14 December, 2014


I recently read an The Economist blog post explaining homeopathy. The tone was condescending, and derogatory. I felt it didn’t do justice to a healing system that seems to have helped many people. I was also healed by a homeopathic doctor—rather to my surprise. I share the story with you so you can make up your mind about the intangibles that make up the process of healing.

In 2007, I attended the Berlinale Film Festival. I was part of a contingent of filmmakers that attended the Talent Campus, which was a “campus” aimed to bring together young filmmakers and provide them with access to mentors from different filmic disciplines. We saw Gael Garcia Bernal, Frederick Wiseman and Wim Wenders. We heard the composer who’d done the music for “Peter Pan,” and we met the cinematographer of “Red, Blue and White.” The time I spent in Berlin was fun, and took my mind away somewhat from an incomprehensible accident that had killed a close friend of mine from college on New Year’s eve.

On the way back from Berlin, I stopped over at Thailand for one night. Bangkok’s flea hotels can be bad. How I ended up at this windowless room I can’t say—all I know is that I paid $30 to spend one night in a room that felt like it was an enclosed box. It was hot and stifling, and I seem to catch a dry cold there. On return to Kathmandu, I came down with a severe case of fever, cough and cold. When I recovered, I could hear a wheezing deep inside my throat and lungs that didn’t seem to go away. The asthma may have been triggered by the extreme cold of Berlin, transition to abrupt tropical heat of Bangkok, then back to a colder Kathmandu. Underlying it all was the loss caused by my friend’s death. I could hear a rattle in the throat that was so loud it woke me at night.

I talked to my doctor, who prescribed an inhaler. The spray of chemicals in my system made me feel worse, and I felt a sense of despair at the thought I would be forever dependent on this medication. During college, I had a friend who also had childhood asthma, and who had overcome it as an adult, so I knew it could go away. It appeared to me there was a cure. But where was it?

During this time, I ran into a German musician who lives part-time in Bhaktapur, an old mediaval town close to Kathmandu. Gert Wegner was known to me through two of my friends. Sarina Rai, the most well known punk rocker of Nepal, had started her musical career by taking guitar and drum lessons at the Bhaktapur School of Music, which had been started by Gert. So I knew Gert as Sarina’s guru. On one memorable occasion, Sara, a friend who was managing study-abroad program for American students, had also invited me for a program at the Bhaktapur School of Music, and I had seen Gert in his element, in an old garden with wooden pavilions, encouraging girls to take up the big dhimmay baja drums, which traditionally were only played by men. So I knew Gert to be a kind, capable and thoughtful man, who had not just started an institution of great repute, but was also well-respected in the Newari community where he lived.

Bhaktapur retains its mediaval culture, and Gert is discreetly embedded in this town. His home is an old crumbling Newari home that looks like any other house from the outside. During one festival at Dashain, I learnt that Gert had been given the status of an elder, respected guru by the community of butchers he’d worked with for many years, and that he was in charge of leading a team of musicians to honor Nasa Deo. During that Dashain, we watched as team after team of highly drunk, out-of-tune, rollicking musicians went past—following by the ramrod straight, disciplined military march of Gert’s men, all playing their music in harmony. Needless to say, they won the competition that year.

I can’t remember how or when I ran into Gert again in 2007, but sometimes during this asthmatic days, I happened to go to Bhaktapur, and I ran into Gert at the yogurt shop. This is the famous yogurt shop of Bhaktapur, and I saw him casually chat with the owner in the local Newari language. I was impressed—clearly Gert was a local in this small town. As to how I told him I had asthma I don’t remember, but I wasn’t feeling good, and if he asked me how I was, perhaps I mentioned the asthma to him. Then, perhaps in that same conversation, or perhaps in another, he mentioned, in an off-hand manner, that he too knew homeopathy. I was curious now, and requested him for a diagnosis. He agreed. That same day, I walked with him through winding lanes and a little garden with flowers to the entrance of his old interconnected house. This is the kind of strange thing that looking back Hindus call “karma”—Gert is someone I have met perhaps 5 times in 10 years, but that moment, when I was most in need of a cure, I happened to run into him.

Gert had rented one of the floors of this old house. It still had its mud floor and walls, and on the floor on a straw mat I could see his tablas. We went up to his beautiful kitchen, and he offered me some tea. I admired the old kitchen utensils that he had placed around as objects of decoration. We had a nice conversation as he told me about his teaching at the Free University of Berlin. He explained to me he himself was not trained as a homeopathic doctor, but his former wife had been, and she had been the one to teach him.

After I’d drunk the tea, we went down again into another room. This had a cabinet full of small vial-like bottles, with the small white homeopathic medicine in them. They were all neatly labeled. I wanted to go closer and look, but didn’t want to appear too inquisitive, lest he think I was being invasive. I got the sense he didn’t want me to go too close to those neat bottles. I sat and watched him as he opened some big books, and started to read them. Then he took up a little metal instrument which was like a little metal pendulum. He swung this back and forth a few times, looking very intent. It looked like he was testing something, perhaps the magnetic direction of the poles—or perhaps the energy my body was putting out in the room. This looked like some wacky, New Age cure—not at all the rational, Germanic pharmaceutical solution I thought I was getting. I thought about Ouija boards. I felt an urge to laugh. But because he was an elder man who clearly had earned his respect, I maintained my composure. I sat there, curious but willing to see what he had to say.

This is what he had to say.
“Do you feel the sorrows of other people deeply?”

Rather surprised, I said that indeed I did feel the sorrows of other people deeply. He rifled the pages of his big encyclopedia-like book again, searching for something. Looking at the book, he asked me a few other questions that seem to me to be equally out of range of what a doctor asks a patient who has just told you they need a cure for asthma. It appeared he was trying to place me into a certain category. I felt slightly discomfited, wondering what that category was.

Then he said: “I think you are a causticum type. I am fairly certain you are a causticum type.”

He then rifled around in his closets till he found a small bottle. He put a tiny white ball in a small piece of paper. “All you need is one,” he said. I must have looked disappointed to see the tiny white ball. After the long process of diagnosis, the medication appeared incredibly small and token. Seeing the look in my face, he said: “But I will give you three, just in case you need it.”

I was grateful for this medicine, and eager to try it out. That night, I took one pill of causticum. The white sugar taste vanished on the tip of my tongue.

The next day, my asthma, which had been troubling me for a few months, vanished. And it did not return. This was too good to be true. Just to additionally sure, I took the other two white balls as well, even though I didn’t need it.

I have no idea how, or why. I have no idea why irradiating my throat with a broth of pharmaceutical chemicals didn’t help, and why a tiny white sugar pill did. That’s the mystery of healing. You can’t tell me I didn’t have asthma, because I know I did, and I was suffering from it. Perhaps it was the presence of this elder man who exuded an aura of wise healer energy. Perhaps it was his old adobe house, full of objects that seem to exude magical power. Perhaps it was the time and place of Bhaktapur, and the episodes of music that had followed before this one healing moment. All I know is that homeopathy worked for me, and I was grateful towards it.

Healing is a magical act, in many ways. Germ theory may explain one part of disease and healing, but it doesn’t explain everything. Which is why homeopathy, and other systems like it, find increasing adherents all over the world. This story is not aimed to make you “believe” in homeopathy. This story is only aimed to make you take a closer look at what makes people ill, and what heals them again. This story is also aimed at those policymakers who design healthcare programs in which pharmaceutical companies are given great importance, but ignore alternative systems of healing--in fact, oftentimes, the latter can be more effective than the former.

11 December, 2014


The CIA was the mastermind behind uncountable assignments that fell governments, assassinated heads of states, ran drug-smuggling cartels, caused the governments of small countries to collapse, derailed polio vaccination programs by using them as cover for covert operations, killed so many people observers estimate the total death toll of the US funded wars to be larger than the Nazis’ death toll combined, and in general caused mayhem and murder through 50 years of the last century, and a decade of this one.

The time has come to end this institution.

The reason is simple. The world has changed in the last 60 years. These sorts of tactics that worked in an era where secrecy was possible, are now actively visible, and dangerous, to the state utilizing these methods of covert warfare. These methods are dangerous because everyone can view them, and be cognizant of them, within the span of an hour, in this connected world. Countries all over the world have access to quick information through the web, and the notion of democracy has spread. The idea of a secret agency operating contrary to the covenant of human rights that all states have signed on to is simply not good foreign policy.

The Americans are still thinking they can keep this boat afloat a bit longer—but to do so would be a great foreign policy mistake. And this is why. Already there’s been a shift in economic power, as China comes into its own. This was nowhere as evident as this past year, when it was instrumental not just in setting up an infrastructure bank for the BRICS, but also in supporting large and small countries with economic support. This economic clout would have been unheard of even a decade ago, where Western countries were the exclusive agents to hand out monetary handouts. With the loss of America’s moral standing, the world looks for new leadership. Almost without appearing to, China has filled this void.

With China’s rise has come a corresponding understanding amongst nations in Asia and Africa that we need to work together to beat the common enemies—poverty, unemployment, and environmental disaster. Until and unless countries in Asia and Africa reach a certain standard of living, their rising demographics and uneducated population will be a threat to the environment of an increasingly crowded planet. Only with a certain degree of economic security do people slow the reproductive growth—and that means Asia and Africa have to focus now on infrastructure, employment, industrial and technological growth, and to establish academic  and cultural institutions the West takes for granted.

China’s economy is now the number one economy—this is inevitable, and natural, because it also has the largest population on the planet. Despite shrill accusations from human rights organizations, China has refrained from torture, mayhem and murder in other countries, activities to which the USA openly allocates more than half of its government’s budget. With its restraint has come cautious approval from traditional opponents, who now view it favorably. It has earned its moral leadership.

China has changed since the Fifties. The USA hasn’t.

The US continues to make covert and overt war, in line with foreign policy thinking of the Fifties. It also continues to secretly persecute critics and domestic opponents, and sometimes simply bystanders who were there at the wrong place at the wrong time, with new biological, genetic and nano-technologies; harass and kill people in far off countries with drones; and in general keep upgrading technologies to continue what used to be great strategy and warfare sixty years ago. This is simply not such a good idea at present, however, because a) persecution and secret torture will be discovered eventually b) somebody will have to be accountable for it and c) the world is recoiling in moral horror and pulling back from a state which they can see doesn’t operate within any known barriers of international law.

There are two roads now open to the USA. One is take the road of business as usual.   Which is the road lawmakers are taking at the moment, in the aftermath of the Torture Report. They have revealed their “stain on history.” They have confessed. In the act of this confession, the crime is expiated. This is enough for the USA, but it is not enough for the world, which wants to know why the USA doesn’t have to follow the norms of international law, in which torturers who operate outside of the boundaries of legality have to face the apparatus of justice. Nor does this explain how 50 countries in the world allowed the USA to illegally run secret prisons within their sovereign borders—investigations will have to follow, along with culpable individuals and institutions required to appear before their legal systems.

The second road open to the USA is to completely take the lid off the 600 billion dollar military-industrial complex that is running parallel to the government.  Who are these 100,000 people with security clearances working on a Global War on Terror? What are they doing that is so important there are more of them than Federal employees of the US Government? Why does 56 billion have to be ‘black budget’, and what are these black budgets hiding? What kind of torture programs have they designed with their mosquito drones, and their killer robots? What kind of biological warfare and chemical warfare have they already put in motion? What kind of brain-mapping activities are they doing, and for what purpose? What are the new brain-to-computer technologies being developed, and in what way are they being mobilized on people without their consent? How many people are they keeping awake at night with sleep deprivation technology? What kinds of white noise are they laser-beaming into the auditory channels of their own urban populations to keep them terrified?

Knowing the operational strategies of the military-industrial complex, and knowing that they have had no regards for the boundaries of sovereign nations, it must be obvious to US lawmakers and Congress that their parallel “Dark State” is working on a range of technologies that they will have no compunction on using on people. There cannot be any excuse for “not knowing.” Ethics, of course, is a word that is so foreign to this cancerous parallel state that has attached itself to the government of the United States that it is almost useless to bring it up here—but we will bring up international law, to which the USA is still bound. Much of what is happening in these secret agencies, of which 17 are known, and of which the rest are not known, will one day be revealed, in much the same manner as the torture.

The USA’s covert warfare may be more repulsive than the actions of the fascist governments of the 20th century. We don’t yet have the words to describe all the new technological warfare in operation. They may not yet be viewed as “torture.” But one day they will be explained through the lens of humanity’s capacity to understand ethics and morality, sooner or later.

Once those activities surface to the public, the USA will become a pariah state, a status it has taken such stern pleasure in imposing on states like Cuba and North Korea. Already the world has recoiled in moral horror. And with it has come a contraction of economic ties, business relationships, and goodwill. Countries have disentangled their currencies from the USA’s. This is going to continue, not lessen, in the coming years. The USA should listen to this advice, and pull back from what has been a heedless course towards its own destruction. The Superpower era has ended. As the USA slides down in all indicators of a developed nation, including education, childhood poverty, health, it is pretty clear that the parallel state has destroyed the USA from within.

Holding on to this parallel state, and giving it legitimacy to operate in the dark with black budgets, will further erode the USA’s last remaining shred of standing in the international stage. Shutting down the CIA can be the first step towards the US’s commitment to restore trust in the global community.

09 December, 2014

The Kerung-Rasuwagadh pass, and what it means for China-Nepal-India relations

A recent article by Sudheer Sharma in the Nepali press noted that unlike the 60s, when Jawaharlal Nehru protested vociferously when Nepal opened the Tatopani trading point with China, there was no protest from India this time around as China starts to build the Kerung-Rasuwagadh pass. This road links Lhasa to Kathmandu, and then via Birjung to India. India, in other words, has matured diplomatically since the days of Nehru. Modi’s vision of a pan South Asian neighborhood prospering together in many ways is the same as Xi Jinping’s vision of an interconnected Asia.

The Chinese have been very interested in the Silk Routes trading route, and in opening up ancient trade routes that used to link different parts of Asia. They want to reach markets that for historical reasons became closed to each other even though they are closer in geographical space. China and India are closer to one another than they are to Europe or the United States--indeed, they share the border in disputed Arunachal Pradesh, which often becomes the fault-line for emotive nationalists from India voicing fears of imminent Chinese invasion. The Chinese, however, have shown time and again that they are interested in peaceful trade. The time may now have come to take up that vision of a pan-Asian continent based on mutual values of peace, co-existence and economic prosperity.

In much the same way as the European Union, we need to figure out a way to share the wealth, and to think of joint ways to trade which benefit both sides. At present, Nepal remains at a disadvantage, tradewise. Although it produces some commodities in great quantities, for instance ginger, this ginger cannot get a fair market price. It ends up being sold for a pittance to Indian businessmen, who then resell it after processing to export markets at a steep price. This trade is neither fair nor beneficial for Nepal’s poor farmers. Kathmandu is too weak to negotiate with New Delhi about trade and tariff restrictions that have kept Nepalese locked-in to the dictates of the Indian market. With the opening up of trade with China, however, there is the possibility of more competitive pricing. In addition, it may be possible for Nepalese farmers to process their own ginger to export quality, once they gain some real income from their produce.

India doesn’t realize that to lose this small advantage-essentially, thinking of the Himalayas as its own private backyard where it grows its almost free Dabur herbs, and where it is now sourcing much of its fruit juice at immensely cheap rates—is holding back its progress. With the opening of the border trade with China, it would have access to a billion plus market. The trade won’t be one-way, of course. India also has a lot to offer, including its world-class educational institutions, its highly trained manpower well versed in English, and its ability to absorb technology like osmosis.

The only thing I do not see the Chinese buying from India and Nepal is sensitive food items like dairy. And the reason is this. I was browsing through the web when I realized the Chinese are now going to Australia to aggressively invest in the dairy industry there. They need about 12 billion litres of milk a year. The baby milk contamination scare has made the Chinese consumer wary of locally produced Chinese baby milk formula. It occurred to me that Nepal is quite near China, and we too have a longstanding tradition of raising cows and milking them for dairy products. In fact, I’d say our Himalayan, free-range, grass-fed cow’s milk tastes far better than Australia’s rather bland ranch-grown milk. So why are the Chinese not coming here? And the answer goes back to sanitation, or the lack thereof, in South Asia. The article I read quotes a Chinese businessman saying: “We found the Australian dairies very clean.” And that’s the crux of what’s holding back Nepal from partaking in a giant market. That despite our capacity to provide the 12 billion liters of milk, we would not be considered a suitable place for baby milk formula production because lets face it, the Nepalese, and the Indians, have a sanitation problem. Without toilets, and basic hygiene, how can the Chinese trust milk that has been produced for their children is healthy, as claimed?

South Asia needs to grow up—both in terms of the realities of the world market, as well as our capacities for trade with neighbors. There is great potential for trade in agriculture, herbal medicines, holistic healing, arts, culture, industrial goods and technology. But so far, Asia has not even touched the tip of this trade, which used to flourish during medieval times.

If we are to become like the European Union—a space where different countries share easy access by ground transport, and where the markets are interlinked, we have to stop fighting about history, and move on with the future. The future says there are 2.5 billion waiting for education, food of good quality, health care, and the basic amenities that make up life. Lets not deny people access to those basic necessities that leads to a good quality of life.

The one drawback of all this enthusiasm about trade, without ensuring the social security of the bulk of the population in a weak state like Nepal, is that there may be an exacerbation of poverty as the wealthy start to monopolize the trade. This was nowhere more evident than in a conversation I had with a herbal medicine maker in Bhaktapur. He told me that black elaichi, a spice essential for certain herbal preparation, had become so expensive he could no longer afford to buy it. The price shot up ten times within the span of a year. Indian businessmen came and bought up all the stock, and then reprocessed it and sent it to export markets. “I've never seen prices rise like this in my life,” he said. If almost every local delicacy ends up in the export market, there is not a whole lot for Nepalese to do other than end up working in the Gulf. Or in India as laborers in slave-like conditions. In other words, unrestricted trade which doesn't give a fair price to farmers, and a fighting shot to local consumers, is worse than no trade at all.

China and India will have to learn that “development” that destroys the water, air and climate is self-destructive. No amount of profit can trade for these. But if done in an environmentally and socially sensitive way, these two countries may be able to do massive trade with each other that would benefit both sides. Nepal, of course, is happy to facilitate this trade.

07 December, 2014

Gadhimai: Civilization versus barbarity, revisited

I have friends who don’t eat honey because they feel the pain of the bees, whose food is being stolen.

And then I have friends who come from communities where traditional ritual sacrifice is necessary to keep the wheel of life turning.

As a Brahmin, I grew up in a household where eating buffaloes, chicken and pigs were forbidden. Brahmins don’t eat buffalo meat because buffalo is considered to be a bovine animal. Cows cannot be killed, or eaten, by Brahmins. All we were allowed were goats, and that too a few times a year. That’s why Dashain was special: the goat sacrifice was eagerly awaited because the meat was a rare treat, and also because it did taste special because it had been offered to the goddess.

I now live in a mostly vegetarian household where only my father and I eat meat. We cook meat in the home—usually chicken, since ideas have changed, chicken being considered healthier—about 4 times a year. Before, Brahmins considered chicken dirty and forbidden because it would eat shit off the ground—including its own, as well as human feces. With the advent of industrial farming and stringy, hormone and antibiotics laden chicken, even this rare meat-eating episodes have been getting rarer.

The huge outcry from animal activists against the Gadhimai sacrifice, I feel, is an opportunity to keep the discussion going about not just this one event in Nepal, but about the whole notion of what “Civilization” means. It is easy to brand it “barbaric”—if you go back to the history of Western civilization, “barbarism” was an accusation that led to the decimation of entire population of Native populations in South and Latin America, as well as the United States. “Barbarism” has also been a useful excuse to keep Africans chained to wheels of Western capitalism, and to decimate their local religions and beliefs.

The Western world had a special claim to “civilization,” which was seen to the be the opposite of “barbarism.” But strangely, the West never once acknowledged its own barbaric histories, including genocidally decimating huge populations of indigenous peoples in the New World, often in the name of the Christian religion.

I believe Gadhimai is a good moment to bring up these histories and discussions, because often the West’s morally high ground has been used, in complex ways, to create hierarchies of human beings which allow it to continue its exploitation—including the economic exploitation of capitalism—to continue unchecked. Civilization is the monopoly of countries that don’t openly sacrifice animals to gods or goddesses—but often do eat meat grown in factories three times a day. Civilization where cars flow in an unceasing river and chemicals and pharmaceuticals cure all diseases. Civilization rests on the ability of Wall Street to create the illusion that money is printed fairly, and that it is distributed through some fair means. Civilized countries get to print more money in fancy programs called “quantitative easing.” Countries still mired in “barbarism” don’t get any. They have toil on for years in the oilfields of the Gulf for low or no pay, to fuel the cars of the West.

Capitalism relies on the “civilization versus barbarism” dichotomy to keep up its illusion of superiority. The Christian faith has often braided itself into this complex discourse over the centuries, being an inextricable strand of why the West continues to dominate other cultures.

Indeed, Brahmins of Nepal should be morally opposed to the sacrifice of Gadhimai, because its about the sacrifice of buffalos, amongst other animals. Buffaloes are a relative of the cow, and the cow is considered sacred to Hinduism, especially Brahmins. The reason why the Nepali Brahmins do not oppose this event, I think, is that there appears to be a heavy indigenous culture component to the sacrifice. And in general, local faiths and beliefs have always been allowed in Nepal, without heavy-handed control from hegemonic groups-despite new academic theory to the contrary. If that were not so, Nepal would long ago have become like the USA, where indigenous cultures are only a memory and struggle on in very tiny spaces. The fact that strange customs and rituals survive here is precisely because the Brahmins haven’t been as hegemonic as many US trained social scientists glibly proclaim them to be.

Mushahars are a group considered low on the caste hierarchy and face the most discrimination due to their culture of hunting “rats.” What are called rats are actually field mice that eat grain—Mushahar in turn hunt these field mice and eat them during certain food-lean seasons. Ten years ago, I visited a Mushahar village where the village headman proudly showed us the ways in which they used bows and arrows (from what I remember) during their annual festival, during which they went to hunt for field mice. Note these pests eat half the grain grown, and it’s a survival strategy—and protein-- for the Mushahar to eat them in return. These field mice are also offered as sacrifice to Gadhimai, which shows the complex interweaving of how religion is often an amalgamation of different faiths and beliefs. All of those opposing this event in a simplistic manner, calling it a “Hindu sacrifice,” often miss the fact that this is not an event that in any way could have endorsement from the detested Brahmins who are supposedly running the Hindu faith.

It appears to be a complex blend of sacrifice offered by Tharu, Mushahar and other indigenous groups in the Terai, which has taken on local significance after the Indian authorities closed down animal sacrifice in India, bringing huge amounts of followers to Nepal. Local goddess worship, of course, predates the evolution of Hindu gods. I have no doubt animal sacrifice to goddess existed long before Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva made their appearance in South Asia. Gadhimai is not a well-known goddess—she is a local diety known only to the people of that specific locale, meaning that the Hindus of Kathmandu, for instance, had not heard of her before media highlighted this specific phenomena. Many Indians are also appalled by this sacrifice—but because “Hinduism” is often a complex, broad, and flexible set of faiths, practices and beliefs that span a billion people, there is no central Pope or Bible to oppose local practices. The fact these practices are not regulated by a central authority points to how “Hinduism” may have kept indigenous faiths alive—despite accusations by indigenous groups who often claim that Brahmins have imposed their lifestyles on everyone.

If Brahmins dictated Hinduism’s tenets and their priests had as much power as claimed, Gadhimai would be shut down. But in a multi-cultural country with 58 different kinds of ethnic groups, all carrying various levels of beliefs and practices, this kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

I advise people who are interested to Gadhimai to read the history of how the “civilized versus barbaric” discourse has played out in the West, often with greatly tragic results for indigenous cultures. As someone trained in anthropology, in which this discourse played out in great detail, I am interested in ways “civilization”, and the discourse of it thereof, continues to play out in contemporary life.

05 December, 2014


A woman in my neighbourhood told me she went to the Ward Office to get her Depo Provera shot. The health worker there said: Have you had the medicine for elephantitis yet? She replied: No, we got some but my husband threw it away. So the woman gave her a dose of elephantitis vaccine, right then and there. Note this incident occurred in an urban area of Kathmandu. The woman in question resides miles away from the tropical area where elephantitis occurs.

Why was the Ward coercing people in Kathmandu to take elephantitis vaccines? According to the same woman, she went home and walked to the water tap, and she felt so dizzy and strange she “couldn’t recognize anybody.” Besides the side effects that nobody’s talking about, its also clear there are incentives for health workers to give unnecessary and inappropriate vaccines to people. These health workers are unknowing “marketers” in a chain of social marketing set up by a million dollar pharmaceutical company in some faraway country which has managed to exploit a public health crisis for its own benefit.

In much the same way, the ebola crisis is clearly a cash-cow for Western companies, some of them established pharmaceutical companies but oftentimes newly-minted front companies that seem to do nothing but offer ebola vaccines, all in their very early stages of development, and in a few cases, only on paper. The GM people were the first on board to publicly announce they already had a vaccine—and also to share the astonishing news that genetically modified tobacco was the panacea for this aweful killer disease. The stocks soared for companies that appear to be operating with a website and not much history--- they too claimed miracle results for their untested vaccines. These companies, it appeared, had big backing from the US military industrial complex.

Here is a “Stocks to buy” recommendation from Market Watch:

Stocks to Buy
All small Ebola-related stocks are highly speculative and carry extremely high risk of loss. Most promising are companies that are working on vaccines. If a vaccine is successfully developed, it may quickly become a sustainable big business. Two companies of note are NewLink Genetics NLNK, +3.71% and Inovio Pharmaceuticals INO, +1.62%
A company such as Tekmira Pharmaceuticals TKMR, +2.32%   carries a very high risk because its Ebola drug may or may not work and its other programs are in very early stages while the stock price has rocketed on speculation.
Companies such as BioCryst Pharmaceuticals BCRX, +2.63% Sarepta Therapeutics SRPT, +4.06% and Chimerix CMRX, +2.66% carry less risk than Tekmira because their programs are more advanced.
In general, buying stocks based on their potential Ebola drugs may be a good trade but likely to be a bad investment because even if there is a successful drug, after the initial stockpiling the market size is limited.
More Pumps
Whenever there is a crisis, unfortunately pumpers and dumpers take advantage of it. Investors are well advised to carefully study SEC filings, especially balance sheets and accompanying notes of the new wave of pumps on Ebola-related companies such as Dynatronics DYNT, +0.18% iBio IBIO, +6.74% Hemispherx Biopharma HEB, -2.72% Sharps Compliance SMED, +1.14% NanoViricides NNVC, +1.27% Sanomedics International Holdings SIMH, -9.76% American Heritage International AHII, +7.14% and PositiveID PSID, +0.00% For the most part, astute investors after reading SEC documents will stay away from these stocks.

More MarketWatch news on Novavax:
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Novavax's stock NVAX, +4.11% surged 12% in premarket trade Monday after the drug maker said it expects to initiate a Phase 1 clinical trial of its Ebola vaccine in December. The company said it had recently initiated a non-human primate study of its vaccine candidate, named EBOV GP. Novavax said EBOV GP, modified with its Matrix-M adjuvant, helped induce neutralizing antibody levels within ranges reported to protect against Ebola viruses in rodent and non-human primate models. The stock was up 0.2% so far this year through Friday, compared with a 6.3% gain in the S&P 500.

The Motley Fool, a website that gives advice on investing, has this interesting tidbid:

Now what: If you've ever wondered what emotional trading looks like, you've found it! Not a single Ebola vaccine drugmaker is anywhere close to bringing a drug to market, yet all are soaring as if the potential patient pool just skyrocketed.
Although Tekmira Pharmaceuticals just over a week ago worked out the clinical and regulatory framework to allow its experimental TKM-Ebola treatment to be given to infected and suspected-to-be-infected patients, this study is merely in the ramping up of phase 1 studies. Similarly, Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT  ) noted earlier this morning that it has about 100 doses worth of its Ebola vaccine, yet its experimental drug is also in early stage development. NewLink Genetics announced the start of Ebola vaccine trials less than four weeks ago. Finally, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: BCRX  ) , also up as much as 6% today, hasn't even gotten its Ebola vaccine development off the ground yet!

And not just Big Pharma but everyone from AFRICOM to suppliers of hazmat suits seem to be benefiting. Not to talk about the UN’s IOM which glibly Twittered about the shelter it had set up in Sierra Leone with the help of the “Department of Defense”—totally violating all norms of UN impartiality.

Yesterday, Obama asked for 6 billion to fight the ebola crisis—giving us the strange deja-vu, reminding us of the moment in which Bush asked for 60 billion to start a war after 9/11. President Obama was looking particularly jaunty as he went shopping for books for Christmas presents shortly around the same time—making you wonder if he got some Chrismas shopping pocket-money from Big Pharma.

 Most of this 6 billion will go to AFRICOM, where he’s sent 3000 troops to “fight ebola.” Even the Washington Post ran an article questioning whether this humanitarian intervention had ulterior motives. It may not go unnoticed that Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are rich in resources, and that Chinese and other investors were partnering with the mining operations—before ebola came along and sunk the economy of these three West African countries. Read an article from The Economist that explains who was here, mining gold and iron. 

Perhaps not co-incidentally, there appears to be a patent on ebola that has been filed, and which appears to be linked to the US Center for Disease Control. This is publicly available for all to view on Google. The patent claims ebola is an invention, and that the CDC appears to be the institution that these "inventors" have deposited the virus in.  To me, the language of this patent also appears to have changed, ever so slightly, from what I remember reading six months before--I seem to remember the CDC being the direct inventor of this patent, and before there was no mention of this invention being invented to cure people. 

Biological warfare is not unknown in the history of Western civilization, but especially in America. White people knowingly gave Native Americans smallpox laden blankets which decimated the last remaining population. And in Africa itself, the polio oral vaccine distributed to Belgian controlled Africa in the late 50s had traces of maqaque monkey mitochondria—making observers wonder about how this mitchondria ended up in the vaccine. In 2000, the South African health minister went public with the belief that AIDS was invented by the West to depopulate Africa—and while he’s been criticized for causing misinformation and stopping people from accepting anti-retrovirals, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t examine, empirically, if there might be some truth to that statement. I would be interested to see a fact-sheet on the companies who’ve manufactured anti-retrovirals—and how many of those companies are linked directly or indirectly with people, agencies and corporations known to be part of the US’s military-industrial complex. 
The 2014 ebola epidemic in West Africa, and the history of people cured or killed after vaccine ingestion, is telling. Those who took the ZMapp vaccine haven’t always survived. And those who didn’t take the vaccine, but got oral rehydration therapy and good care, often did. So there’s no guarantee that untested vaccines are going to cure patients, and in addition they may have harmful side effects to kidneys, liver etc that at present we have no idea about.

Glaxo Smith Kline is on the point of announcing another new vaccine—coincidentally, just as its about to layoff thousands after a 1.57 billion cost cut.  

This follows the news that ZMapp maker Mapp Pharmaceuticals, with federal funding of course, is speeding up production of a vaccine made of genetically modified tobacco. Produced where? No other place than:

The drug is manufactured in tobacco plants at Kentucky BioProcessing, a unit of cigarette maker Reynolds American.

To  observers, it appears these public health crises are being used, especially by the most powerful country in the world, to extract profits through deliberate campaigns of biological warfare.

UNESCO has brought out a vague fact-sheet on ebola and ethics. But they fail to talk about what the consequences would be for these companies as well as the US military complex if it turned out there are clear and direct links between various actors. Serious investigations need to take place to see what exactly these connections are, and how much money was made by which companies.  The UN Office on Drugs and Crime need to investigate if this was a deliberate biological warfare campaign against West Africa in order for US pharmaceutical companies to gain financial benefits through the stock market.

Newspapers continue to run op-eds that raise noise about “ethics”. Should the drug be given to all? Do controlled drug trails leave out people whose lives could be saved from it? All of these pro-drug op-eds fail to even look at how ebola itself may be the tip of a genocidal biological warfare strategy. If we don’t question it this time, it may become a way of business--start an epidemic, then offer a vaccine-- for the ever-profit seeking companies and their parent body the military-industrial complex of the United States.

04 December, 2014

Orion, George Clooney and the planet Mars

 The word “Mangal” refers to many things in Sanskrit.

Mangal means “auspicious.”

Mangal means “Lord Ganesh.”

And Mangal also means “The planet Mars.”

Currently, Mars is exalted in Capricorn, his house of exaltation, for five weeks, from 27th November. Meanwhile, Saturn, the ruler of Capricorn, has just moved to Scorpio, the house ruled by Mars. This is known as a parivartana yoga in jyotish astrology, when two planets occupy each others’ houses. To understand how this may play out on the planetary level, we can look at what the planets signify. Mars is the planet of action and energy. Saturn, the planet of grief, misery, hard work, delays, old age and death, slows things down.

Mars and Saturn together can often be a great combination as the fiery rush of energy is controlled by Saturnine discipline. On the other hand, Mars and Saturn together can often also create passive-aggressive violence, as Mars’ anger gets internalized. It can also create criminality, if the dispositors are all placed in a malefic manner. Saturn and Mars together in House Seven, or the house of marriage, can indicate separations, or violence towards the marriage partner.

As Orion tried to take off to its mission to Mars, and is buffeted by high winds, a stray boat, and other hitches NASA are not telling us about, it struck me that Mangal, or Mars, is also Lord Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles. People in the subcontinent always start every auspicious event by remembering Lord Ganesh. Without his blessings, there will be delays and obstacles to one’s endeavors. That is why people get up and pray to Ganesh, first thing in the morning, because he’s the one who is the commencer of auspicious beginnings. Marriages, of course, always start with a puja to Lord Ganesh-and his blessings are on every wedding card as well. If not properly remembered, he can bring about big delays.

The Indian team that sent their mission to Mars would surely have remembered Ganesh, I have no doubts. India launched its flight within a two year window period that has a name in scientific circles (I posted this on Twitter but am having a hard time locating the exact name). This time is considered a good time frame because it made it technically easier for the orbit. Interestingly, jyotish astrology knew this period as the time when Saturn gets exalted once every thirty years. And during this specific Saturn exaltation, Rahu, the planet of great changes, was sitting next to Saturn in Libra—a phenomena that happens once every 150 years. In other words, I think the Indian Mars team also included an astrologer or two, although of course in the interest of scientific “objectivity” they would never reveal the inner workings of how science and spirituality may have come together to launch the successful Mars flight.

Now before I lose you with space astrology, let me get back to a topic of great mass interest ie; marriage astrology. As any Indian knows, Mangal or Mars has a great impact on married life. A wrongly placed Mars makes a person “mangalik”—Mangalik doshas are greatly feared because they are thought to bring about the demise of the spouse. In the present day, I would say “managalik” is more about the fear of separation and divorce. Various methods have been devised to avoid this eventuality—witness the “marriage ceremony” Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai went through with a tree in order to cancel any harmful effects of this placement in her chart. In effect, Ms. Rai allowed any malefic harm from this planetary placement to fall upon her first spouse, the tree, and not her second husband, Mr. Bacchan.

Now lets leave Ms. Rai to talk about Mr. George Clooney. Mr. Clooney is a lucky guy in many ways—witness his suave charm and the way he’s never out of work. That’s because he has a Capricorn Moon—Capricorn is a sign of material wealth acquisition, and also of course it is ruled by Saturn. Saturn people have an “easier” time making that long, tiring trip up to the top—they are often more determined, disciplined, and hard-working than the rest. Do not let Clooney’s glib exterior fool you—he probably had to work as hard, if not more, as the rest of them to get where he is now. His Saturn is sitting in Capricorn as well, meaning he’s a man of authority. Jupiter is also sitting in Capricorn, making him a bit of a “king”—a ruler of his own domain. Jupiter, of course, is the sign of wisdom, but also material wealth. Three planets together in his Moon sign means his self is loaded in more ways than one.

Now the reason we bring up Clooney in a blog post about Mars, however, is not because he’s a Saturn kind of guy. We bring him up because he’s the classic mangalik. In Clooney’s 7th house, or the house of marriage, we see the much dreaded mangalik dosha—Mars in 7th house. And not just a regular old Mars, but a super-duper “neechbhanga” Mars—Mars in Cancer should be debilitated, but when its in a quadrant from the Moon, it loses its debilitation and becomes even stronger than an exalted planet. Incidentally, his Jupiter too has the same “neechbhanga” status-meaning he has Jupiter and Mars staring each other in the face, both in extremely strong states. No surprise that he’s gone through 27 women, at the least… and the last one happens to be his second wife.

Clooney is a nice guinea pig for astrologers because he’s a real live case study, and a well-known one at that, for what happens when people are born Mangalik. So this is what terrifies Indians—not that there might be a death of a partner, but that there might be a separation or divorce, or a string of separations. Instead of marrying a tree, however, the Western world gives another alternative: you just work with your mangalik energies and keep dating, and dating—and become such a playboy you need a separate Rolodex to keep track of all your exes. Incidentally, the wrestler girlfriend also has a Martian explanation—in general, people who are highly athletic tend to have strong Mars in the 3rd house in their birthcharts. Clooney probably confused the athletic wrestling energy in 3rd house with what he actually needed—which is a spouse  with a strong Mars placement in 7th house.

According to astrology, the make-and-break relationships end when a saptamangalik like Clooney finds another saptamangalik to marry. Saptamangalik refers to someone with a Mars in 7th house. Astamangaliks are people with Mars in 8th house—which is considered even more troublesome, as these natives will never see happiness from a spouse. So goes the astrological theory.

Will the marriage last? His wife Amal Alamuddin, interestingly, also has a neechbhanga Mars in Cancer, a rather rare coincidence. It is amazing to me how people with similar energies seem to find each other. I’d like to say this Martian energy is what makes her a lawyer—but in fact it is not Mars, but Saturn which lies in her house of work. Saturn shows its results at 36, and coincidentally Ms. Alam got married at 36. Meaning the great fruit of her life’s work was not her work with Assange, but her marriage with Clooney. That’s what she was working towards. This may be a relief to all those human rights lawyers who have been annoyed at hearing Ms. Alamuddin and her work gushingly described as “human rights law”—human rights lawyers in general slave away for hours on end at non-profits without a great salary, and there’s hardly any chance that they would end up marrying George Clooney—even if they wanted to.

Her neechbhanga Mars, however, is in 9th house of destiny via the Moon chart—not in the 7th, as required for a lasting marriage. This Mars does aspect her Fourth House, which makes her a mild Fourth House mangalik. It is entirely possible that her ascendant chart, which can only be known with an accurate birth time, would show her with a Mars in 7th house. They also married during an auspicious time: both Saturn and Jupiter were exalted when the wedding occurred. The Exalted Jupiter period happens once every 12 years, and Jupiter, the planet that brings about marriages and children, is sitting in Clooney’s 7th House of marriage, from June 2014 to June 2015. It is possible that Clooney has found his match. All those wondering about how this mangalik thing works—keep an eye out on Mr. Clooney’s marriage. If the match dissolves, it will probably do so by June 2015, when Jupiter, now in his house of marriage, shifts out of its exalted state, and moves to his Eighth House, a not-so-auspicious placement.

That’s all, folks! And remember to pray to Lord Ganesh next time you start something new. If you want your rockets to fire, you gotta remember the god who removes obstacles.

03 October, 2014


A hundred and fifty years ago, under the auspices of Abraham Lincoln, the American government abolished slavery.

According to jyotish (this is not your average Sun Sign/newspaper horoscope, people!) astrology, a hundred and fifty years ago, Saturn was exalted in Libra. Rahu, the force of sudden and revolutionary change, was sitting next to Saturn. Saturn is a signifier for government. Rahu is the force that sneaks upwards into the echelons of privilege to disrupt and change the established order.

From November 11, 2011 to November 2, 2014, Saturn is again exalted in Libra. And as 150 years ago, Rahu is next to Saturn from January 2013 to July 12, 2014.

What happened in these months is well known. The Snowden revelations came to light, showing the American government was engaged in mass surveillance of virtually the entire world. The sense of impunity that they were entitled to spy over, and look at people’s private lives, closely approximates what happens in a system of slavery. In the slave-owning world, the master has full rights to the life of the slave. There is no concept of privacy, because the slave belongs to the owner. The US government’s reaction—bafflement and incredulity that people should protest these intrusions—is perhaps a hint to how the script of slavery remains deeply engrained in the psyche of the American elites.

In much the same way, the American government also continued to torture people in Guantanamo and hundreds of “Black Sites” around the world. As with the surveillance, the sense of entitlement (the “right to torture”) is a throwback of slavery—slave-owners had a right to torture their slaves. The Americans, in other words, are merely repeating a cultural script with which they are familiar, and which continues to be repeated over and over, in different formations and manifestations.

Will the changes wrought in these 18 months shift this script and end it for ever?

It is clear that capital is the way in which American elites continue to practice bondage: people’s labor, time, land, resources, and private lives are all commodities to be controlled. The dollar has reigned supreme for almost a century—tied to the sale of oil, and to the transactions of foreign trade as reserve currency, it has been virtually unchallenged. About a decade ago,  the Federal Reserve of America, emboldened by this seemingly permanent state of affairs, started to print 85 billion dollars per month to buoy up the American economy. Nobody was looking. Nobody said: this is untenable. It didn’t appear untenable. The countries of the world were ready to buy the Greenback, at whatever price.

The military-industrial complex, flush with success, went on a trillion dollar spending binge. War after war followed-Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. It looked like a never-ending story of military might and conquest.

The only small flaw in the above story of America’s endless rush towards the future comes from a brake provided by nature. And that is the finite nature of natural resources. Mainly, oil. As oil starts to run out and wind down, the American economy, deeply tied to the lifeblood of that black gold, now has to look elsewhere to continue its vampiristic search for new blood.

The slavery of South Asians in the oil economies of the Gulf, and the money collected from their labor, has gone to engorge and fatten up “Sovereign Wealth Funds”. The Europeans are more than happy to steer this blood money in their real estate and “trophy assets” that rich sheiks are buying up in London and Paris. But like the American economy, this investment in brick and mortar (at the expense of human beings) has its own tragic short-sighted flaw. Europe is sinking economically—not because its not profiting off slavery still (it is) but precisely because of this above mentioned reasons. Life has become easy in Europe—raw materials are sourced with great ease from war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East, and wine and cheese is cheap. Why work when interest of money put in the banks, and the benefits of slavery, are paying for all of your costs?

Debt bondage and contemporary slavery is not limited to Nepalese, Indians and Bangladeshis entrapped in the Middle East, working for employers for decades for no pay. It is also prevalent in America where the mortgage system, and government approved Pyramid Schemes like the subprime loans, legally entrap giant number of citizens of their homes and livelihoods.

What the past eighteen months has brought us is this:
  1. Germany asks for its gold back from the USA: The mythical Fort Knox, a powerful force on people’s imaginations, was under scrutiny. Nobody knew if its fabled reserve of gold still lay in the vaults. Germany decided to ask for its deposits back. Whether it will get it is moot. What is clear is that the Europeans sent a very clear message that the American system of deposit was no longer reliable, or trustworthy.
  2. The Russians pull out 500 billion in US treasuries in March: and as with Germany, the Russians sent a message to the world, in effect saying their trust in the American economy is no longer there
  3. The Chinese, who owned 2 trillion dollars of American debt, suddenly showed much less. About one trillion of this vanished—poof!—without a trace. What happened? Commentators tend to think there were dealings which quietly disposed of this debt in different forms and manifestations. In other words, American debt, which at one point was seen to have future value, no longer does.
  4. The Russians and Chinese are now trading in their own currencies. This is the start of the end of the dollar as reserve currency. Once the dollar is no longer the currency of choice in international trade, the bloated American economy is going to slim down to a more normal size

Back to the timing of astrology: on November 2, 2014, President Obama’s Saturn enters his eighth house. It will stay there for two and a half years. This is known as the astamashani period. The astamashani is one of the darkest periods in Saturn’s rotation around the twelve houses. I tend to think this is the moment when the overheated (and illusory) stocks of Wall Street will collapse, bringing about a readjustment in global finance. And it will definitely be the moment when the torture report comes out. It will also be the moment when all the deep, hidden secrets of the US government come to light, including all of its technological developments geared towards  mass torture and control. Interestingly, many top people working in US agencies that have suddenly come to light—NSA, DARPA, et cetera—are going through something called sade-sati. The sade-sati is when Saturn grinds through seven and a half years of its course of law and justice in a person’s life-cycle. If you’ve been making merry torturing people for the last thirty years, it is now time to pay.

As the world moves towards new forms of energy (the planting of bio-fuels are already causing great distress in Central America, where the US has moved to next to grab land and resources, and from where 80,000 children flee to the US every year), new forms of slavery will manifest. So to imagine that slavery will end from these 18th months of upheavals is optimistic.

What these 18 months did, however, is show the way. Just as 150 years ago, the people in the Northern part of America had to come together in a coalition and agree to fight for the abolition for slavery, the consensus of different countries fighting the economic injustices of the US had to coalesce to a point where everyone is working in co-ordination—even if they were working alone. And that’s precisely what seems to have happened.

It appears to me that increasing number of investors aren’t pulling out their money from the dollar economy because of any advisory BRICS  put out, but because of their own native intelligence: “Lets pull money out from Wall Street and put it in the local stock exchange, because something tells me  our Stock Exchange is going to flourish in the next thirty years.” Perhaps the material gains wouldn’t be as high (but on the other hand, they could be better), but investors seem not to care. It was not the material gains, but the many other forms of capital, and the long-terms gains that would accrue and flourish if they invested in their own country.

This is the zeitgeist. And the changes wrought in these 18 months cannot be undone. The clock has moved on--there cannot be any turning back of the dial. What will emerge are new systems of material exchange, new methods of currency and capital, and new relationships of power. With each of the changes that happened above, a seismic shift has taken place in the world economy, which in its own small way will help to end the systems of contemporary slavery.

17 September, 2014

Why independent Scotland brings forth a new economic order

The prophet of the New York Times, Paul Krugman, has told the Scots that if they secede, they should be: “Afraid. Be very afraid.”

Now that’s the kind of economic advice I like to hear. “Boo!, said Mr. Krugman to the defiant Scots. “If you don’t listen to me, the Loch Ness Monster will come get you.” It adds color to this whole thing. Plus Krugman is getting far too boring, lecturing to everyone in obscure Economese and making them thinking that American economy is more complicated than it actually is. In fact, there’s little mystery to the American economic model of monetary growth—print money, print more money. And print more money. Just keep on printing. Right around November 3rd, America’s going to hit hyper-inflation and the dollar’s going to collapse, but  Mr. Krugman doesn’t know this yet.

Now the reason why independent Scotland is going to be such a good thing for the whole world is this—England has been following the path of privatization and globalization, as led by the Americans, for a few decades too long. And with  this model has come a whole host of problems, including slavery in the Middle East, from where oil is extracted by big British companies who turn a blind eye to the activities of Gulf business practices; the complete collapse of local economies within Europe, including garments, shoes and other essential items which are now made in free economic processing zones in Asian countries where women are locked up under tin roofs for 100 hours, seven days a week, with no access to the bathrooms; obscure and unaccountable financial transactions and companies that posture as real banks and get huge amounts of people into untenable debt, as seen in the United States’s mortgage scandal; medical institutions whose main aim is profit, not healing; and a whole host of other social, environmental and ethical problems.

Scotland being free won’t automatically solve all these problems. But it does send a message outwards that the British Isles and its fabulous financial record is not all its hyped up to be. London’s eager wooing of the sheikhs and their Sovereign Wealth Funds may make it rich, but its not going to give them the moral cache to keep the Scots in the same house.

I woke up last night and was scratching my head for a bit, wondering why Scotland had fired up my imagination. And then I got it. In 2012, I visited Oxford University, where I presented a paper at a conference. England, in my imagination, is still the England of 50 years ago, as remembered by my parents-gracious people with good manners, expensive high quality manufactured goods, beautiful fabrics and tailored coats. But alas! All the supermarkets were filled to the hilt with the same cheap crap as everywhere. The prices were high, but the products were the same. I looked in vain for something local to buy-it was a lost cause. The British apparently no longer make any clothes themselves.

And then I saw this long store that looked sort of bare, and had one green woolen sweater in the window. It was woven in the Scottish tartan pattern. I think somewhere in there it said simply: Scotland.

I stared. Every item in there was green, wool and tartan. I loved it. It was a defiant statement of some sort—economic, political. A flag being hosted up a flagpole, with bagpipes playing, would have gotten the same attention. I wanted that sweater. I immediately went in and had to confirm for myself the wool was from sheep raised in Scotland. It was local! Never mind I was a poor Nepali tourist. I was willing to pay however much they were charging, because for the first time it felt like I’d seen something local, that hinted at mountains and sheep and real wool and an industry tied to the land. This was what I’d come to see! Not floor after floor of crappy Gangzhou coats.

Talking of English coats, I have a funny story.  When I was small, my father used to own beautiful coats made in London—they were distinctive, and they were quality. I even wore one of these coats from London, a blue wool coat cut exquisitely. It belonged to my mother, and fitted me perfectly at age 12. The joke about the blue wool coat was that it looked so good I even got access to a special puja at Bishwanath Mandir in Benaras one evening, when I shouldn’t really have. The temple was packed to bursting that evening, where a rich seth who was holding a puja. The pujari/priest kept on shooing away everyone angrily, including my mother. But he saw me—actually he saw the blue Oxford Street wool coat I was wearing—gave me an ingratiating smile, and let me to the front, under the delusion I was related to the seth. My mother winked at me, so I stayed there. Then somewhere in the middle of the ceremony the priest saw me looking at my mother, and realized I was a little scamster in my blue coat—and shooed me away angrily. My mother and I walked home that night laughing all the way about the stupid priest.

Unfortunately those coats no longer exist. I look back now at all the brocades and fancy fabric I gave away over the years—fabric that would have lasted, but which I causually thought I could replace. The problem now is that over the last decade, all countries in the world sell the same crappy clothing—even if people have money, you can’t buy items of good quality. The classic example is of jeans. I always thought I couldn’t get good jeans in Nepal—the blue Mao fabrics that were posturing as jeans annoyed me. Let me get to America and I will buy a real pair of jeans, I thought. So this summer, when I visited the USA, I made a special effort to set aside a few days to find some real jeans. Imagine when I realized, to my horror, that there is no “real jeans” in the USA anymore. As in Nepal, the jeans there, branded ones, are made of flimsy and disposable cotton.

Welcome to the neo-liberal, globalized world. But perhaps Scotland will lead to a change towards a localized economy, which signals a more responsible economic world order.