I got into the tuk-tuk excitedly looking forward to banging its tin top with my knuckles at Thapathali; I never got to do so because the tuk-tuk came to an abrupt halt when it neared New Baneshwore. 5pm was quickly approaching and I had gotten off work early. After light showers earlier, the roads – even peeeeech, had turned into a hopeless puddle. The tuk-tuk wouldn’t budge; it seemed as if its odd frame would be engulfed by the heavy traffic all around it at any instant. Shortly, someone stepped into our tuk-tuk and declared there was an impromptu chakka jam imposed – from 5:00 to 5:30pm, in New Baneshwore Chowk … only a few meters away. Hence, the traffic jam … therefore I am? I had to see for myself – the intricacies of this new bandhing trend fast impressing bandhkaaris of all seasons across this load-shedded country.
After paying the tuk-tuk lady RS 15, I headed off towards the Chowk to take in the free show brought to us, in all probability, by Thugs, Inc. A man who looked irritated as if fire-ants were wreaking havoc in his underarms, was blaring his loud face into the microphone:
“THANK YOU FRIENDS .. FOR SUPPORTING OUR CAUSE. THIS CORRUPT GOVERNMENT HAS TO GO. THIS CORRUPT PRIME MINISTER MUST STEP DOWN. RIGHT NOW!”
This man was smack in the middle of New Baneshwore Chowk addressing the countless commuters who were jammed in traffic thanks to him and his entourage of about 8. He was addressing the awed pedestrains who were staring at his audacity in disbelief. He was addressing more than a dozen Armed Police Forces personnel all decked out in riot (curbing) gear with a stern look on their faces. Like the tuk-tuk earlier, they too were not budging – something wasn’t right – - it was like a dog ignoring a tempting piece of bone. He was addressing me. I felt as if my heart had stopped pumping blood and had switched to pumping rage instead – a heavy dose of anger started to sweep through my veins. Him and his cohorts then started to chant slogans against the government.
This was a protest. Ok understood. We all have a fundamental right to do so. Ok, got it. But in this manner? By doing all they can (and whenever they please) to disrupt our lives? What about our fundamental rights to defy such bullshit? They were 8; the APF dudes easily outnumbered them. The commuters, of course, numbered in the hundreds. The APF had formed a barrier on the crosswalk ensuring that no motor could pass through and rain on our thugs parade. Which side were the cops on? I felt I had to do .. something.
I to an APF dude: “Key bhairako yo?”
APF dude: “Chakka jam!”
I: “Yeso garna paincha ra bhaneko? Yo ta atti nai bhayo ni. Tyo manchey ta tyaha cha jahaan traffic police hunu parney ho. Ra jahan traffic police cha, tyahan ta gaadi haru hunu parney ho ni .. hoina ra?”
I: “Tiniharu aath jana cha, tapaiharu chaudha jana .. rokna sakidaina? Yo ta sarai nai bhayo bhaneko. Kei garnus na yaar! Kam sey kam tyaha gayera uslai bhanna ta milcha hola ni ki BRB lai hatauna traffic jam nai garney ho bhaney Baluwatar ma BRB ko dera agadi garnu bhanera ..”
APF dude: “Mann ta cha ni .. order po chaina ta hamilai.”
The APF dude then switched his demeanor back to donning a sterner face; he looked as if he was almost about to fake growl. Those cops sort of reminded me of the barking stray dogs in my tole – barking like there will never be a tomorrow but then that’s all they ever do: bark, without hurting a fly.
So then here we were. The police weren’t doing anything. The thugs were doing whatever they want. The commuters were patient enough to let them run their little show. Had the police not set up body barriers on the crosswalk, the motorists easily would’ve had the upper hand assuming they would’ve pressed their accelerators which would’ve made made one, bad-ass, statement; not to mention running out the thugs, if not running them over. Wishful thinking there because the motorists, of course, didn’t do such thing. They just waited. The pedestrians, for their part, seemed to be thankful for some free entertainment.
I, for one, wanted to confront the yelling chakajamkaari. With such intent I took a step towards him. And immediately took two back as I thought about .. things. Maybe the motorists and the rest of pedestrians alike were also thinking about the same .. things. Maybe the police were also thinking about the same ..things. Wondering how much longer will we be thinking about these .. things, I succumbed to the thuggery and hurried west towards Thapathali – on my own two protesting feet.