Older blog entries for bibekpaudel (starting at number 39)

Has the SRK detention story been overblown?

Recently, bollywood superstar ShahRukh Khan (SRK) was detained for a little over 1 hour (according to the US authorities, 2 hours according to Indian news sources) in an American airport when he was travelling to perform in a show. It has been attributed to his Muslim name and is said that the Indian government had to apply diplomatic measures to release him. A lot of furor has been created since and heated comments from SRK and his supporters have been coming.

Profiling people based on their names, religion, country of origin, race etc is totally wrong. Worse is the unlawful detention, extra-judicial powers to law authorities, surveillance and the increasing attack on freedoms and civil liberties. This escalated after 9/11 and has been continuing unabated since. Many other countries have joined the league and freedom of people all over the world is being restricted day by day.

SRK isn’t an isolated case. On 15th August, a similar fate met Bob Dylan. Though SRK mighet be more popular than Hollywood actors, Dylan’s personality and role in the rights-movement some decases ago and in the protest of Vietnam war are stuffs legends are made of. A few years ago, a famous singer Cat Stevens who is a Islam-convert was deported after being denied entry to the US, also because of his Muslim name. Unlike SRK, he’s one of “them”, the western world. Studies by civil liberty groups claim that more than 5% of the American population itself is kept on a possible terrorist-suspect list and are subjected to harrassment at airports. A foreign minister of Hugo Chavez was “threatened and shoved” by airport officials, even after informing them of his identity. Even Nelson Mandela was (there have been reports that his name has since been removed) on a terrorist watch list prepared by the FBI which contiues to grow longer and longer every day. Similarly, names of many American leaders and people are also there.

IndiaTimes blog has an entry that requests not to make a big deal over the SRK case. In my experience, South Asia in itself is a very racist place with the North-Indians in India and the residents of Kathmandu being the most frequent offenders I’ve seen. Sometime ago, a racist slur was made on an Indian Idol from North-Eastern India belonging to a Nepali-speaking community by a Mumbai FM RJ. In my observation, such behaviour is common, especially in the Indian capital, to North-Eastern Indians, Bhutanis and Nepalese of mongolian origin. Dinesh Wagle echoes my observations in a recent article. Kathmandu-residents are very intolerant of anybody from outside the valley and especially the Terai.

In my opinion, racism in any form, any where is deplorable. Such activities remind of colonial days. It is a good thing that India has risen to the capacity of defending its citizens even at the world’s sole superpower – maybe this reckons of days when it will stop being the sole-superpower. However, the basic flaw is in the state of civil liberties worldwide. Unless this realisation dawns, getting emotional over SRK issue may be benefitial to his upcoming movie that is said to be based on similar issues, but it will make no significant change on the way things are.
 They were never different. Just because SRK is SRK, expecting them to change is only stupid. The issue has been overblown.

Posted via web from Instincts

Syndicated 2009-08-16 06:47:37 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

Code Obfuscation

By Binit Thapa

“Real Programmers don’t comment their code. If it was hard to write, it should be hard to read.”

Obfuscation: confusion resulting from failure to understand, mystification. Try telling someone you’re a programmer and he knows you’re an ugly, boring specimen of homo sapiens1 who has neither girlfriend nor time. Why, only today there was a discussion going on at InRev2 about how less frequently the software team went to toilets. Once you are into the programming spirit, everything else becomes moh-maya3. When you misplace something, you miss find and grep4. And when you’ve got par with all the games you have, you start writing code for fun. Maybe a small useful tool or maybe a piece of code that only bows to its creator. While this technique is not new, it’s so unique and diverse that it can easily cause a mild heart-attack if you’re not a really good programmer. Here I’ll present some of the best ones, which I’ve collected over time. But I won’t explain those to you as I’ve never fully understood them myself.

C program

C program

This is a valid C program that generates a nice poem when compiled. Author: James O. Coplien

The next one is prime number test by Abigail. This prints “prime” as 7 is a prime number.

perl -wle ‘print “Prime” if (1 x shift) !~ /^1?$|^(11+?)\1+$/’ 7

Next ones are taken from JAPH5 section of CPAN.








The examples above were scripts with some meaningful output. There’s also poetry which may not produce any output but compiles perfectly and looks nice. These are some of those, all compiling perfectly in Perl.



While most of these are written in C/C++ and in Perl, hackers have created plenty in almost all languages. Code obfuscation is not only for fun. This technique has been used in making code very difficult to reverse engineer and hence secure. This is specially helpful Javascript where code is to be presented to the world.
I am signing off with some good references. Other examples are left as an exercise to the reader, etc.

1 homo sapiens - the set containing both programmers and Muggles
2 InRev - the company I work with
3 moh-maya - loving the materialistic things
4 find and grep - unix tools to search tokens in files.
5 JAPH - Just a Perl Hacker, scripts by Perl Hackers.

1. Wiki explains http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obfuscated_code
2. The International Obfuscated C Code Contest - http://www.ioccc.org/
3. The Perl Poetry - http://docstore.mik.ua/orelly/perl/prog3/ch27_02.htm
4. JAPHs in CPAN http://www.cpan.org/misc/japh

Download Code
C-program, Camel-code, tree-code, star-wars-code, love-code, poem-1, poem-2

About the writer: Binit Thapa is the Chief Software Architect of the Bangalore-based startup InRev. He has industry experience in scripting tools, Linux and Unix development environment, SOAP/XML and data storage technologies. He is a graduate of Bachelor of Engineering (IT) from NIT Durgapur, India.

Note: I would like to thank InRev, Binit Thapa and Bhupendra Khanal for making this guest-article possible. I welcome other guest articles on topics coherent with the theme of this blog.

Syndicated 2009-04-06 07:39:35 from Bibek Paudel's weblog


Not much to write today but I have moved back to Debian, having installed its latest stable release (5.0) named “Lenny.” I used the CD image for installation instead of DVD and the installed amount of desktop applications surprised me at first. They are very less in number. Even usual applications like OpenOffice.org, XChat, Pidgin, Transmission etc weren’t installed. The Synaptic Package Manager, GParted and other utilities were missing too. I have uploaded a full-size screenshot of my desktop for the reason that both GIMP and Imagemagick are not present in my system at present :)

Debian Lenny Desktop

My Debian Lenny Desktop

Here is a list of steps for those who might want to try what I did:
To install Synaptic package manager:

  1. Open the file “/etc/apt/sources.list” in a text editor and add these lines (skip if they are already present):

    deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ lenny main contrib non-free
    deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ lenny main contrib non-free

  2. Enter the command “apt-get install synaptic” as a root user.

My DVD drive isn’t working for some reason lately. I had to install using the CD image located in my hard disk. Steps:

  1. Download initrd.gz and vmlinuz files from: http://http.us.debian.org/debian/dists/Debian5.0/main/installer-i386/20090123/images/hd-media/
  2. You need to have an existing GNU/Linux operation system in your computer. Copy the downloaded files to some location readable by GRUB (or LILO). I copied them to a folder named “lenny_install” in my /boot partition (/dev/hda7).
  3. Edit the GRUB configuration file (/boot/grub/menu.lst in Debian systems) and add these lines (be careful to replace (hd0,6) with your own correct partition name):

    title Debian Lenny Installer
    kernel (hd0,6)/boot/lenny_install/vmlinuz
    initrd (hd0,6)/boot/lenny_install/initrd.gz

  4. Locate the DVD/CD iso image in a partition that won’t be used during your new installation. If possible, remove/rename the other isos in your hard disk as it might confuse the Debian installer later.
  5. Reboot your system and choose the option “Debian Lenny Installer” from GRUB menu. After entering language and keyboard settings in the installer, opt for installation via hard-disk.

Syndicated 2009-03-14 02:08:44 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

The seduction of “Free Tibet”

Just ahead of the Beijing Olympics, a group of white men were discussing Free Tibet in a Thamel pub. Sitting next to me, they seemed to make some interesting points about why Tibet should be free and how China had been violating human rights. I got into a heated debate with one of them, who was a Russian. When I started talking of how Russia had been committing graver crimes in Chechnya and other parts of its neighborhood, his arguments seemed to fade away. He then tried to persuade me, saying that after Tibet, it’s Nepal’s turn to come under Chinese scanner. Well, to be honest many in Nepal fear such moves from India rather than from China- given India’s historical motives with Sikkim and Bhutan (called Sikkimization and Bhutanization in Nepal) and with Nepal itself. International refugees don’t have the right to engage in political activities in the host country.

If indeed China has been violating human rights in Tibet, it is condemnable. It should allow free practice of religion, freedom of speech and organization and of dissent since economic progress can’t be a substitute for political progress (and vice versa). At the same time, China has the right to control violence inside it’s territory (Tibetan protests often are very violent, read more, please.), even more so, if Israel and America can deploy army and use excessive forces against a silent population in foreign lands. Tibet is recognized as Chinese territory by almost all of the world, including the United States.

Tibet shares a long border with Nepal, over 1200 km long. And many Nepalese from the Northern part have a Tibetan/Mongolian origin- meaning that their religious, cultural and linguistic practices have some similarities.

More than a century ago, Nepalese troops made a couple of attacks on Tibet. (Interestingly, I’ve been to one of the forts of Nepal-Tibet war :) ) Often, Chinese troops would also be engaged in those wars. Having defeated Tibet, Nepal used to enjoy huge annual tribute in the form of cash and gold. This continued till 1950, when Tibet came under the direct control of Communist China (Some Indian “analysts” like this wrongly state that Nepal used to pay tributes to China- there’s no record in history to suggest that).

There is a large population holding the idea that Tibet was never free and was always under Chinese control. Almost all of the Chinese population belongs to this group. As I wrote in Slashdot last year, they blame the western media and rulers for all the controversy surrounding Tibet. Similarly, there’s a larger group that believes that Tibet was always free and that’s how it ought to be in the future. Both of them are misled. Tibet and China have a very long history of coexistence and struggle. Tibet was under Chinese control for a large part of its history. Tibet also had annexed parts of the Chinese territory during this time. Incidentally, during Nepal-Tibet wars, Tibet occasionally won over some parts of Nepalese land too.

Most Tibetans practice Buddhism. Sometime in the 16th century, a group of Tibetan aristocrats invented the myth named “Dalai Lama”- who could incarnate and rule over the people; much like the King in Nepal who’s now overthrown. An overwhelming majority of Tibetans (some sources say, 95%) were servants and slaves to the small group of aristocrats represented by the Dalai Lama. Nepalese folklores portray Tibet as a very poor state. In one of the most famous works of Nepali literature- “Muna Madan” by Laxmi Prasad Devkota, the protagonist goes to Tibet (also known as Bhot in Nepal) and suffers a lot. Tibet was known to Nepalese primarily as trading place for salt. Despite such abject poverty and backwardness, the Dalai Lamas lived in big, sophisticated palaces, owned large amounts of gold (there’s a popular Nepali proverb indicating Lhasa-the Tibetan capital’s collection of gold) and ruled unquestioned. From 1950-59, the Chinese allowed Dalai Lama to continue unabated. When Communist China started to make some minor changes, these aristocrats had their privileged stripped, and had enough reasons to revolt. Dalai Lama fled in 1959 and it was only then that China started to implement its policies in a full-fledged way.

Dalai Lama, Free Tibet and Nepal

Free Tibet protestors in Bauddhanath, Kathmandu on 10th March 2009 (Picture:AFP)

Free Tibet protestors in Bauddhanath, Kathmandu on 10th March 2009 (Picture:AFP)

Once in India, the Dalai Lama, then a celebrity, started a pseudo Tibetan government and parliament which runs till today. A few years later, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, to many people, he represents everything divine. Many Hollywood stars, western leaders and ordinary citizens are his devoted followers and fans. Not surprisingly, many children grow up feeding on the idea that Dalai Lama is the incarnation of god, who believes in Peace and Love while the Chinese government kills his followers in Tibet. On the contrary, after 1960, Tibet has developed in an unbelievable pace. The once despised cities of Tibet have today grown far more prosperous than their Nepalese counterparts. Many Nepalese workers go to Tibet in search of work and Nepal imports a huge supply of goods from Tibet.

India has been an active center for Free Tibet supporters. Their government and parliament is located there and from where most of their activities are coordinated. Unfortunately, Nepal is also another center for such activities. Spend an evening near the Bauddhanath area in Kathmandu and you will perhaps get to observe the thick of events that go discretely in the city. An year ago, five ministers of Tibetan pseudo-government in India, all carrying Nepalese passports (illegally, of course), accompanied by the French ambassador to Nepal were reportedly meeting the Tibetans at Bauddhanath area. Nepal has been known as a route for ordinary citizens and criminals fleeing to India from Tibet. Apart from that, there are many Tibetan refugees in Nepal itself. Many years ago, the CIA-trained group of armed Tibetan rebels called Khampaas were disarmed by the Nepalese army. Some analysts think that similar armed groups might be on the move in Nepal. It is, therefore, imperative for Nepal’s government to curb any measures that might lead to violence in its neighborhood. China is one of the biggest sponsors of Nepal’s development projects and irking a neighbor as good as China is not in Nepal’s best interests.

Double Standards
So many Americans seem to be oblivious to human rights abuses by their government and allied nations. Debates regarding gross violation of Human Rights by Saudi Arabia and Israel are never allowed to gain mainstream attention. Similarly, suppression of dissident and civil right groups inside America itself through instruments like FBI and NSA (and activities like illegal wiretapping) are easily ignored and of course, Abu-Gharib and Guantanamo Bay don’t deserve much criticism. I have never heard of Americans or Britons protesting against the killings of over 5 million people in Congo in about a decade’s time. Talk of Chechnya, and a Russian cringes. Talk of Lebanon, Afganistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Cuba and the rest of Latin America, of Israel and of Saudi Arabia- and you have to consider being anonymous on the internet. But if you talk of Free Tibet, suddenly, you become a freedom fighter, a proponent of a noble cause. In fact, you will have a larger mass that will listen to you - your stance will be hailed.

Many Indians and some Nepalese also back the idea of Free Tibet and subscribe to all the western media’s fodder. Surprisingly, the same people take it as a personal affront when asked about Indian army’s excesses in Kashmir and the North Eastern states like Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. None of them seem to support the decades old Gorkhaland movement (for a state, not independence) by ethnic Nepali-speaking population of Darjeeling, Dooars and Siliguri. There are about a million Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees in Nepal- all of them driven away from their country (via India) and demanding to be sent back home. Bhutan is also accused of attempting ethnic cleansing, yet none among the Indian, Nepalese or American establishment seem to pay heed to their completely peaceful struggle.

Why This Post?
It was exactly fifty years ago, on the 10th of March that Dalai Lama fled Tibet. As the day drew closer, authorities in Nepal and China had heightened security around the border. Nepalese police tried to curb anti-China protests in the capital. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I am for even stronger measures against Free Tibet activists working in Nepal- anywhere else is OK, but NO to such activities in Nepal.

To Free Tibet aspirants of South Asia: I detest China’s crimes in Tibet. I am a strong supporter of freedom, activism and liberties, but such values should not be viewed in absolute terms. The freedom fights in many other parts of the world and in South Asia itself are in need of global attention and support. People there have been subjected to much harsher conditions and prolonged durations of injustice. Human Rights standards should apply equally to all the countries. Ignoring such issues for a propaganda like Free Tibet is a harmful seduction. Free Tibet propaganda is largely artificial and unjustified.

Further Reading:
Noam Chomsky on Tibet and Palestine
Was Tibet a peaceful paradise of spirituality and social order before the Chinese take over or was it just another feudal theocracy for the ordinary people who lived there?
The CIA’s secret war in Tibet
CBC, Canada - Tibet timeline
A Reuters reporter recalls the Dalai Lama’s escape to India
What does Free Tibet mean to you?
Comparing Kashmir with Tibet

Syndicated 2009-03-10 20:41:25 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

Linux Journal Tech Tip Video Contest

Linux Journal is a leading magazine on GNU/Linux and free/open source softwares. The yearly Readers’ Choice Awards announced by the magazine are considered to be an authoritative list among Free Software hackers and users. The magazine also offers many of its articles via its website. I like their content, especially the tricks, sysadmin helps and programming articles.

Incidentally, this happens to be their 15th year of publication and they are planning to celebrate it in big ways. This week (March 9 - 13), happens to be the Tech Tip Video Contest Week.

If you want a free 1-year digital subscription to Linux Journal watch the daily Tech Tip videos this week and collect the secret letters hosts Shawn Powers and/or Mitch Frazier announce during the videos each day. This Friday, unscramble the letters to reveal the secret word(s). Everyone with the correct answer who responds by 11:59:59PM U.S. Eastern Standard Time March, Friday 13th, 2009 wins a free digital subscription to Linux Journal — it’s that easy!

So, hurry up. Head to the contest page. If you want the Tech Tip video for today, click here.

If you know of better ways of having fun while learning Linux, be sure to drop a comment to this post :)

Syndicated 2009-03-09 18:08:28 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

Nepal’s untapped wealth

Nepal’s poor economy has never had the opportunity of a sensible political leadership. Especially since the civil war in the 1990s, it is in total disarray. The peace-process is only existent in name and paper. Industries are either already closed or are on the verge of shutting down. Industrialists are leaving the country for greener pastures as Maoist-affiliated labor unions’ high-handedness doesn’t seem to cease but instead appears to have encouraged other unions for similar actions (Read more about the unions’ excesses in a recent issue of a popular Nepali newsmagazine Himaal).

There are a few sectors where Nepalis feel safe investing, however. Real estate is one of them though it’s not institutionalized yet. People invest all they have in land and houses. In a country where there’s no better use of money than saving it, banking is perhaps the only other trusted place for investment. Maybe, that’s the reason for the increasingly popular trend of investing in the banking industry.

Every time a bank’s IPO is announced, queues can be seen all over Kathmandu of people vying to get a piece of the cake. The same enthusiasm is very rare in the stock markets though. In the past 9-10 months, a little less than a half a dozen banks have announced their IPOs and I haven’t seen the craze fading. Last week, Citizens’ Bank and Bank of Asia announced their IPOs. For Citizens’ stocks worth NRs 300,000,000 people have readied NRs 6,000,000,000. For similar figures, people deposited NRs 5,000,000,000 in Bank of Asia’s coffers. A few months ago, Global Bank Ltd received NRs 12,000,000,000 during its IPO. Those are huge figures by any means in a country like ours, especially for the stocks offered. Such occasions used to be unheard of during the past.

My observation tells me that about 5 percent of Nepal’s population is usually interested and/or aware of such IPOs. Among those who apply for stocks, most people invest only about 10-30% of their savings. This indicates the amount of Nepal’s untapped wealth. If there were suitable conditions for investment and business, the government could have easily run many successful ventures including power plants. The irony is that the government’s paraphernalia themselves are hell bent on not letting such possibilities turn into reality. They will make sure that strikes, obstructions and other machinations of destruction will follow no sooner than the people will start investing.

Syndicated 2009-03-02 06:09:58 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

The load shedding conspiracy

For the whole of a country to remain without power for more than 2/3rd of a day- every day; a catastrophe of sorts should have had occurred. Only if the country in question is not Nepal. In Nepal, this goes on as if this is the way things should have always been.

While interacting with his students in Nepal’s premier Engineering college at Pulchowk, a prominent hydro-power expert of the country makes no bones about the fact that Nepal’s current power crisis is largely artificial. Large volumes of water from one of Nepal’s biggest reservoir-based hydro-power plants at Kulekhani, according to him, were systemically drained during Monsoon, a season when there’s water enough to flood all the rivers. Such reservoir-based plants are meant to collect water during monsoon- for use in winter, when Nepal’s rivers dry up.

The transmission lines damaged by Koshi floods have been repaired, enabling the import of some MegaWatts of electricity from India. Similarly, a quarter of a year has passed since the government released a very-long and serious sounding action-plan to minimize the effects of the power-crisis. That included the distribution of low-power electric bulbs, controlling power-leakage, cutting supplies to hoarding boards, subsidizing alternative power sources and such like. These measures were expected to save almost the same amount of power that is being imported from India. According to predictions of pundits, this would bring down load-shedding hours by half of what it is now. In the meantime, the government would re-operate some thermal power plans and start investing in newer hydro-power projects. In a matter of just ten years, Nepal would produce 10,000 MW of electricity.

It didn’t, therefore, come as a surprise to anybody, when government ministers were shouting from rooftops that load-shedding will soon be a thing of the past. After all, the generator-battery-inverter business had amassed the largest sum of money it could possibly garner in a single year, and possibly even the stocks would have emptied up. To the public eye, there seemed no reason now to continue with such atrocious durations of load shedding. But, the NEA (No Electricity Authority of Nepal) has recently announced that there will be no reduction in the duration of power-outages. Today, twittersphere was abuzz with the news of increased load-shedding duration. For the record, presently, 14 hours every day remain without power. There are some additional hours of unannounced power-cuts at arbitrary times. The rumored new routine will bring back the glorious days of 16-hours of no-power-a-day that people here were experiencing a few weeks ago.

Ok, the civil war that ran for many years (and is still running) slowed down the country’s development works and the corrupt bureaucracy helped make sure that it came to a grinding halt. There’s a difference in the supply and demand of power and some hours of load-shedding is inevitable. But the government feels no obligation to explain the reason for power-problem as serious as this. Never had Nepalese been treated so badly by a government - like they don’t even deserve an honest explanation, and we’re supposedly experiencing the most democratic political process in the nation’s history.

In the NEA’s recent statement citing inability to decrease load-shedding hours despite importing power from India, it has cited the low water levels in the Kulekhani reservoir. We never read in our newspapers about how much has the level of water decreased and why. We never hear our political leaders visiting the reservoir to check the facts and interrogate on how the present situation wasn’t foreseen. On the other hand, respected hydro-power experts complain that nobody cares about the truth and that it’s all part of a big game.

Incidentally, in today’s Kantipur (Nepal’s vernacular daily), former Managing Director of NEA writes about his first-hand experiences about conspiracies in Nepal’s hydro-power sector.

To satisfy the sadist in me, let me mention a fact that means nothing, and sounds much like a boisterous laughter from the conglomerate of Nepal’s political leadership: ours is a country whose power potential is roughly 83,000 MW, which is equivalent to the combined installed hydroelectricity capacity of Canada, the United States and Mexico (reference), although less than 1 percent has been developed (reference).

Conspiracy, catastrophe, mockery and irresponsibility by politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and media go on hand in hand with life, so blissed to be so utterly ignorant and so happily incapable of any voice and resistance, of anything at all beyond frustration, dejection and surrender. Of course, in Nepal, all this and more go on as if this is the way things should have always been.

Read my past writings about the load-shedding:
More Darkness
Diversity in Darkness

Syndicated 2009-02-24 21:40:23 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

Diversity in Darkness

One reason why I haven’t been able to blog frequently is the latest improvements in the load-shedding schedule (of which I have now lost track). The improvement took the duration of power outages to 16 hours and then, sadly, brought it down to 14 hours. Oh, I forgot to mention the unit, that’s hours per day- yes, 16 hours per day. There were rumors of more improvements which, much to my dismay, haven’t been declared as of yet. The illegal act of bringing down the duration to 10-hours a day, sadly was a failed conspiracy on part of some anti-national elements, very likely “foreign elements” or “domestic regressive and fundamentalist forces.” So, that’s an update to my earlier post on the divine darkness on this divine land.

Ok, there’s a reason for adding that adjective before “darkness.” Darkness can do wonders. Darkness can inspire people to dream of light, hope and brightness. If it weren’t for darkness, whoever discovered electricity and invented light bulbs and dynamos would have no motivation for his work. We can hope that, someday our proud country can also enter the bright age of industrial, electronic, space and digital revolution, in case we don’t have to redo the stone age’s fire-and-wheel revolution. Hinduism’s cycle of life (birth-death-rebirth) confirms with this cycle of revolution.

My life, like many of ours’, has been revolving around this divinity, and I shall forever remain very grateful to whoever is responsible for blessing me with this opportunity. I wake up to find there’s no power and usually that makes me stay longer in bed. I come home, to find that power will resume from midnight or past that. Sometimes, power supply and I seem to coexist. There are four-hour bouts of such sad moments when I try my most to waste my time in front of my computer. There’s no time for other electronic media or devices. Four hours is a lot of time for anyone who knows that. In fact, that’s almost enough for anyone in Nepal to do anything. Ok, then again, goes off the supply of power. I try to call friends who might be available for a walk, talk or tea. Luckily, for the already-problematic telephone towers, there’s a credible looking reason to remain down- power cuts. Apart from friends, tea and walk, there are books too. If you’re out for something, you don’t want to come home because home’s not as sweet without power, your computer and all the work you can/have to do there. If you’ve been waiting for my mail reply, for me to be online on IM or IRC, or have some important task with me that you want done quick, sorry folks. I might look too busy and in fact I am :) I have a few deadlines to meet, for which I struggle, the eternal procrastinator that I am. And four-hour sessions are almost enough to put any deadline to shame.

Cliched as it may sound, Nepal has earned a reputation for her cultural, natural, geographical and biological diversity. The country ranks between 25th and 30th on the global scale and 11th on the continental scale for richness in floral (plant) diversity. For a small country (the size of Arkansas), Nepal has great physical diversity, ranging from the Tarai Plain - the northern rim of the Gangetic Plain situated at about 60 meters above sea level in the south — to the 8850-meter-high Mount Everest (wikipedia text). This variation occurs within a stretch of 200 km.

I have loved my country for one more reason. Partly because of the cultural and ethnic diversity, Nepal can boast of a unique collection of indigenous liquor. In plain terms, Nepal is also a country of alcoholic diversity. With every ethnic group, is associated “at least” one variation of home-made liquor. Every such group has “at least” one festival or ritual that is incomplete or inauspicious without the use of such liquor. Varieties of spirit have been named after places (”Marfa” for a kind of home-made apple brandy popular in a place called Marpha) and plants (”kodo” for a drink made from millet- called “kodo” in Nepali). Some have Tibetan names too. They come in many varieties, color, taste and vessels. There’s one famous in the Eastern hills, called “Tongba” that comes in bamboo vessels, with a straw to sip the hot drink. And there are many methods to prepare these drinks, all with local skills and specialties. Much of the country is hilly, most people are (they used to be at least) farmers and a large part of the year in these parts is cold. Home-made drinks are cheap, strong and invigorating. I don’t have the facts, but I guess they are healthy too, as long as they are made by an original Nepali family (from the countryside: honest, innocent and harmless. read: altruistic, helpful and happy), which as you might know, are hard to find these days.

So, that’s an unconventional introduction to Nepal: as a proud country of alcoholic diversity. But that’s slowly changing. As “the original Nepali” starts to become a mythical character (for good and for bad), homemade liquors aren’t as good as they used to be. They can even be harmful. For the love of money and quick profit, the makers of such liquors usually forgo the lengthy and tiresome process of fermentation that might span as well as a month. Such a shortcut warrants the use of different material imported into the markets, which might contain harmful chemicals.

In recent days, number of alcohol related deaths in Nepal is on the rise. Surprisingly, these recent deaths are attributed to branded liquor. Last year, 18 people in Sindhupalchok died of a low-quality imported bottled drink named “Sophi.” More recently, 3 people in Kathmandu died of reputed Nepali brands “Virgin” and “Khukuri.” A few others lost their eyesight and some are recovering in hospitals. Investigations have shown that even Indian brands like “Royal Stag” and global brands like “Red Label” are adulterated. Police was quick to arrest a group of people who looked more like victims. Police confiscated a houseful of bottles that the group was said to adulterate and distribute. This looked all the more dramatic because there was a government’s tax seal on each of those bottles.

More people died outside Kathmandu and the terror doesn’t stop, thanks to a free-media that’s not as excited in consumer rights as it wants to appear, highly professional journalists who don’t want assignments that don’t include wagging tails around sources of money and power and a very vigilant government (including its administration and law-enforcing body) whose prime minister (like everybody else) obviously knows a lot more than to just shake his head, make meaningless remarks and provide tutelage to criminals.

Alcohol is the generic name for a family of organic compounds. Methyl alcohol is derived from methane and Ethyl alcohol from ethane. Under suitable conditions, Methyl alcohol (CH3OH) can convert to formaldehyde (CH3CHO) and subsequently to formic acid (CH3COOH). Formic acid can be very harmful to optic nerve, cause blindness. It can be a cause of a host of other medical problems and lead to immediate death. Methyl alcohol is not allowed by law to be included in alcoholic drinks. It is the Ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH) that is the ingredient of a legal alcoholic drink.

More Diversity
Well, people have other things to do too, during load shedding. When there was news of Britons opting for sex to save money during the economic crisis, South Asian blogosphere echoed the wishes for a similar crisis in the region. Luckily for the Nepalese, load shedding was the savior. We were discussing among friends a couple of months earlier that there might be a population growth because of load shedding. The intelligent lots that we are, today’s papers have carried reports confirming our prediction. It is too early in the morning for me to link to those stories (Nepali newspapers’ websites aren’t updated before 10) but I can’t wait since there will be no power in 15 minutes. A few of my friends who don’t like to talk, (sip) tea, walk or (read) books wished that they were married. Of course there is a diversity in this opinion too that will surely make our proud country prouder. More Nepalese in the future will wish they weren’t born.

(to be added in the next session. There’ll be power cut shortly)


Syndicated 2009-02-06 02:08:43 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

More Darkness

Load-shedding has been an unmistakable feature of daily lives in Nepal. People plan their days accordingly. They sleep and wake up accordingly. Businesses and office-goers, professionals try to adjust their work and daily routine in harmony with the load-shedding schedule published by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA, aptly called No Electricity Authority of Nepal). NEA is very good at doing it. It changes its schedule and duration time and again, citing different reasons. In summers, its usually because of the flooding at certain rivers that grains and rock try to disturb the hydro-power plants. In winters, its because most rivers originating in the mountains decrease in their volumes because the snow melts less. At other times, its because one or the other power plant needs to be closed because of technical difficulties. At no points do we learn about measures taken to forestall annual occurrences of such events.

Effective from today, NEA has imposed, another schedule. There will be 70 hours of power cut every week. That is 10 hours a day. NEA says that, come mid-January, the duration will be increased. Imagine how lives will move. Industries have already declared that it’d be impossible for them to sustain. Of course, people trading generators, inverters and such like will be very happy, like some others who’d have waited for such days.

The current government has declared its policy of generating 10,000 MW of power in 10 years, while no attempts have been made to control the 25.15 percent power (of total power capacity) lost by NEA due to power leakage.

In April, I wrote:

… Each day, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) imposes an eight-hour long load-shedding. I am sure they impose many other hours of unannounced power cuts. This, in a country whose power potential is roughly 83,000 MW, which is equivalent to the combined installed hydroelectricity capacity of Canada, the United States and Mexico (reference), although less than 1 percent has been developed (reference). Inflation is on the rise, making the livelihood of ordinary citizens extremely difficult; exports are hitting their all-time low and so are stock prices. Major industries have been shut down and due to a long time of bad publicity, tourism is only slowly gaining its lost pace…


Syndicated 2008-12-19 06:59:09 from Bibek Paudel's weblog

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