A made up place

I am living in the year 2071, in a land which uses a lunar calendar. The time is 5 and three-quarter hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Here there are 8 of the highest peaks on my planet, stretching way above the clouds. Close by you will find the second most polluted city on my planet; surgical masks are fashionable here. Several religions, including no religion, co-exist in noisy, respectful harmony here. Everyone must comply with a curfew of 10pm, unless you wish to host an all night chanting vigil in the middle of the suburbs, with tambourines and a microphone, on a school night. There is no legal constitution here but plenty of ancient traditions. Strike days are determined by the government at random and mean you can’t drive unless you have a green licence plate. Menstruating women are banished to sheds and cows roam freely on the streets. There are daily electricity blackouts for hours on end and gas is in short supply. The internet speed is less than 256 kbps but as with everything here, people do not complain, they simply smile and wiggle their heads. Yoga and meditation are on the national curriculum and a daily fact of life. There are festivals every week, celebrated by all. The national flag is the only non-rectangular flag in existence. People here wear bright colours, especially red.  Everyone grows their own vegetables which they cook into spicy curries to eat with their hands.  In the face of poverty and adversity, people are patient and positive. There are wild tigers, sloth bears and rhinos with one horn, all guarded by the army.  The soldiers are short in stature but respected universally for their fierce fighting reputation. There is no highway code, no right of way and no traffic lights: you only stop when the armed police block your way.

This is not some imagined dystopian future. This is not a made-up place. This is Nepal.

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The veins of the beast – Indian Rail Network

The Indian Railway Network may as well be its own country with a constitution, its own culture and its very own quirky characters.  Accordingly it deserves a blog of its own, dedicated to trying to convey my snippet of an experience aboard this monolithic beast that is the pulsating life veins of India.

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The train stations are like refugee camps, clogged with litter, inhabited round the clock by sleeping families, limbless beggars dragging across the stone floors, the obligatory cow crunching crisp packets and cackling macaques clambering the wires above. Continue reading