‘Bhatti’ is the Nepali word for electricity – ‘Chaina’ is the word for NO! So ‘Bhatti Chaina’ is what you can currently hear in the shops and streets of Kathmandu. As I have briefly mentioned in my previous entry, we are currently suffering from 16 hours of power cuts a day and we have been threatened with an increase of up to 20 hours, which, if you do your maths quickly, will leave us with four hours of electricity per day. The power cuts are due to a huge water shortage in the country and the fact that some of the hydropower stations have major faults that have not been repaired. It boggles my mind how this country can still function with such a huge power shortage but funnily enough, it does somehow – even though it is tough for most people.
Here is just an example. I have just been to the immigration office to renew my visa for this year and they needed some photocopies of my passport and other documents. Well, normally you would just go out, get a copy and take it back to the immigration officer in about five minutes. Not so in Nepal! I went around the corner to the copy shop and of course, the guy there looked at me utterly surprised, probably wondering why I even had the hope of getting a copy there, and said: “Bhatti chaina”. So I asked whether he knew where I could get power at this time of day (we do have fine power schedules here, which tell you which part of town is lit up) and he told me that I should go ‘up the hill’. So, back I went on my bike and cycled up the hill, only to find out that ‘bhatti chaina’ was also the word in the street there! Well, to cut a long story short – I cycled for about one hour until I found a shop that actually had electricity and a working photocopy machine!
Most big hotels and organisations are getting their electricity from generators and I would say that about two thirds of Kathmandu is currently running on diesel, which of course contributes to the air pollution in this city. My friend Sam has bought me a facemask but I haven’t brought myself to wearing it….yet. However, I am actually contemplating strapping this futuristic looking thing around my face in order not to pollute my lungs too much before I head out to the hills.
However, life carries on and it is amazing how little the Nepali people actually complain. For us (I live with Alex, a photographer from the UK, and Sam, a marketing director from The Netherlands) not having electricity is bearable as we go to cafes and wireless places that have generators, however, for people who absolutely rely on power in order to produce something, times are tough! And there is no rain being forecast for the next few weeks so we will probably have to remain in the dark until monsoon hits the area, which will probably not be before the middle of June!