Building or Buying a House in Kathamandu?

One Kyosho Jutaku for me please.

No, Kyosho Jutaku is not the new vogue drink in town. Kyoshu Jutaku is a Japanese phenomenon. Translated into English it means micro house or mini house.

Micro houses are small, compact and efficient. These little pieces of art have found a market in Japan in the last decade or so because they are a viable economical alternative to “normal” size houses. How small you ask, well, some are built on 340-50 sq feet. In Nepali terms these houses are built on around “Ek Anna Jagaa” although they can be slightly larger as well.

Now there are plenty of small houses in Kathmandu, Asan Tole for example. However, what makes micro houses different is the sense of space compared to actual space.

Kyosho Jutaku houses are built to give an illusion of space, and this is achieved by the shape of the house, use of space, and lighting.

Here’s a YouTube video of a Kyosho Jutaku houses in Japan.

Looking at what can be achieved in a small space. For someone looking to purchase a home in Kathmandu, they perhaps need a little rethink. One anna land in Kathmandu can run from ten lakhs to one crore. So, for example, instead of purchasing four annas of land for forty lakhs, a buyer could just purchase an Anna and half for fifteen lakhs and spend the remaining twenty lakhs to build a house using the principles of Kyosho Jutaku.

What gets on my nerves is that even after investing millions of rupees in buying or building a house in Kathmandu more often than not it ends up resembling the neighbors house. In fact a few years ago a house was built adjacent to my parents home. This is how the conversation between the designer and the owner probably transpired.

Owner: You see that house in front of you?
Owner: Ok, that’s what I want.
Designer: I have some ideas too…
Owner: Nah..just copy it.

And while we are at it could someone enlighten me as to why almost all the houses in Kathmandu try and capture the villa-esque look with unnecessary Roman columns in front of the house. Housing memes, I guess. Don’t even get me started on the bright colors with designs that come straight out of an arts and crafts class of a four year old. Who has been designing these homes?

So why have an unoriginal, bulky, expensive inefficient home when one could possibly build a chic, futurist, fully equipped house for 40 lakhs. Now that’s a bargain.

So if you are thinking of buying or building a house, have a look at the kyosho Jutaku houses. And if you don’t like the concept, for my sanity no Roman columns please.

Anyways, may I end my tirade here,with an wry smile, and with your permission of course and say, the Japanese have shown us once again, its not the size that matters, but how you use it. Hope you got that.


Clouded Judgement


                    The Conversation

Recently, I was engaged in a conversation with a gentleman, who received his education in an ivy league college, a writer, and who actively participated in the civil rights movement of the 60’s.

A man of some stature and morality, or so I assumed.

I was having an informal conversation when the subject drifted to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. All of a sudden his nostrils flared and there was an anger in his voice.

Note: I do not consider myself pro Palestinian, I simply want justice to be done.

Here are some of the arguments presented by the gentleman. Some of which I responded to at the moment and some which I let go, but nonetheless would like to provide an answer to in this blog.

Argument 1

Gentleman: “These aren’t even the historical Palestinians to begin with, they settled later”

This argument is particularly weak. If we were to accept that this group of Palestinians have absolutely no relation to historical Palestinians- not even a single one of them, the fact is, this “new group” of Palestinians have lived in this area for atleast 700 years. The historicity doesn’t matter as much as the logic of the argument in this case.

Now, what was suggested is because these people weren’t the original inhabitants it became ok to expel them. As it did happen in 1948 in order to form a Jewish state. There is no “if” in this argument, the Palestinians were expelled. Former Israeli foreign Minister Shola Ben-Ami accepts this view.
Argument now hinges on whether this qualified as ethnic cleansing.

Well, if this policy of expelling people who weren’t historical inhabitants is made into a standard. Then following the argument the Native American population has the right to expel by force all Non Native Americans living today in America even though they personally had nothing to do with settling America in the 16th and 17th century.

Argument 2

Gentleman: “Israel and Jordan are the only countries to allow Palestinians into their country in the region”

Setting aside the fact that there wouldn’t be any Palestinian refugees if they wouldn’t have been chased from their homes by Israel to begin with. Israel “lovingly” taking in Palestinians, has nothing to do with the central question i.e. whether Palestinians have a right to form a state.

Argument 3

Early in the conversation on a separate topic the Gentleman stated, “History is written by the victors of war. I am an old school historian I like to go to the ground level and find facts”.
Later on, while talking about the Palestinian issue I said, “the world court has ruled that Palestinians are under occupation and my position is in alignment with that ruling”. To this his response was, with a wry smile, “the powerful and victors”.
To which my riposte was, ” how are the Palestinians victors in this equation of yours” I did not get a response. 

Argument 4

Gentleman: ” You know they deny the holocaust and want Israel wiped off the map”
Who is they, Hamas, Iran, Hizbullah, Arab states or all of the above?
I asserted, not me. I want to see Israel exist and prosper. But I added, taking the rhetoric of countries in the region and Hamas does not give Israel the right to hinder the right of Palestinians to form a state.

And what does denying the holocaust have to do with anything? If the Palestinians want to deny the holocaust ever happened (not that they were involved in conducting it) it does not give Israel the right to occupy Palestine. How does the argument progress, you deny the holocaust ever happened, well this means we must continue our occupation? It is rather shameful to suggest because the Jews suffered and Palestinians deny it, it gives the state of Israel a right to inflict suffering on the Palestinians. Like it or not they are entitled to their opinion.

Now compare the facts with rhetoric. Israel is the only country with nuclear weapons in the region. Therefore, in reality Israel is the only country in the region with real capability to wipe off a country from the map. Furthermore, Israel is currently occupying Palestinian land and actively works to make sure Palestine, as a state, does not exist on a map. Ironic isn’t it given Israels repeated claims that they fear being wiped off from the map.

This conversation was an eye opening moment for me personally. This is a man who stood shoulder to shoulder with African Americans for their rights. This was a man educated in one of the best  institutions in the world. But when it came to something that he was emotionally attached to all logical arguments seemed as anti Jewish and anti Israel.

I got a deeper understanding into what biases do to the human mind and how it is extremely difficult to be sound and reasonable when something is so close to the heart is at stake.


Good Luck Ms Nepal

Oh Tis the Season….

In the past few months every Nepali with a facebook page probably had this msg, (that’s message for Ye olde folks) which went along the lines of, “Like” and “Share” if you are a patriotic Nepali with Ms Nepal 2012 Shristi Shrestha’s glamourous pictures cascading on their facebook wall.

The amount of interest that has been generated around her is staggering. So, why has this Ms Nepal become the darling of the populace? Ms Shristi brings glamour, poshness, and finesse in celebrity deprived Nepal. Her chiseled face, raised eyebrows, and semi curled hair, a throwback to the 90’s, seems to have captured the nations imagination. This is not to say, we don’t or haven’t had celebrities in Nepal before she came along, but a new standard has definitely been set. She has that oomph, that others have lacked. But the aforementioned, all to familiar, blue screen, has played a massive part as well. Facebook, has been an important catalyst in generating this tide of interest which shows no signs of abating. It is perhaps safe to say we may never see another Shristi for a decade or so.

However, there is more at work here. Our infatuation with a pageant, betrays more than it ostensibly suggests.
For a country struggling with political impasse, stagnating economy, soaring unemployment rate, poverty, and a sense of hopelessness in some quarters, this is perhaps our psychological defense mechanism hard at work to divert our attention to something as superfluous as a beauty pageant. It is the same mechanism that has controlled India’s Bollywood for so long and limits Nepal’s Kollywood today, dreams and escapism sell well, not hard hitting movies that tell the real human story. The Nepali audience would rather watch romantic love stories, with a hero and heroine dancing with bright balloons and helicopters hovering around rather than a teenage kids struggles growing up on the streets of Kathmandu. Shristi is beautiful, successful, intelligent, going places, wearing the finest clothes, center of attention, but, she most importantly is, an escape.

Another real problem which no one wants to talk about is the fact that Nepalis deep down are faced with an inferiority complex. And it this lack of self worth which flares up whenever anything perceived as “anti Nepal sentiment” surfaces from any segment. Take your pick from Colbert’s misunderstood satire to any notion questioning the birthplace of Buddha or Indian books falsely claiming Mount Everest as part of India. The evisceration and vitriolic attacks which follow is mind boggling. And Ms Nepal herself was on the receiving end of it.

The hungry net savvy youth wanted more of Shristi and when the now infamous video of an old off hand interview surfaced on YouTube. Shristi went from a beloved Nepali to (insert the nastiest Nepali words for women here). Ms Shristi and her media consultant ( if she has one) surely did not see this coming. An old interview before Shristi’s crowning, in which she simply brushed away a few questions about her origins to protect her families privacy was perceived as an anti Nepal gesture. Damage control was conducted and order seems to have been restored.

But the backlash for such a nonstarter illuminated the Nepali mindset, and we are talking of the young educated netizens of Nepal and not the older generation shackled with religious bigotry and traditions.

Well, at the end of the day, no matter what happens when the contest does get underway, one thing is clear Nepalis will be keeping a close eye on it. It will fill them with pride and joy. The mundane struggles of daily life and hawkish politicians who are omnipresent will be forgotten. If, and that’s a big if, she does manage to charm the judges to find herself on the winners podium the world will remember her. However, if she does fall short she should take comfort in the knowledge that her fellow Nepalis will never forget her, because just for that little moment in all our lives, we Nepalis shared a dream and hoped together, something that is, unfortunately, hard to come by these days.

Good luck Shristi.

By (Shah-nepalifreethinker)

Road Expansion or Runaway Govt

My Rights for a Few Meters of Tar

A few weeks ago, a road expansion project was started amid a furore from residents directly affected by this project. I mulled over what could be achieved by expanding a few meters of metalled road. And given my experience in metrapolises such as New Delhi, Boston and New York, I concluded, not much and snickered.

My snickering gave way to horror when I realised that the expansion was being conducted at the cost of private properties being demolished with little or no compensation.

I am not a town planner so I will leave the efficacy issues of road expansion in historic metropolitan cities for engineers and planners to chew over. My focus will be on the destruction of private property. However, even if road expansion in kathmandu increases efficiency this does not mean the state has the right to destroy private property without due compensation.

Now before we move on, I would like to cite Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to property as follows: “(1)Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property” Now, ask yourself, were the actions of the Maoist government, when it comes to destruction of private property which we have observed arbitrary or not?

Well, let’s proceed. What angers me is what has occurred is undemocratic. Democracy, as we understand it, without being pedantic, is termed as liberal democracy (although Nepals democracy falls short of liberal democracy it is in essence closer to it then what we are led to believe by some quarters – another discussion another day). This distinction is important so that we don’t confuse ourselves with other forms of political systems of governance which masquerade as democracy. For instance, Iran claims to be a “democracy” but secularism, a pillar of democracy, is nowhere to be found in that country.They do hold elections to elect Presidents, which are somewhat fair incomparison to elections held in other countries in that region. But in reality a council of bearded perverted old men who call the citizens their “children” rule the country. Whereas, China labels itself as a “democratic republic” but unlike Iran it does not have popular elections for Presidents but what it has is limited local level elections and only one party contesting in them. Why the Chinese politburo even bothers calling China a democratic republic is lost on me.

Liberal democracy (true democracy) holds certain fundamental principles and right to property is one of its foundations. The ideas which underline liberal democracy are a direct result of liberal thinkers like John Locke. John Locke postulated that Man (or woman lets not get sexist now) can through labor transform nature to create goods and participate in trade of such goods    i.e. participate in economic activites. These goods and wealth generated are his property ( we are of course talking of legal property).

The “Social Contract” theory which provides basis for and legitimizes why we have a government, and the origins of it concludes that You and I, gave up some of our natural rights in order to create a government so that we all can live in a society to benefit individually and as a group by having our rights protected. Hence, the role of the state is to protect the rights of individuals, which includes the right to property. True democratic States today work towards fulfilling this role.

The Maoist government

When the Maoists came into the fold of mainstream politics they committed themselves to democracy and pledged to work under the democratic framework. However, what they have shown by destroying private property without due compensation is that they disregard an individuals right to private property. And that the “welfare” of the community and groups supersede that of an individual. Let me stress this, we are not in a state of emergency. So there is no basis for some of our rights to be temporarily suspended. These houses weren’t demolished for security reasons or to prevent disasters nor were they a risk to health and safety of the public. This was simply done for road expansion even though alternatives are available,such as, building up a good public transportation system.

The actions of Maoists suggest that their pledges and assurances were nothing but a Trojan horse in order to get us to open the gates to the parliament. And now that they have the keys these mongrels ride around the country masquerading as swashbuckling protagonists trying to “save” the country by imposing their policies. It seems we are now likely to suffer at the hands of morons who wish to keep beating a dead philosophy hoping it might just work.