tea conundrum – बाबु चिया खाने?

As a follow up to my post on comparing the conversation starters  here I write some more on how we get around with tea. The importance of tea in Nepal, or may be, at least in Kathmandu. These are some ideas and facts I’d wanted to share for some time – my personal hausaufgaben (that’s homework in German). On a brighter note – I have a new theme and a fix domain – www.momobites.com.

Tea-Time

I am a tea person and my morning starts with tea. Every day at six, I take my Ideapad laptop to kitchen (or nearby) to read Setopati (Nepali Online news portal) and most of the time, the boiling tea water resonates my feeling concerning Nepal’s political landscape, hot and turbulent. The packaged tea leafs from Nepal will last us three more weeks and by then we hope to get another batch from someone coming from Nepal. Our current batch is from the tea shop near Basantpur Durbar Square. I am not sold with the tea bags found in USA plus with our limited budget we can’t afford a grandeur brand.

As a time limited experience from Charlottesville, Boston and Providence – I guess the tea (or coffee) time is usually personal and to the point. You take caffeine mostly to wake yourself up and feel refreshed. Personally tea time for me is designated by the time of the day, something very prevalent from the sub culture I bring from Nepal. A brief description of my routine in Nepal was as follows.

  • Morning Tea @ Six – no milk and no sugar – – To wake me up
  • Morning Tea II @ Seven – milk and sugar but half the quantity – – Newspaper and news
  • Afternoon Tea @ one – milk and sugar – – lunch time tea (talk time tea)
  • Anything after this – milk and sugar – – guest and talk time tea

Two years ago my team (technically Aditi’s team) spend six months on this research study. Personally, I think this study and the published paper is of national importance which reveals how international friends are manipulating this (Nepal)puppet country in the field of health aid and health related national programs. Those six months however, were the most tea intoxicated time of my life. All the literature study, desk work, planning and in-depth interviews meant a lot of tea (and some coffee). The picture below is of Radheshyam (team member) waiting outside Singha Durbar south gate. We were to take an in-depth interview from one of the high ranking official in Ministry of Finance. He made us wait for two hours. Any guesses on how we spend our time?

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The Tea shop pub culture

Tea shops in Nepal are akin to the bars and pubs of Europe. People come here to share some progressive ideas, ramble more about politics, and make friends. Most of this require some water, some milk and sugar, a place to sit, and good company. I see it in Chabahil – Ganeshthan near my home every day, with a spike during holidays and weekend. My recent trip to Janakpur this summer for Nidan required me to work in the earliest possible hours. At seven in the morning when the most of the businesses are non functional these tea shops would be open, filled with people. Late last year when our small team reached Taklung after six hours bus ride and 10 km walk on a hot and sunny day we were approached with tea. We begged for cold water.

Tea is part of our culture and I love it. It gives me good feeling of being South Asian and being Nepali. Its one of those culture which I can talk about, humor it, and love it at the same time. Like the most tea cultures around the world, its something that brings people together. Disclosure – There is certainly alcohol culture too, but that usually happens in the evening/night for majority and I may talk about it some other post.

Types of Tea

There is a culture (and many smaller sub-cultures) in Nepal with a cup of tea. Tea time has variations in time, place, quantity and quality. I certainly have few moments of emotional attachments with few of these cups/glasses. From the first cup of tea I made which tasted like strong sour hot water to the first cup with Aditi after she said yes to my proposal. The black tea I drank with Avi and Pradhumna after eight years, in Pokhara and the first morning in home after I got married with family and my newly wed wife. The following are some type of tea I see prevalent in Nepal.

“mitho” tea

Mitho Tea

Image Credit – Veronica (BackPacks and Pumpkins – Blog)

One of those few teas that actually taste good. My mother makes one of these, and so does our new Nepali friends in Charlottesville. You know the one with just the good amount of milk, tea, and sugar. I am not a good fan of masala tea but they taste good.

“pasale” tea

Any one remember the typical tea glass in most of the tea shops in Kathmandu? The glass this lady is holding in the image below. Image from June 2012, article written by Niraj Karki in ECS Nepal. (web link). Good read.

tea_shop

“kaam kaaj” tea

This was one of my favorite during medical school years, and then while working in Kathmandu University School of Medical School – Chaukot. The tea time, was first at around nine thirty in the morning, with a follow up at around two thirty. A fifteen minute chat time with friends and colleagues, with some breads and donuts. Sometimes there would be wai-wai fry. Back during my work in Chaukot in 2010/11 our small tea group talked about politics and bollywood. Our friend, Smrity literally introduced us to Zoom TV during these tea talks.

“gaunle” tea

Most Nepali know this. A long steel glass, filled up to its brim, with tea. A bit thin and light in color; but still has a good punch. Be it the hills, mountains or the Terai flat lands in Nepal, the rural village Nepal – this kind of tea takes 20 minutes, and the steel glass needs to cool for at least five minutes before we are able to take a first sip. Its hot and it fills up the glass. You need a special grip to hold this glass and there is so much effort to take that first sip.

chiyaGlass

“pahuna” tea

One famous tea culture in Nepal. Carrying this from my previous post from last week. Most households in Nepal offer tea to almost all kinds of guests – friends, families or someone who is at the door for say more than 15 minutes. Extending all four seasons, and irrespective of the time of day – a cup of tea, is presented to you, almost everywhere. I have mentioned my Taklung experience above and am sure everyone has their own. Classic Nepali Tea Culture.

“chutti ko” tea

Holidays and day-offs are big everywhere, and tea on these occasions are wonderful delight. Morning tea with some good food like – jerry swari, maalpuwa, khajuri, and few other South Asian sweet snacks are some of my favorites. These are usually morning teas, and they feel great during the months of September-October-November. These being the festival months in Nepal. These are in part the South Nepal food choices, related to my father’s origin, unto which this is highly influenced.

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As a medical school student, however, holiday tea in Dhulikhel (and Kathmandu) representing the hilly outskirts of Kathmandu meant more like – sel-roti and aalu-chana, with may be, sometime chiura (the beaten rice).  Friday evening sometimes meant beer and some local stuff that mostly gave a big hangover Saturday. The dorm rooms and the respective rest rooms (aka toilets) took a lot of post-binge-throw-ups. We wake up late afternoon, with heavy dehydration and headache, nauseated and thirsty. The weekendnoon-tea after one of these events are usually with no milk, and mostly lemon flavored.

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SMALL BITS

Guess what, part of blogging in WordPress allows me some information of my readers. I see when and where my blog appears in internet searches. Guess what appeared when one from Nepal searched the key word – “how to take bike license in nepal by giving bribe” 

In another note, I watched Flash Point Paradox. Waited for few months for this. It was awesome, as expected. For the unknown I am big fan of Flash.

NEXT WEEK – I write about Dashain..

Bribery 101 – how (not) to improve Nepali Kleptocracy

The morning breakfast discussion today was about Syria and how the Assad regime is killing people in the name of rebel politics. We all agreed on strongly condemning  the use of Nerve gas, but were divided on foreign intervention to a country in Civil War. Through some interesting topics that included crazy North Korean leader, to Geese chasing dogs, and Orange Chicken Eggs, we then turned to bribery. This got interesting on one fact on how developed nations when compared to developing ones (like Nepal) have legalized way of bribing, and how “pre” and “post” bribing makes a difference.

World Map
image – perception of corruption

Regular Nepali Bribing – the post bribing affairIn Nepal and most of the South Asia (personal generalized notion), we have a form of bribing which is crude and rudimentary.  Though there is a strong culture of political campaign bribing as a form of pre bribing; most of the bribing is done only after the one is in post/power. “The One” here denotes the individuals/organization or corporation who are at the receiving end of bribery. For better understanding let us give these cohort some names.

  • giver (lets call them – “G”)  =  any individual/organization or corporation who are giving bribes, and/or who want certain specific things get done.
  • taker (lets call them – “T”)= any individual/organization or corporation who are taking bribes, and/or whi have the power to get something done.

Two pre bribing examples in Nepal

  • Business and Cooperate House bribing the Tax Collecting Institutes [only after there is a problem]
  • Employees, managers, or salespeople of a business may offer money or gifts to a potential client in exchange for business.

In both these cases, bribing is the affair among the one who can make a difference, and the one who wants to get the difference. Developed Bribing – the pre bribing affair The knowledge of “pre-bribibg” is very new to me, and as such, I may not have the grasp of the idea presented here. Any comments/examples and suggestions are highly welcome. The pre bribing efforts are bigger compared to post bribing, in a sense that there is high stake game here among both the parties. Bribing here is more akin to the political campaign, before “T”s are in position/power to make a difference. This came as a very interesting thought to me, as “T”s have not yet reached to a position that can make a difference. Bribing now, is in no means a bribe, but a mere help for future assurance. The amount of money (or any replacement of it) is in larger proportion and with a more rigid stance for future obligations between both the “G”s and “T”s.

The comparison

# feature post bribing pre bribing
1 money involved less very high
2 momentum of bribe less more
3 assurance security for “T”s immediate late
4 stakes for both “G”s and “T”s low high
5 benefits short-term long-term
6 area involved mostly in developing world, involving smaller population and unstable governments.- plus political campaigns mostly in developed world with large cash reserves and stable governments.

The Fundamentals of Bribing

  1. Shakedown
  2. Negotiation
  3. Deal

(Bad) examples of bribing in Nepal (for my age)

  • Bribing the traffic police within the city – to get away with driving under alcohol
  • Bribing the traffic police / regular police on the highway – to get away with .. (so many things, except may be killing)
  • Bribing to get Drivers License – last I checked it was Nrs.14,000 for a combo license for bikes and four wheels (small). Don’t know what it is today. Disclosure – I got my license in all legal and legitimate method.
  • Bribing at government offices

3 Rules – of (not) Bribing

This is the part of this blog post which has some basic good words in it. More like a preventive features on how not to bribe. Back in Nepal, there is a lot of bribing day-in-and-out. I am not proud of it, but I have on occasions bribed few “T”s to get my things done. Bribing can however be thwarted by few right measures. Following three rules are taken from the internet, and I think they are wonderful. [1]

  1. Know the laws. The more information you have the better position you are in to resist the fear that can lead to a bribe.
  2. Never give a bribe to someone just to gain a free or exclusive benefit. You end up contributing to the ruin of that which you came to see in the first place.
  3. Don’t put yourself in a compromising situation to begin with.

Going Back – ..my corruption hypothesis..

I wrote something about corruption back in January 2013. Here is the link to the article. This article is the follow up for it. Once again, the formula is

corruption = greed + opportunity

so how do we (not) improve?

simple, switch the type of bribery from “post” to “pre” and you get a larger scale bribery. Its not there in Nepal, not yet.

Read More

  1. My Own Article – my corruption hypothesis – from Nepal [blog post]
  2. When to Bribe? How to Bribe? Do you bribe? [Todd’s Wandering] [blog post]
  3. Bribery [Wikipedia] [web link]
  4. Study Finds 40% of South Asians Have Paid a Bribe in the Past Year [report]

of Castes and Cows

I got curious on farming and cattle herding. Tried some internet search, asked around and here I am sharing of what I know. My question – Is there a relation between cattle herding and caste system in Nepal? From what I know, there is a definite relation, but I want to know at what extend.

NP! ID: 328008 Title: Nepali cow // File Size: 799 × 526 – 397.95 KB
Created: Wed, 05/09/2007 – 7:16pm // Modified: Wed, 05/09/2007 – 6:19pm
File Type: image (jpeg) // License: Public Domain

Writing something about “Cow” always reminds me of my primary school English teachers, and how we had to write about essays related to cows, mother, green Earth, and Forest in Nepal. My love for education at the moment, justifiably, was improper and poor. My parents were once informed that I would always ne a below average student, and that my English was so poor that I’d need a tuition for it, at a monthly price of Nrs.3500. This was grade three (1993) when my monthly tuition fee was Nrs.1200. Yeah, and the English Teacher was non Nepali, with fluent British-Indian Accent. I do not remember anything else about her, but my guess is that she was from Sikkim, or Darjeeling in India, unmarried and living in Kathmandu at the moment.

A cow (status) in our society

A 2010 blog (here) has made an excellent points on cow-status. Yes its revered, its worshipped, and we cannot kill it, even if its already dying, but not dead yet. When a cow (or few of them) get Mad-Cow-Disease (or any other non infectious or infectious diseases) we cannot kill. At best, we try to quarantine it. Also, there is no culling of this animal. If a cow  herder/s that are smart, however, opt for some shady ways, by which a diseased cow, vanishes the next morning.

According to a Lodi News-Sentinel news story written in the 1960s, in then contemporary Nepal an individual could serve three months in jail for killing a pedestrian, but one year for injuring a cow, and life imprisonment for killing a cow. Seriously, its here. According to Vedic scriptures they are to be treated with the same respect ‘as one’s mother’ because of the milk they provide. They appear in numerous stories from the Puran (English word is Puranas) and Ved (English word is Vedas). The deity Krishna was brought up in a family of cow herders, and given the name Govinda (protector of the cows). In a related cattle worshipping matter, my favorite Hindu diety Shiva is traditionally said to ride on the back of a bull named Nandi. So much is the importance for this one animal species. This got me thinking, was its care taken by elite people in arm, or a normal person.

As one of the jewels in Hinduism, who takes care of it (Cow) ? by elite guards or normal pheasant?

what does cow do?

In South Asian context, its primary use is for milk and milk based dairy product. These days, a dead cow (not killed, I’m just saying a cow can die of natural causes) can also fetch for leather goods. Internationally, meat of a adult cow (also known as beef) is a big hit. Apparently its very high in demand. Global beef production is virtually unchanged at 57.5 million tons (pdf file) in 2012-13, with India as a lead beef exporter (18.53%) as of April of 2012. A very convoluted conclusion, Ironic as one probably should get imprisoned for doing this in countries like India and Nepal. I took this information from a report here. Lastly, there is also cow dung and urine used in some yucky  religious and good economical way.

wait what? India as a lead beef exporter (18.53%) in the world .

Cow dung, or “gobar” is used in very many ways, including as a cooking gas. Well other animal shit (including those from humans) are also used as biogas. Two papers published in 2009, from Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews – Elsevier explain more on the benefit of biogas in Nepal, (Abstract available here and here). I could not afford to read these papers, SciVerse demanded $37.95, but abstract reading sounds promising.  Will not write about the yucky  part, where people touch and revere this fecal matter. Its an animal shit that is being worshiped at. What could be more irksome?

of caste and cows

Back to my primary reason for this post. After a good amount of time spend on Internet and asking around here is what I found about the Methodologically  Implanted Slavery (MIS) and cows.

Turns out, me being a Brahmin (one of the four Varnas in one group of Nepali cohort) am free to be a herder. I can be a cattle farmer. In other news, not so long ago (say 50-60 years), a Brahmin could not be a regular land farmer, that I was not allowed to plow land (neither with buffalo/ox/oxen nor a machine). In a similar respect, Newars in Kathmandu Valley also could not plough a land with bigger plough (called “Halo” or “Hali” in Nepali) and were limited to “Kodalo” (smaller in size). In Kathmandu, this was Newari religion; it was said that Lord Pashupatinath would get angry.

[To make my stance clear, I do not believe Newari Culture originally to be in the same Varnas (meaning particular sect of cultural) where Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra were divided.  Newari culture have their own higher and lower caste within them. This is true for Madhesi and the various Mongoloid culture in Nepal also. Each of these culture includes high ranking priests and low ranking untouchables, but somehow only Brahmins (13% of total population) get the blame game of being supreme, smart-a$s. Will write about this very soon.]

past/present?

What was intriguing was who looked after the cattle grazing few decades ago. According to my parents, my father (from South Terai belt in Nepal) tells me that any caste/culture could be a cow herder. There were also no limits in who could milk the cow. Only after the milk was boiled/warmed, were the untouchables not allowed. Yes, it is inhumane. While my mother (from Hills in Western Nepal) tells that milking the cow by lower caste was not allowed in the village she grew up.  But now, with education and human rights campaign, any or all the caste in Nepal, are able to be a cattle farmer, with no limitations. Obviously, there are always some places, which may defy this progress, and still remain obsolete and uneducated.

Why was there discrepancy ?  I have few theories, which might not be true.

  1. I think, that the whole purpose of making “cow” a revered animal was that no one would be able to harm it, be it friend or enemy – it was very useful economical indicator of a well to do rich family.
  2. High priest of most South Asian Culture were not allowed to eat meat. My guess is, early on, someone definitely must have figured out that beef was good meat. In order to stop this, the smart(ass) people, made a god out of this animal; stopped its killing for meat, and used it as a sole purpose of Milk and Dairy products.
  3. But animal it was. It needed someone who could take care. Hence, the very likely, densely populated lower caste were utilized to graze and feed the cows. Now, no-one could kill a cow at all. Killing for beef meat was out of question.
  4. Huge, Fertile and Flat land in Terai (South Nepal) meant bigger cattle herds, which required many farmers. Hence the rules that might have been, were relaxed, till a point where the smart(ass) population could only discriminate after the milk was boiled/warmed/or inside their kitchen. Less land in Hilly region, meant less cattle, and the milking  was kept among those that were “touchable”.

so do I like beef?

No, not till now. I haven’t had beef till date. Its about respecting one’s culture, so I guess I won’t go this path. Although, I know there are a lot of things that my culture needs to improve on. For the record I believe in Asthik, Atheist Hindu. Don’t believe in god, but believe in Hinduism and the religion. Yes, we have this in Hinduism. read more here.