expected to. And I believe this has provided the representatives of this autocratic regime more courage to suppress the protests and even dismiss them as being waged by the minorities and the terrorists - well, thats what the Nepali ambassador to the UK said in channel 4 interview a few days ago. I hear he'll be coming here this afternoon to be the chief guest in our new year celebration program. I wonder what he has prepared for his speech (I'm pretty sure there'll be one!).
Its 6:00 now and BBC News 24 has become BBC Breakfast and focus is on the UK news suddenly. The first headline is about a march in Ireland (Dublin to be precise) to mark the Easter uprising that led to it being an independent republic. I wonder if this season of uprising also leads to our country being an independent republic...independent from the feudal elements that have besieged our country and people since the time immortal. And I hope this time when people get independence, it would be for the eternity - and not like those of 2007 or 1990 only to be followed by 2017 and 2001.
The time we were all waiting for arrived around 2pm-ish. Good thing about this new year function was that people were fed first with the best of the Nepali foods...maasu-bhat, tama-aaloo, etc. and then the program started - speeches and Nepali dances. It was entirely up to you after that nice meal to stay for what was to follow or to leave! Unfortunately the dances were after the speeches (mostly) so we had to suffer few more minutes before we could enjoy the dances. Now here enters the ambassador - Nepal's representative to the UK, our top most diplomat here...And what does he have to say? Mostly stupid commentary on Nepali political situation. after the first few words wishing happy new year, he put on his puppet mask - KG's puppet that is - and went on to ridicule the current demonstrations against KG's autocratic regime, which we were not here to listen really...okay, showing one's concern about the ongoing strife back home would have been totally appropriate. but it wasn't appropriate for this guy to stand before all of us here and ridicule SPA, talk about political alliances in Nepal and call SPA-Maoist alliance "unholy"...half his speech seemed to be copied word for word from KG's new year message and on the remaining half, he went on to basically say protest demonstrations back home were just an act of violent minority...act of an "unholy alliance"...and that what his master was doing was "for the greater benefit of the people"...I just thought - what a way to start our new year listening to him!...and never have I heard such utter nonsense from a "chief guest"...anyway, you could see people feeling uncomfortable and some starting to leave the hall (temporarily, I must add)...I joined that list... of course the organisers were worried if somebody confronts the chief guest, and one of my dais was told it wouldn't be appropriate to invite the ambassador as a chief guest only to show him the black flag and abuse him...so the good folks restrained themselves and acted as if uninterested in what the chief guest had to say...
Nevertheless, the newly elected president of Nepalese association here came to the stage right after that puppet diplomat and said in the clearest of the words that this was not any political forum and that it was better if people kept their political views to themselves - at least while we were celebrating new year...it came a bit late, but was an excellent response to the chief guest's speech. everybody could see the ambassador chuckling at the front...well, there were no black flags, no boos and no confrontations - I think appropriately so as we were here to celebrate new year and not on a political gathering...it was partly spoilt by our now infamous ambassador however, with another of his "silent majority", "unholy alliance" speeches...I wonder how long his master can hang on to his throne back home, which I'm sure will ultimately decide how long he gets to stay here as an ambassador...till then, we can do nothing but to feel shameful about this guy's behaviour here in the foreign land!
Sunday, 16 April 2006 (3 Baisakh 2063)