09 January 2009

The Indian Tourist

The other day as we drank tea outside the kitchen at work, we watched in fascination as 3 busloads of Indians emerged from 2 buses parked in our hospital car park.  They began washing their saris and then spreading out across the carpark and 'field' of dirt (that many Nepali's use for learning to drive / ride a motorbike) to stand patiently holding out their clothes to dry in the sun.

The entire experience was quite extraordinary as all the doctors, admin and ophathalmic assistant staff watched on.  I found myself gazing, mouth open, like so many of the Nepalis do to me as I ride down the street or do my shopping.  Nhukesh explained to me that they were here to visit Pashupatinath, the local temple that is kind of like a Hindu Mecca. People come from all across the Hindu world to worship there. 

Recently it’s been a hive of controversy when three Indian priests (historically the ONLY priests allowed to work there) 'resigned'.  The issue surrounded not only the history, but the supposed government involvement in the 'resignations' and appointment of two new Nepali priests.  There are two interesting sides to the argument, one suggesting that the temple makes a metric f-tonne of money from worshippers, and that the Indian priests might be either pocketing it, or magicing it away to

The other argument essentially revolves around the objection to change (from Indian priests to Nepalis) and to the government involvement in religion, which isn't suppsed to happen anymore.

As I ride to walk, this posse of Indian pilgrims trek in the opposite direction towards the temple.  They've pretty much taken over this section of town as each day a new bus can be found.  Nhukesh said that they come in their buses, bring all the food they will need for a month on the road, including stoves and washing tubs so as to avoid spending any money while here, and they sleep in the bus so don't need to pay for accomodation (as long as they can find somewhere to park it).  While probably frustrating for the local sahuji's, this lack of discretionary spending by the Indian tourist could be a sign of the financial economical downturn.  Or it could simply be the fact that they are incredibly poor people trying to get by in the world.

Yesterday afternoon I saw a group of 20 Indian ladies hanging out on the street corner at Gaushalachowk shooting the breeze like a gang of youths on a Friday afternoon at McDonald's.  The  contrast with their Nepali brethren was actually quite strong and surprising. 

I am still yet to visit Pashupatinath, I think it might happn when Mum and Dad get here in two weeks...yay!

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