Yet another even numbered year is here and I for one am happy. It’s no superstition but odd numbered years don’t work for me. It also seems to be disastrous for the world at large. The Tsunami in Japan was in 2011. And remember 9/11? Who doesn’t, but remember it was also the year 2001! That’s 9/11/01! That’s a lot of odd numbers! It wasn’t just the US that suffered; the repercussions were felt even here in Nepal. Tourism nose-dived and believe it or not, everything else followed suit.
I was stumped when a friend who owned a recording studio around 2001, told me there was little business since 9/11. When tourism slumps, it affects just about everybody, not just the travel agencies, airlines and hotels but all the other businesses that supply the hotels, the people who give their services to the travel agencies and so on. It has a trickle-down effect and eventually most people don’t have that extra cash to throw around. It’s amazing really when you realize that a vegetable supplier will suffer along with a vender selling beads on the street and a porter in the Himalaya, when tourists fail to show up.
2011 turned out to be a bad year personally when two of the biggest concerts we planned were cancelled; that too after a month of rigorous practice. One good thing that did happen was that Bryan Adams performed live for us here at the Dashrath Stadium, the first really big international rock star to do so. And what a show! But the same afternoon, I walked into a hole in the brand new sidewalk at Bhatbhateni, injuring my knee in the process. No, I didn’t miss the concert, but couldn’t walk for two weeks as a result. It took me almost three years to recover. I thought they were going to plant a tree or something in those holes as they were expensive to make; enforced with rods and financed by tax payers’ money. Guess what they did eventually? They filled them up with mud! That’s called ‘insult over injury’. If those holes hadn’t been there in the first place.
What do you remember that went wrong in 2013? How could you forget! DEEP PURPLE! Everyone young and old was excited about the great rock band performing live in Nepal and some girls even had custom made T-shirts ready for the special occasion. The excitement was building up even though the band guys are way past their prime. It felt like we’d been waiting for fifty years to see them. Alas, it was not to be. I was one of the lucky ones who reached the ticket counter at the City Center after the counter was closed down as the concert had already been cancelled. However, the country saw a few bright spots in 2013: the Nepali Stock Market had a good year and the Nepali Cricket team brought hope to the nation by qualifying for the ICC World 20T. Personally, it wasn’t a bad year as such, but nothing really happened the entire year; nothing to actually rave about. And seriously, that’s bad for the soul!
Everybody knows what the biggest and most expensive event was for Nepal in 2013. But could we call the elections a good thing? That’s debatable, because what happens after the elections is what really matters. So, let’s wait and see. Since we are now just into 2014, something good might come out of it. The starting hasn’t been promising though, with all the bickering, back stabbing, bargaining, finger pointing and power mongering. It’s Déjà vu for us poor, helpless souls. There seems to be nothing we can do to change the political scenario, except wait for the big wigs to move on to the other world. But enough of politics! The side-effects of the elections however, was the drop in tourist arrivals; what with all the bandhs and expected trouble from the break-away political factions; who wants to pay Rs 1500/- for a rickshaw ride to the airport just to get out of the country. Just when we thought the year would end on a good note, EU sent a shocker to Nepali aviation.
In 2014, on the international front, there’s the football World Cup to look forward to. Sleepless nights maybe, but there’s always a lot of excitement around and everyone for once talks about football. That sure makes me happy. It makes me feel I’m in good company even if it’s just for a month. The T-shirt sellers will have a field day. Brazil and Argentina shirts should sell well this year. Remember, when the World Cup is held in Latin America, the winner has always been a Latin nation. No European team has ever won the world cup in the Latin continent. All the experts are pointing to Brazil as the most likely winner this year. ‘Home advantage, a great, fresh, young, talented team spear-headed by Neymar the magical striker’, says a lot. I wouldn’t argue with that and why should I? I’ve always been a Brazil fan.
What else can we look forward to in 2014? One prediction says millions of people around the world will become fitter and healthier this year. Take that with a pinch of salt as our people are eating more and more junk food than ever before. A tiny percentage has taken up the healthy habit of exercising, while the rest indulge in good food and exotic drinks. The Indian Express reported that the Nepal Government has announced plans to turn the entire country into a Free Wifi Zone. Did I miss the report in our local papers? But don’t get excited just yet. Ilam Municipality area is a free wifi zone which includes Ilam Tea Estate, but try logging in and you’ll see why I’m skeptical. I tried and failed, although the hotel wifi worked perfectly. For me personally, 2012 was a great year because I travelled to Hawaii and California, where as in 2013, I only made it to Darjeeling, Ilam and Chitlang. But that gives me hope in 2014. I welcome an even numbered year with open arms and full of expectations. you’ll hear from me!