Who knows what kusum is? I stumbled upon it accidentally today. A sour-ish fruit, but God, isn’t it nice to keep popping the little thing into your mouth? 

I visited a VDC called Chaumala. It’s been a really hot day. I couldn’t stop sweating, and not just a little droplets of sweat, but torrents, my shirt was drenched, my cap was drenched, I guess I stank (and in the bus I sat next to this cute girl – sadly she turned out to be a teenager, maybe only 17, who told me point blank that I’m handsome and sweet – and I asked her, ‘How do you know I’m sweet yet you’ve never tasted me?’ and she said ‘I just see you and I know.’

She was talking in very good English, so she was confident no one else in the bus would understand what she was telling me, and she had these nice lips, teasing lips, that I wanted to kiss – crap, wasn’t I talking about the weather? or was it kusum? Oh yeah, she told me, ‘at school, we learn that Africa is very, very hot’ and I laughed at that. In my whole life, I’d never sweated this way. Throughout last night and from the moment I woke up, right through my shower, and until now, I’m sweating, sweating, sweating, and wondering where all that sweat comes from! I’m must have sweated ten litres or more)

Well, I was talking about kusum!

It seemed like there was a party or something. Whole flocks of people (mostly men and women) kept streaming out of the jungle – or what they call jungle here, they should see Mabira forest! – carrying loads of kusum.

Every home I went to, I was offered kusum by the tray loads – and I ate, and ate, and ate the fruit until my tongue developed soars. When it did, my hosts simply laughed at me. They said it happens to everyone, and the only trick is to keep eating kusum, otherwise if you stop, you get a painful tongue when you eat something else.

wow. they ate this kusum with a mixture of salt and piro – salt and pepper – powder. When I asked if the powder is piro (hot) they said no. So I pinched it off the plate and dumped it in my mouth and then the fire that sprout out made them laugh.

But there seems to be a kusum craze in this little village. Lovely village by the way. I should go back there, if only to see Janaki again (the only Nepali girl with a dimple, who offered me accomodation at her father’s house in case I failed to get transport back home) She’s cute!

Okay, I’m very tired, and this being a blog, I won’t even bother to edit. Who reads it anyway?

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What a Thief

I have found another thing I hate about Nepal. I’m still not sure whether the several proposals I get for marriage is something I should include in the list, but this one is.

Well, even while in Africa, every time you see a foreigner you think he is rich. It’s the same here, only that I’m at the wrong end of this stereotype. First, the parents want you to marry their daughters. Then, the shopkeepers try to cheat you. Or they might not cheat you, but if you are asking for something, they’ll only show you the expensive brands thinking that you don’t deserve the cheap brands. (the other day I went to a drug shop for Panadols – poor me, I didn’t know they were paracetamols – so I got offered brands that were more expensive than food, until I saw one written on paracetamol, and a friend told me “that’s what you are looking for, of course Panadol is a brand name, it’s not the drug!” I laughed at myself, as I remembered a woman in Uganda who told the shopkeeper “Give me the colgate called Delident”)

Okay. Because they think you are rich, they will want you to get married, they will try to cheat you, they will offer you expensive products, and the thieves will keep breaking into your house!

I’ve had two break-ins so far.

The first time, I was inside, playing music so loudly, at about 11:00am in the morning, and there was this guy trying to break open the door. I thought I was not hearing properly. I turned down the volume of my music, and I heard it clearly, a guy with a chisel trying to open the door. A very foolish attempt, I must say, and I couldn’t imagine what kind of thief comes to your door in the middle of a morning! When I came out, the thief ran away. Neighbors told me not to bother reporting. “It’s just a petty thief.”

Well, the second time, I was away for three weeks. First to Nepalgunj, then to Kathmandu. And this time, the guy managed to break into the house. I guess he had all those days to come everyday and make an attempt, until the door was too weak. I live in a bungalow, all by myself, walled off from the neighbors, and they only realized there had been a break in when they say water flowing out into the road.

You see, this thief didn’t steal anything valuable. You’d imagine that after going through all that pain to break open the door, he’d make away with everything worth a thousand dollars (and there were quite a few items worth that) but what did he steal? Water taps.

I couldn’t believe it. The police couldn’t believe it. Everyone laughed when they heard it. What kind of thief breaks into a house just to steal water taps? Why not carry away the motorized pump, or the laptop, or the video camera. Why only water taps?

But maybe he was trying to punish me, for when I got back home, there was no water, and the temperature rose to over 40degrees. I couldn’t stop sweating, yet I couldn’t get a shower at all! I had to bathe like the Nepalis, which is out in the open, but maybe I’ll talk about their bathing habits in another post.






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Will You Marry Me?

A Nepali young woman ponders her future in the film Untouchable Love
Oops, I set out writing the ten things I hate about Nepal, and stopped at two.

Really, there is nothing to hate here – or very little – because the rest of it seems like they are goodies disguised as baddies. For example, look at this number eight, or is it seven?

Well, the next bad thing about Nepal is that it’s so easy to get married. So easy.

This is a land where arranged marriages account for over eighty percent of the marriages. What they call ‘love marriages’ is still a strange phenomenon – but gaining momentum. They just can’t understand how you fall in love before getting married. They have a popular saying here, “Marry first, love later” or a more vulgar one among the women goes like this, “The pipe (read penis) entered and love followed”.

Well, being a bidesh (foreigner) I get offered a girl at least once a week. Even girls who have boyfriends who they are going to marry, like this Newari friend of mine, have tried to get me to marry her. It happened last week. I knew she had a boyfriend, who she’s been in love with for at least one year (they fall in love here, but if the parents don’t approve, then marriage won’t happen. So it is possible for one to be in love with someone else for four years, only for her parents to force her to marry another man – who she probably meets for the first time during the wedding – and she can do nothing about it) Those in the cities especially fall in love, the lucky ones go ahead and marry their loved ones, hence they call it ‘love marriage’, and the unlucky ones are forced to marry someone else in an ‘arranged marriage’.

Okay, so this Newari girl (very, very pretty, btw) tells me, “Will you marry me?” Just like that. Out of the blue. We are talking about music, about Anil Singh and Narayan Gopal, and she just says it as though she’s asking me to pass her the salt. At first I think she is humming the lyrics of Anil Singh’s song, “Will you marry me”, but she’s looking at me with her large eyes, enchanting eyes, and I can’t resist the charm I see in her eyes.

“What about your boyfriend?”
“He doesn’t matter. If you want to marry me, let’s go to my parents now and we set a date.”
I know they have special marriage months. If I agree, I can be married the first day of the next marriage month – which is soon. I tell her I’ll give her a reply the next day.
I ask her friend, who says, “She’s thinking about a Visa. She wants to leave Nepal, so if she marries you, she thinks you’ll take her away.”
A young Nepali woman and her love child, a product of inter-caste marriage.
I wonder if Uganda is better than Nepal?
I haven’t yet given her an answer, because she is so pretty, and so tempting, I wish I could post here her photo, but that won’t be so ethical and might ruin her current relationship with her boyfriend, who I have met and is a really nice guy, like most Nepalis, but I will have to find a way of at least getting a kiss from her, if not tricking her into getting into my bed before I say no.
Ooops, no. Not a good idea. I should just tell her no.
But last week, a daughter offered me her mother, who is a widow. She told me “My mother is very sad. She can’t find another man to marry her because she is a widow. Will you be my new father?” (Update: I later wrote a short story about it, which got published in The Kathmandu Post. Read it please. http://www.ekantipur.com/2010/07/04/features/the-young-matchmaker/317795/)
The girl was only twelve years old. Her mother is about thirty, and still very good looking, and I had to use my best language to say no and still remain friends with both of them.
So should I put this among the things I hate about Nepal?

Watch the Trailer for Untouchable Love

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