Kathmandu is frenetic. It is a labyrinthine tangle of roads and alleys brimming with cuisine tailored to every palate, oddly situated temples, and a vast array of modes of transport – everything from long processions of pedestrians, dogs, and cows to unpredictable, kaledioscopic arrangements of motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, trucks, and taxis – all moving in a continuous stream with no discernible vehicular order. The city is a mash-up of what Nepal remembers itself to be – shy, modest, spiritually imbued – and changing values brought upon by the decades old influx of tourists hoping to experience something entirely new without sacrificing the comforts of home. For a traveler experiencing it for the first time, this mash-up quality adorns Kathmandu with ironies that add a hectic quirkiness to its charm while at the same time creating an exhausting and draining kind of sensory overload. Around Kathmandu, irony hangs inertly in the air – a thick concoction of incense, black smog, and Himalayan mist – where it begs the question: What are the stakes of selling bronze castes of Siddhartha’s head? Such questions hide in the shadows like specters around the frenzied backpacker district of Thamel where shops selling prayer rugs and books about Tibetan Buddhism run parallel with dance clubs that have billboards depicting scantily clad western women advertising “dance showers”.
I have spent two days at the Jagaran Media Center in Kathmandu and will be here for the next two weeks before heading to Butwal. The staff are very concerned about where I should be during my time at the office and I am often shuffled from one place to another. I think they have settled on a corner of the radio news room, a very small office that I share with eight members of the radio team. So far, the staff in this room are slightly unsure of me and they smile and nod when we make eye contact and, like unsure animals testing the ground for divots, we are wary of approaching one another. The production studio is basic but well-suited to the type of radio Jagaran endeavours to produce. Currently the recording studio is empty; from what I can understand, the equipment is not working and has been sent somewhere for repairs.
My interaction with the staff at the Jagaran Media Center has been overwhelmingly positive. The center’s assistant manager, Prakash Mohara, is everything he was made out to be by AP’s interns last year who speak of him with great admiration. He is talented, energetic, and giving. The other managers and directors are similarly so and stress that they see us less as interns and more as part of a worldwide family dedicated to combatting human rights injustices. They view media as a fundamental tool of this vision, as a way of not only being heard and disseminating information but also as a force that can articulate a new way of understanding between those who are oppressed and those who oppress.
Posted By Heather Gilberds
Posted Jun 10th, 2008