Coronavirus and Nepal: Imbalance brings disease

Sushma Joshi

Sushma Joshi

Coronavirus and Nepal: Imbalance brings disease

How then can a dangerous pandemic like the coronavirus not take hold? The environment itself is deranged and out of balance—how can it support healthy life?

All Asian cultures, especially the Chinese, agree disease is caused by an imbalance of elements which make up the human body. Ayurveda recognizes five elements (pancha bhuta) that make up the body. All five elements—air, fire, water, earth, ether—have to be in balance for the body to be healthy. Too much air element can cause joint and bone pains, too much fire element can cause fevers, too much water can cause diarrhea, for instance. Food must always be prepared in a way which balances sattva, rajas and tamas elements for perfect health.


This leads me to theorize that all elements of the environment also have to be in balance for life to be healthy. That is not the case in the current frenetic search for “development.” China is filled with asphalt and concrete, suffocating the earth element. Their factories are fueled by coal and fossil fuel, creating global heating and imbalancing the fire element. Their waterways are overexploited, dammed and full of plastic, destabilizing the water element. Industries spew chemical pollution in the air, imbalancing the air element. CFCs and other dangerous chemicals burn holes into the ozone in the stratosphere, imbalancing the ether element. How then can a dangerous pandemic like the coronavirus not take hold? The environment itself is deranged and out of balance—how can it support healthy life?


Yet this is the same model our communists have triumphantly followed. They don’t want any “feudal” elements in their lives—not the ancient ponds and waterways which were associated with Hindu worship, and which are now buried for building supermalls and commercial complexes; not the forests which sheltered the monkeys and deer of Shiva because they see no profit in taking care of trees and animals; not the temples which hosted ancient gods and goddesses because they are better cleansed for gilded plastic Laughing Buddhas promising prosperity and manufactured in dubious conditions in factories in China.


I was in Patan and aghast to see they’d demolished the Krishna Temple, made of stone and full of carved Vishnus from centuries ago. They had done the same to the JaiBageswori Temple near Pashupati. They are replacing them with shoddy carved imitations which even a first year art student would scorn to make. This is an international art crime that those who are selling and those who are buying will have to pay for, in the not so distant future. Interpol must send out a red alert to catch these criminals.


For Nepali communists, getting rid of two million trees in Kathmandu to widen the roads a few feet has been a triumph of urban planning. Never mind if destruction of greenery has brought severe air pollution, water shortages and a new ominous threat in the form of urban plagues like dengue to the overcrowded city. The feudals were always wrong and always evil, they argue—there is no discussion of how their policies to restrict demographic growth in a small bowl-shaped valley like Kathmandu contained the seeds of urban wisdom, not just social exclusion.


As to how the communists plan to provide water to the rising population of millions there is no answer, other than allowing more and more fossil fueled tankers to go around selling water in plastic canisters, a clearly unsustainable albeit popular strategy which doesn’t have a future in the long run. Will they fund the gravity-fueled dhungay dharas of yore? But there is no tax in that!


How would our comrades make money if they created infrastructure which provided basic services to people at a low or free cost? At the moment, they get to dig up the Melamchi pipes every few months (as they are doing right now in Handigaon). Someone makes a fat profit form this Kafkaesque exercise in digging up a non-existent waterpipe while getting their annual contract from their comrades. I assume this “cake” is cut and shared with the top leaders, not just the local contractor who bid and got the job.


The danger of communism is not just stupidity, which is emptying our country of its cultural heritage, forests and wildlife. It is that their vision of governance is so short sighted, with everything centered around collection of tax and distribution to near and dear ones, that they have created an ecological imbalance of living conditions which makes a pandemic a very real possibility, as we saw with dengue in the summer. Getting rid of them and bringing in a more ethical crew is now a matter of life and death for almost everyone (bar a few) in Kathmandu. Polluted air does not discriminate between rich and poor. Even though your air-conditioned car may carry you through the worst stretch in a seeming environment of pristine air, that security is very, very deceiving.









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