Still no news from Jeetan

I think I have a friend in prison.

At least, he was imprisoned a couple of months ago and until today I’ve not been able to get new information regarding his safety and well being.

My friend Jeetan training refugee kids in a Journalism Training, summer 2011

I am convinced of his innocence to the charges against him. I worked with him for a while and I’ve seen his passion for his people and the youth that he supported and trained. He is a special guy.

I suspect that his arrest has a lot to do with his continuous efforts for the youth in the camps and his work as a writer / poet involved in community work and refugee journalism.

Currently most contacts in Nepal seem more or less frozen or have at least weakened. Partly because some of my friends were resettled to other places on the globe and mostly to the United States. Partly because some of them have been threatened. The effect is that the story of Jeetan (an alias for his real name Jit) is still unclear.

And I find that worrying.

Therefore I repeat the appeal made by the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Council) on his behalf. Here is the story. If you want to support and apeal his case, and I urge you to do so, go to the AHRC website and sign the petition. This is the link.

This is the story of a desperate guy who was arrested unjustly only days before he was supposed to resettle and get a better life elsewhere:

14 May 2012

———————————————————————
NEPAL: Bhutanese refugee tortured and threatened with false charges in Kathmandu

ISSUES: Torture, Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers, Police violence, Arbitrary arrest and detention
———————————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a 29-year-old Bhutanese refugee, Jit Bahadur Subba, having applied for third country resettlement was arrested from the office of the International organization for Migrant on 27 April 2012. After his arrest, he was kept in illegal detention for two days without receiving any arrest warrant or detention letter in the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was severely tortured under interrogation and threatened that false charges of drug smuggling would be filed against him. He is now detained at Hanumandhoka Police Station and needs immediate medical treatment. He was not allowed to meet with his lawyer without the presence of the police. 

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information we have received, 29-year-old Jit Bahadur Subba lives in the Bhutanese refugee camp, Beldangi II. He belongs to one of the thousands Nepali-speaking families who, after having lived for several generations in Bhutan, were expelled from the country to refugee camps in Nepal twenty years ago. Mr. Subba had applied for resettlement to the USA and was kept in the transit office of the International organization for Migrant (IOM) in Baluwatar, Kathmandu for investigation of his identification documents from 12th to 27th April 2012.

On 27 April 2012 at around 2.30 pm he was arrested from the IOM office by 4 to 5 police officers in civilian clothes. He was not given any reason for his arrest nor was any arrest warrant produced by the police. He was then brought to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was kept there for two days, without being provided with a detention letter or an arrest warrant. He was brought before a judicial authority on 29 April 2012, exceeding the 24-hour delay set up by the constitution for every person who is arrested to be produced before a judicial authority. This amounts to illegal detention.

He was kept in the CIB for two days, reportedly without being provided with any food or water. His family was not informed of his arrest. There he was interrogated regarding his alleged involvement in the forging of a fake passport and of having purchased Nepali citizenship. The first day he was tortured under interrogation by two policemen, wearing civilian clothes. He was slapped across the face a dozen times, the soles of his feet were beaten and the policemen beat him all over his body. Due to the pain he almost lost consciousness. The policemen then interrogated him on other the involvement of other persons in the same charges and, as he could not provide information, the policemen put a packet of drugs in his pocket and threatened to charge him with drug smuggling. As the policemen were wearing civilian clothes, he could not identify their ranks.

On 29th April, he was sent to Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka, Kathmandu, and was provided with warrant papers. He was produced before Kathmandu District Court on the same day. The court remanded him into custody for five days the first time, and for six days a second time. According to the police his case is under investigation under charges of forgery of citizenship documents and passports.

At no point during his detention was Mr. Subba informed of his legal rights. His lawyer visited him twice: once on 3 May in the office of the District Attorney, Kathmandu, and the second time on 8 May at the MPR Hanumandhoka. In both cases the police refused to allow the lawyer to meet with his client without the police presence. This is in spite of the Interim Constitution of Nepal guaranteeing the right of every person who was arrested to consult a legal practitioner and that the consultation should remain confidential.

The police was also present during the medical check-up of the victim when they sent him to Bir hospital on 7 May. Due to the presence of the police, the victim did not dare mentioning the torture to the doctor and the doctor did not ask about it either. Therefore the presence of the police during the medical examination prevented the victim from getting proper treatment and he was just provided with some anti-allergic medicines.

The victim’s health condition has deteriorated due to lack of proper treatment and the poor conditions in Hanumandhoka detention center. His body is covered with scars of worms and insects and he suffers from sleeplessness.

The victim is very afraid that he may receive further torture and measures must be taken for his protection immediately.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please join us in writing to the authorities listed below to express concern upon learning of the torture inflicted to Mr. Subba and urge the authorities to guarantee his physical and psychological safety. Please demand that an investigation should be launched into the allegations of torture and that the perpetrators should be held accountable. Please further urge the authorities to ensure that no confession extracted under torture could be used in court proceedings against the accused.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment calling for his intervention into this matter.

Alice Anna Verheij
writer, filmmaker, journalist, human rights worker

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Is Nepal police killing a friend?

On April 27 a friend of mine who I value as a respectable journalist and community worker for the Bhutanese refugees in the camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts in Nepal was arrested in the IOM office in Kathmandu while waiting for his resettlement to the US to start a new life just like many other exiles through the UNHCR third country resettlement program. Jeet Bahadur Subba (who I know by a different name which is common practice for many Nepali youth) is a Bhutanese exile, writer, poet, community and youth worker who lived in a Bhutanese refugee camp for many, many years. But in stead of many other youth he worked hard for the benefit of the people, especially youth, in the camps. He did that by co-organizing social events, support actions for fire victims and trainings to empower youth and vulnerable groups in the camps.

We traveled together to the fire struck Goldhap an Sanischare camp and on invitation of Caritas gave journalism training to youth in the Beldangi camp last summer. The way he motivated the youth in that training and his passion in doing so was impressive.

Hanuman Dhoka Police Station, Kathmandu

Jeet Subba (I know him as Jeetan) is quite a character, not to be disregarded. We shared passionate conversations and joined effort for the benefit of his people in the camps. He is now detained at the the Hanuman Dhoka police station on charges of document falsification for Nepalis to be resettled to the US and Canada and having a false Nepali passport himself. An accusation of crimes that are threatening honest and justified third country resettlement. If that is true they are a serious accusation and he should be brought to trial.

However, after his arrest Jeet Subba has been severely tortured by Nepal police during the days before he was formally accused. During that time between April 27 and at least May 2 he was the victim of police brutality and threats. The torture methods included hooding, beatings with batons, falanga and the threats of pushing fabricated accusations of drugs smuggling onto him. Jit Subba admitted the accusations after being heavily tortured and will be brought to court as a result af that. During those first days in detention he was not given food or water while being in solitary confinement , not being read his legal rights, not being handed an arrest warrant or detention letter and not being allowed to talk with a lawyer without police presence. After those first days a visiting lawyer from a Nepal based human rights organization found Jit Subba with scars on his body, not being able to stand or walk and scared for his life. A second visit by a lawyer on May 8 after Jit Subba was transferred from the Central Investigation Bureau in Maharajganj, Kathmandu to Hanuman Dhoka police station was again not allowed without police presence. Current information is that Jeet Subba still needs urgent medical treatment as the result of severe torture.

Yesterday the Asian Human Rights Commission requested the prime minister of Nepal to intervene, just like other organizations had done in the past week.

Obviously Nepal police is, if the accusations of torture are true (and they are confirmed by multiple sources), way out of line on many grounds. From illegal arrest to illegal confinement, torture, threats of framing a citizen, not allowing legal support and not adhering to the Nepal interim constitution in regard to human rights. This is a very serious matter because with everything that is now known the question rises why they do that.

Fact is that journalists working for the Bhutanese exiles in Nepal have continuously experienced trouble ranging from threats and abuse to extremely slow processing of their files for their resettlement resulting in unnecessary prolonged life in the refugee camps. This seems not only to be the case for active journalists but also for community workers.

From a personal angle I have to state that I have witnessed incidents and heard experiences from people I got to know while filming the situation concerning Bhutanese exiles in Nepal. Those incidents and experiences strengthen me in my conviction that also in this case the truth lies far from what Jit Subba is being accused of. For me it is obvious that human rights of Bhutanese exiles are structurally abused by the authorities. This concerns community workers, unregistered refugees and others who are left in limbo on their position and the way the third country resettlement project of the UNHCR is executed in some cases. The claim that Jit Subba was having a Nepali passport on him is something that is for me not surprising knowing the despair of youth who are actively supporting their own people with the side effect of seeing their own third country resettlement not happening. Eighteen years in a refugee camps can drive people crazy up to the point that out of despair they’ll do anything to escape to a better and more human life.

Jit Bahadur Subba seems to be the victim of this and might very well be proven innocent after a transparent and honest police inquiry. The fact that he has been severely tortured by police is by now undeniable, which is a disgrace for a country that is in the process of finalizing a new constitution aimed at bringing peace and order.

If nothing happens I will have to fear for the life of someone I regard a friend.

Alice Verheij © 2012

Pulitzer Price winner’s article republished on Headwind website.

Today The Nation granted me the rights to republishing an article written by Pulitzer Price winner Kai Bird on the Headwind website. Kai Bird’s article is an excellent account of recent history concerning the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing and exile in the early ninetees of last century, the ongoing resettlement of Bhutanese refugees and the long term to be expected effects of this on the position of Bhutan, it’s king and government.

Kai Bird won the Pulitzer Prize with his excellent co-authoring on a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘invertor’ of the atomic bomb. Mr. Bird has work for many years in the Middle East and has recently published his autobiographic ‘Crossing Mandelbaum Gate‘ about the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and how he has lived, grown and endured in the region. Mr. Bird has lived for some time in Kathmandu, Nepal and recently traveled to Bhutan and was a guest of the royals.

‘The Enigma of Bhutan’ is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing and exile, the ongoing largest UNHCR third country resettlement project and the effects of this all on Bhutan.

The article is published in The Nation’s March 26, 2012 issue and can be read on the website of the Nation and on the Headwind website.

Alice

2011, a review.

It’s two weeks after the demise of 2011. A good moment for a quick review of my life in that year.

First of all, I’m getting used to realizing that part of my life actually is not following the western calendar but the Nepali calendar which means that this review is some three months too early. Anyway 3.5/12(2067)+8.5/12(2068)=2011 in a somewhat nonmathematical way the reality of last year but for the sake of readability and because I just happened to live in Europe until last year let’s review the past twelve months as the 2011. Thing is, 2011 has become a very surprising year in almost all aspects of life. So much has happened and although some things were really bad most of the year has brought me happiness. Reviewing is not an easy thing in my life as it might very well become a rollercoaster reading experience so I will try to stay chronologically correct.

End of 2010 I had started working on the Headwind project (then Atma project) to bring myself to Nepal and become useful for society in a place that is not as selfish and egocentric as the west. At the same time I had to experience a conflict in the lesbian scene in the Netherlands that pretty much made me sick to my stomach and desiring even more to let it all go and go elsewhere. Little did I know of what would happen.

In january the Atma Project turned into a project for filming a documentary and the decision was made to make a research trip to Nepal and hopefully to ‘a refugee camp’ to find out if making a film would be feasible. We left in February with three team members and it became an amazing trip. We did see a camp, we talked to UNHCR and affiliate organizations and we decided to go on with the filming. That is to say we decided I would continue filming. One team member couldn’t cope working in Nepal. In March we returned to Holland.
Back in Holland that lesbian thing had become worse and so did my disgust with it. It’s not nice to see how a friends business is destroyed by cybercrime and idiots spreading false information on the internet and in the scene. It’s even worse to find out that most lesbians and even some lgbt organizations swiftly hopped on the crucifixion bandwagon pushing for the destruction of an honest business and not caring one bit for the person who runs it. It became the downfall of many lesbian ‘icons’ for as far as I am concerned. So I wrote about that shit.

Then on March 22 the Goldhap camp in Nepal burned down and I just had to leave for Nepal to go to the site as soon as possible. Which meant that I left for Kathmandu in April and stayed there until August. That whole summer including the monsoon I worked and filmed there. I wrote my novel in June (to be published within a couple of months) and I came back with almost all the footage I had set out to get. I visited three major camps including the unfortunate Goldhap camp and the huge Beldangi refugee camp. I gained friendships with amazing people and in the end I lost my heart in Nepal. In August I returned, in love with the country, the people and a woman that I’d met. I had not intended to fall in love, but I did. Still I didn’t know if the feeling was mutual in spite of the special friendship we already had developed. From September disaster (relative disaster that is) struck. The investments for the film had been high and financial support extremely low basically draining my last financial means to the extend that I had to leave my house. Eviction, a traumatic experience.

But I found out that friends do exist and to my great surprise within weeks I found a much cheaper and much nicer place to live. Within a group of people in a beatiful city house and for the first time in ten years I really felt at home. Home is not about the roof above the head but about the people one lives with. A great lesson to learn. And although the financial troubles were big, and still are unsolvable, I felt much happier. The filmwork was in good progress although the Dutch shooting took much longer than anticipated. And then after a couple of month filled with homesickness for the beautiful Nepal countryside and missing my dear friends there all of a sudden that phonecall was there. My co-producer / co-director suggesting me to travel to Nepal and India to escape the grey Dutch winter.

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I knew it was my chance to do extra fieldwork of the things I had missed and, more important, to find out wether my love was something that could be mutual. To find out if she loved me too. So we went on December 10. Back to Kathmandu, back to Jhapa, Damak, the camps, the little farm, to my love. The trip to Nepal and India was amazing. A true adventure shared with the best travel and working companion imaginable and resulting in more than 10.000 photo’s, 8 hours of great video and in the end with a new love in my life. December has been the best month in the year for me which is in itself miraculous as I tend to hate that month.

So it worked out pretty well. And here I am now, fresh in the new year, counting the days before I can travel back to Nepal and start a new life, living together with my love in Kathmandu for at least half of the year and maybe longer when we’re smart. Only months before the release of Headwind, the documentary and the publication of not one but three books. Only months before I will be able to hold her again with the solid intention to start sharing life again.

In the meanwhile that gruesome Dutch lesbian community affair had escalated into the courtroom and end of the coming week a verdict will be read by a judge against one of the people who’ve been rightfully accused of setting up a slanker campaign to kill some other woman’s business. I’m curious wether justice will be done.

As for me, this year will be different from other years, this year I will divide my life between time in my country of birth and time in my country of love. This year will be the year that I am finally done with the biggest perils in my life and restart into another stage of my life with better, more important and more creative work and for the most of it together with that one woman I love so much.

2011 has been a miracle, 2012 is going to be magic!

Alice © 2012

Solar (bottle) lights.

When I was in Nepal I saw many slumps in Kathmandu and many small towns and villages in the country. I also visited the refugee-camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts in the south. When I was there the energy situation was terrible. Load shedding made that in many places electricity was only available for a few hours per day. And just after I left news got to me that the largest refugee-camp of Bhutanese in the vicinity of Damak was blacked out by the local population and the energy company leaving the 30.000 refugees in that camp without electricity at all.

Due to the construction of the houses in the slumps of the cities and towns and camps (actually sheds and huts) electricity is needed to bring some light inside them. Without light during the day inside these homes living is more difficult because of the darkness that these constructions have.

And then I saw a YouTube video in one of my FaceBook friends timeline about solar bottle light. Here it is. Watch it an realize that with this simple engineering many people in Nepal could have just a little less trouble in their daily life.

Alice © 2011

On the state of Nepal.

First and foremost, I love Nepal. To the extend that I would very much like to live there for some time. The Himalayan country is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen with unmatched natural richness and people that one cannot withstand to love dearly. I’ve been there this year for almost five months and it feels like home somehow.

But I’m worried. Worried about the state the country is in. Nepal, often mentioned as one of the poorest countries in the world (as stated by many but in my view a misrepresentation of reality) has a multitude of problems. Most of them related to poverty. But by far the largest problem is the inability of Nepal politics to rule the country and rebuild it into a prospering south Asian state.

Over the weekend prime minister Jhalanath Khanal stepped down. In his words due to the lack of support for the peace process by the Nepal Congress party and the Maoist party. It’s an easy statement and although true in a sense it doesn’t address the real issues. Thing is, Nepal is desperate for a new constitution and has seen politicians battling over power and in the process make a mockery out of the development of that constitution. And a constitution is urgently needed in the country that in 2006 overthrew it’s monarch after a ten year civil war with Maoist insurgents. Since then the country lives in limbo.

In a country with some two hundred thousand refugees (Bhutanese, Tibetan and others) pushing on the economy (Nepal is both one of the poorest countries and one of the countries with the largest number of refugees according to the UN), in a country with by far the largest number of children, young girls and women being trafficked for prostitution, in a country with regular famine in remote areas as the result of bad infrastructure and bad logistics, in a country with problems with culture clashes between youth and older generations, in such a country there should at least be a number of politicians that take responsibility and push aside party lines to share efforts in building the nation.

But not so in Nepal. Politics is dominated by party wars and old men. Women are under represented and so is youth. Democracy is a farce in such a system as lots of people have been pushed away from politics due to the selfishness and power greed of many politicians. The whole situation concerning the writing of the new constitution is becoming totally ludicrous. Deadlines are repeatedly passed and pushed away and even committee members travel abroad for prolonged times while they’re supposed to work on the text of the constitution. It seems like many politicians only play lip service to the new constitution but frankly don’t give a damn if it ever gets finished. The constitution, being the legal infrastructure of the country, is being treated as the roadworks in Kathmandu. As things are now only travelling to Kathmandu will unveil reality. The Bagmati river is a merger of a garbage dump and sewer, roads are insufficient and in areas like Kirtipur the many beautiful new houses are in extreme contrast with the surrounding lack of infrastructure. Peoples interest seem only focussed on the area within their fences, as soon as one passes the doorstep one gets back in the usual Nepali infrastructural chaos. Does anyone really give a damn about the general interest? Does anyone really worry about the poor state roads, buildings, hospitals and other general facilities are in? It seems not. The constitution is unfortunately just like these unfinished roads. Bumpy, no pavement and to be unfinished forever.

And now, the prime minister stepped down, again leaving the country without a government and with little hope of a new order. The first thing he does is bash the other political parties in stead of looking at his own disability to get things done. In the meanwhile it’s shocking to see that there only a handful young politicians active in the Nepali parliament. The situation shows an important generation gap that is in line with the emotions and ambitions of many young people in Nepal: to find a live in the west and become rich.

Exceptions are there, but unfortunately they are not powerful enough to make a stand. In their respective parties they are sidelined by the older generation. An older generation that not only rules in their parties with iron fists but also grossly manipulate the media. Free press in Nepal is under constant pressure. Journalists are being attacked and although the guilty ones are known, nothing is done to arrest them. Newspapers are ‘owned’ by political parties with only a handful exceptions. Media manipulation goes hand in hand with censorship as the government tries to hold firm grip on visual media. Filming in Nepal can be done but when it’s about anything controversial it can only be done illegally. Current law still demands government film permits and ‘liaison officers’ to be present while filming and even insight in the resulting film material. Crazy, undemocratic and a direct threat to free journalism.

There is much that needs to change in Nepal. The people need a fresh new government that really addresses the many difficulties the country has. They are hungry for change and I guess that if that change doesn’t come any time soon, Nepal might very well end up in a chaos worse than during the civil war some years ago. But maybe all is not lost yet. Maybe young ambitious and above all honest and straight forward politicians stand up and let their voices be heard. Please let it be soon for that to happen.

Alice Verheij © 2011

Ik ga op reis en ik neem mee…

Op nog maar een paar dagen afstand van Nepal waar ik geruime tijd ga wonen om daar te werken aan mijn film loop ik over van de activiteiten om me voor te bereiden op mijn reis en verblijf daar. Natuurlijk is de vlucht geboekt (enkele reis deze keer) en is er het nodige geregeld zodat ik daar kan leven. Er is een verblijfplaats die voldoet aan mijn behoeften op een goede plek in Kathmandu. Ik zal er aan paar maanden mijn domicilie houden ondanks dat ik een aantal keren er een tijdje niet ben in verband met filmreizen. Als de tijd me gegeven wordt zal ik ook een tijdje in retraite gaan in een nonnenklooster in een teruggetrokken gebied. Waar alle verbindingen met de rest van de wereld gedurende mijn verblijf verbroken zijn. Het is het kado dat ik mezelf wil geven om mijn leven en toekomst te overdenken.

Verder ben ik natuurlijk druk aan het rommelen met geschikte tassen, kleding en vooral apparatuur. Want het wordt een techniek intensieve reis. Een flinke HD videocamera van professionele proporties (en gewicht), een flipcam voor het videoblog, DSLR fotocamera, laptop, iPad en een berg snoeren, kabels, accu’s en opladers. Het is een hele operatie wat dat betreft. De vliegreis naar Nepal zie ik niet bepaald naar uit. Het wordt een lange met overstappen tussendoor en dus met gesleep met bagage en het risico dat er spullen zoekraken. De strategische bagage zal in ieder geval als ‘handbagage’ mee moeten. Gelukkig zitten aan de lastigste dingen handvatten.

In Kathmandu wachten vrienden me op en dat is een fantastische wetenschap. Mijn productieassistent ter plekke en een paar andere journalisten. Ik ben in ieder geval verzekerd van een warme ontvangst en zal ongetwijfeld goed geïnstalleerd worden door de heren. Misschien is mijn favoriete douanedame er ook wel bedenk ik me nu. De dag van aankomst wordt de planning al doorgenomen en de vlucht naar het zuiden geboekt. De volgende dag vertrek ik al weer met een binnenlandse vlucht naar Biratnagar, een industriestadje in het uiterste zuidoosten van het land. Vandaar gaan we met een taxi naar Damak om het lokale hotel te betrekken. Dezelfde dag nog zal er contact zijn met UNHCR en IND ter plekke. De filmvergunning van de UNHCR ligt daar dan al op me te wachten. Er is veel en goed voorbereid dus ik ga er vooralsnog maar vanuit dat het allemaal soepel zal verlopen. En zo niet, nou ja dan improviseer ik gewoon.

Het is in Kathmandu nu een graad of dertig en in Damak vierendertig. Warm en ook al vochtig want het regent inmiddels geregeld. Ik zal moeten wennen aan de moesson die ik de komende maanden zal moeten verduren. Bij gebrek aan warm stromend water moet ik dan maar blij zijn met de dagelijkse plensbuien. Ik zie uit naar het weerzien met mijn Nepalese vrienden en met Boudanath waar ik ga wonen. Niet logeren maar wonen. Tenminste, voor mij eigen gevoel. Mijn flat in Den Haag heb ik toch nog aan kunnen houden voor een paar maanden maar misschien veranderd dat nog als ik weer terug ben.

De afgelopen weken heb ik met veel mensen van veel organisaties gesproken om hun medewerking te vragen en in een aantal gevallen heeft dat opgeleverd dat er vervolgwerk aan zit te komen zodra ik klaar ben met deze film. Een korte film van acht minuten, een webfilmpje van een minuut en misschien zelfs weer een documentaire over Nepal. Allemaal nieuw werk. Werk waar ik misschien niet al te ervaren in ben maar wat ik wel leuk vind en waarbij ik door mijn verleden in de techniek de routine snel verwerf. Footage maken, geluid en beeld nabewerken, editen, de hele rimram. Het is een prachtvak en ik kan er al mijn creativiteit in kwijt. Want naast de techniek zijn er het verhaal, de personen, de interviews, het filmen onder moeilijke condities. Geweldig om te doen en een prachtervaring die, dat weet ik nu al, verslavend werkt. Vooral ook omdat ik er bij reis.

Dat reizen is de sleutel tot mijn creativiteit. Niets mooier dan thuiskomen door te reizen want mijn werkelijke thuis is dus niet een huis in een straat in een stad in een land maar juist de plek waar ik ben op het moment dat ik onderweg ben. De tijdelijkheid van een onderdak onderweg, het improviseren en het uit een koffer leven, het is me allemaal even lief. Wat dat betreft mag iedereen hartstikke jaloers op me zijn.Wat minder fijn voelt is de lange tijd dat ik mijn kinderen niet zal zien en mijn vrienden. Goed, internet helpt. Skype, mijn schrijfplek en videoblog dat straks op de Headwind site komt zijn er. Maar dat helpt slechts een beetje. Ik weet dat het gemis er komt en ook dat het soms moeilijk zal zijn op de momenten dat ik er alleen voor sta en me door de situatie heen zal moeten slaan. Het is niet anders.

Zo maar eens even kijken of de tassenwinkel een veilige flight case voor mijn spullen heeft. Ik ga op reis en ik neem mee…

Alice © 2011

Wandeling naar Kopan Monastery.

3 maart 2011, Kathmandu, Kopan Monastery.

De wandeling bergop was zeker de moeite waard. Het kleine klooster mocht niet bezocht worden maar het grote Kopan Monastery dus wel. Eerst was een bezoek aan de tanka schilders de moeite meer dan waard. Het vakmanschap van hen is zo groot. Met ongelooflijk detail schilderen zij de traditionele voorstellingen: de Boeddha’s, de mandala’s en de verbeeldingen van de vele verhalen en sagen uit het Boeddhisme. Ik zoek een kleine tanka van redelijke kwaliteit uit en na wat onderhandelen komt er een mooie prijs uit waarna ik de zoon van de schilder het verhaal van vier harmonieuze vrienden uitleg, hij kende het niet wat mij verbaasd. Ik krijg wat te drinken en te eten. Daarna loop ik naar de ingang van het grote klooster. Achter de anonieme poort ligt een prachtig kloostercomplex dat perfect onderhouden is en onvoorstelbaar kleurrijk. De vele tanka’s bij de ingang van het hoofdgebouw zijn indrukwekkend. De rust is er weldadig en binnen de kortste keren ben ik in een volslagen andere dan de mij bekende wereld.

Monniken lopen af en aan en er tussendoor een enkele westerling. Doorgaans zijn zij niet de gebruikelijke toeristen maar mensen die iets zoeken. Rust wellicht of anders juist een impuls tot creativiteit. Op de trap van het hoofdgebouw zit een westerse vrouw te schrijven. Ik ga aan de andere kant van de trap zitten om hetzelfde te doen. Kraaien en andere, vrolijker kwetterende, vogels maken samen met kinderstemmen in de achtergrond en het continue geruis van een watervalletje dat op het plein voor het gebouw is aangelegd kleuren de omgeving met vriendelijk en rustgevend geluid. Het is onmogelijk om hier gehaast te zijn want haast is volstrekt zinloos in deze wereld. Ik ben het hoofdgebouw niet ingegaan omdat mijn reisgenoten nog moeten aankomen hier. Ik ben immers tot mijn grote tevredenheid alleen naar boven gewandeld. De eenzaamheid doet me goed. Eenzaamheid is een verkeerd woord overigens want ik voel me in deze omgeving alles behalve eenzaam. Met verbazend gemak kom ik tot gesprekken met de mensen die ik tegenkom en iedereen heeft een verhaal. De mensen, of ze hier nu wonen of slechts voorbij komen boeien me mateloos. Hoewel het groepje iPhone toeristen uit Australië kan me niet echt boeien. Ze lijken hier niet op hun plaats. Ik daarentegen voel me hier nadrukkelijk wel op mijn plek. Alsof deze plaats hier op mij gewacht heeft. Het zou goed kunnen dat ik hier over enige tijd weer zal zijn, langer en wellicht ook periode hier leven. Aan de andere kant zou ik nog veel liever een nog stillere plaats, een klooster waar geen westerlingen zijn bezoeken om me in mezelf te verdiepen. Gewoon een maand de wereld de wereld laten zijn en een boek schrijven. Het lijkt me een bijzonder eenvoudige taak die ik mezelf graag opleg.

Ik probeer ondertussen een idee te krijgen hou oud dit klooster is maar dat lukt me niet. Alles is netjes onderhouden en heeft een hoge graad van perfectie over zich. De kleuren zijn helder en de schilderingen gedetailleerd. Ze zijn oud maar nog verbazend mooi. Zo hier en daar is het solide marmer van treden gerepareerd met ingelegde stukken wat me de suggestie geeft dat deze plek een paar honderd jaar oud zal zijn. Er voegen zich andre reizigers bij de vrouw en mij op en rond de centrale trap. Meest vrouwen overigens. Vanuit de verte hoor ik de lage didgeridoo achtige bromtonen en de middelhoge tonen van de hoorns van de monniken in het andere ontoegankelijke klooster. Ik voel de tijd verglijden en het is een heerlijk gevoel. Over een paar dagen ben ik weer in Nederland en ik heb geen idee wat ik er te zoeken heb behoudens mijn kinderen en vrienden. Mijn aanwezigheid in dat land lijkt volslagen nutteloos geworden. Het is, zo vertelde de Welshman Lindsay me gisteren voordat hij een lied voor me zong en we samen nog wat Leonard Cohen liedjes zongen, een gevoel dat meer mensen hier hebben en dat als gevolg heeft dat ze een aantal jaren op deze plek blijven hangen. De losvaste bewoners van Boudah waar de grote stupa staat. Misschien wordt ik een tijdje één van hen.

Later in de middag zit ik in de tuin bij de rijk versierde en blijkbaar even rijk gevulde stupa in een hoekje op het harde gras te genieten van de prachtige tuin, de vormen van de struiken, de bloemen die inmiddels bloeien aan de vlinderstruik naast me en de weldadige stilte. Links van me loopt een babbelend groepje Japanners de stilte te verstoren. Het zijn studenten denk ik gezien de unformpjes die gedragen worden. De meisjes van een jaar of zeventien dragen een zakelijk mantelpakje en zijn zonder uitzondering hooggehakt. Het gezelschap valt volledig uit de toon door de kleding die ze dragen en die onvervalst stads is en het gebabbel dat hier op deze plek eigenlijk niet past. De hakjes tikken op de stenen rond de stupa en de onafwendbare cameraatjes worden uit de tassen gehaald om, vreemd genoeg, foto’s te maken van de omgeving met elkaar op de voorgrond. Japanse toeristenfotografie. De stupa lijkt ze te ontgaan terwijl het ding toch bijzonder dominant is. Kortgerokt en hooggehakt vervolgd het babbelgroepje zijn weg waarna er drie jonge monniken ineens langs me rennen naar de stupa en wat rommelen met de boterlampjes om daarna als een haas verder te rennen, het zicht uit. Monnikjes spelen ook.

Op nog geen drie meter links achter mij zit iemand, ik voel de aanwezigheid zoals je de aanwezigheid van iemand kunt voelen zonder te zien. Er is geen geluid meer. Beiden zijn we in onze eigen wereld met onze eigen zintuigen. De persoon achter me leest, zoals de meeste westerlingen hier lijken te doen. Ik schrijf en bevindt me aan de andere zijde van de keten die van gedachte tot boek leidt. Ik stop even later met schrijven en berg mijn laptop op. Misschien moet ik maar eens beginnen aan de wandeling naar de drukte rond de grote stupa beneden in het dal.

Alice © 2011