Nepal: Cat Man Do, Dog Star Man, Sirius Serious Seeliat…

WELCOME TO NEPAL……land of mountains snow trekking Sherpas Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund what’s-his-name gets all the credit ’cause he’s white and knight and ruggedly handsome so Maoist revolutionaries finally call a truce after monarchy self-destructs gone with the wind like all bad ideas Communism included India and China on the flanks threatening Bigness if not largesse no exit no fresh air even at 9000-plus meters 27,000 feet marching to a different drummer grandiosity with no grand city, just Cat Man Do it all night and all day with tourism on the rebound after Lost Decade incomes like falling snow in the Himalayas…

India’s poorer cousin buck-toothed and bejewelled smiles, “Welcome to Nepal,” now set your clocks back fifty years, hungry ghosts inhabit the streets at night seeking succor in the day it’s just tourism consumerism and caffeine, terrorists now ready to govern, tourists ready to shop, villagers offering handicrafts for those who no longer care for artisan labor, trekking for those who never even walk, books for those who never read, and records for those with no devices to play them. “Hey Mister you wanna’ taxi” but there’s no place to go, been there done that twenty years ago and counting by twos, even and odds with drunks and sods…

IMG_0469 (1)This is the fuzzy logic of poverty persevering, winners only in Evolution where it really counts, the final reckoning of survival, smaller units more adaptable while dinosaurs go the way of all flesh ashes to ashes dust to dust eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, means you can’t have both fan and TV at the same time in your $10 poverty palace, much less Wi-Fi, and what does it really mean when the power is out more than half the time anyway, as if it is every tourist’s secret desire to burn lights and run a/c all day and all night just to stick it to management that doesn’t pay the bills anyway…

I don’t even claim to be Amerikan any more, “Where you from?” the answer is always “California” since it’s so well-known and I’m so ashamed of the USA in general and it forgoes the need for another question just in case, I know a hustle from fifty meters that look in the eye that lilt in the walk that cadence in the voice like a half-written story in search of a happy ending, but that only comes later at night when the hash dealers hit the street and desires become erect while expectations hedge their bets, Muslims become Christians and Christians become Buddhists, while Buddhists shake their heads, like they knew it all along..

IMG_0479“Told you so” they all seem to be saying timelessness inherent in the Buddhist system with no Godhead transparent, no heir apparent, no contradictions inherent, survival and reproduction of the individual the only requirement for Darwinian evolution, no language no culture no art no literature required, just warm places to hide on cold nights and occasional laughter reasons enough to reproduce, if not for the species’ sake, then for our own each of us naked in the desert and so afraid that aggression is our only costume for armor, looking bad when the need is implicit, no need to use it except when there is no other option, this is the lesson to be learned by Big Men from the Little People, that your size is your weakness and your own aggression will defeat you, and you have only to ask for help to find it…

I begin the study of the Nepali language with a certain amount of trepidation, given the propensity of language to carry with it no lack of cultural baggage and unsettled issues. The hardest word I ever learned in the Thai language was the word seeliat, as best as I can transcribe it into the Roman alphabet. It simply did not exist in any dictionary and I spent literally months if not years searching for it, too embarrassed to ask for help and thereby admit my lack of knowledge.

IMG_0464The context was even more remarkable, coming up at first notice in a conversation about movies, and the question about the style of movies that I liked and whether they were ‘seeliat‘ or not. I nodded by head as if I understood, like any good bar-girl would do, rather than admit that I had not a clue as to WTF they were talking about, but there is some anecdotal evidence that that is one effective way to ‘hack’ a language, just put on the best face and keep on blathering…

Finally one day the epiphany came when I realized that the word in question was merely a mispronunciation of the English word ‘serious’ and suddenly the whole history of the language was revealed before me, the welcoming of first Hindu then Buddhist priests, then the subjugation and subsequent cultural absorption of the Khmers, and now America and the English language. Now it all makes sense. What doesn’t make sense are the Dog Days of summer, heralded by the rise of Sirius the Dog Star above the horizon, an event for which the occurrence was calendrical and which, according to the Greeks: “caused plants to wilt, men to weaken, and women to become aroused.” That makes no sense at all…

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