Banged Up Abroad – Prison In Nepal
On day four of our ordeal we were sent to the courts again. This time though we got to meet the DA himself, but not due to an appointment. At first glance I can see the intentions of this man. He stands about 5’8 tall, lanky, with a malicious grin and yellow teeth. His dark deep-set eyes stare at you hidden in concave crevices framed by crooked glasses and well-greased hair. This man is a bribe taker, and worst of all, he is the law in this town. However our one chance of a court date, possible freedom and access to our money and passports sits in this man’s file-a-fax atop his desk in the form of a business card.
There is a little part of the process that I might have missed. Each day we come to the courts to be told of our charge, but each day we sit at the court and get told nothing. Instead we sit in a chain gang handcuffed to the person next to us until our case is called and we head to the courtroom. Each day we do this but each day we sit and wait while everyone else gets called. Not a very fun way to spend our time, but apparently this is how things go. That is unless opportunity strikes! I have a habit of talking, I will talk to pretty much anyone who will listen. However, in this case I was hoping that this would start a conversation and I might learn something. This chatting also has a tendency to make people trust you a little more, so when I’m sitting at the end of a chain gang and the person next to me is sent to court the policeman I am chatting to doesn’t think to pop me back on the chain gang, but instead chains my two hands together. This now gives me relatively unrestricted movement. In my conversations with the policeman I was able to ascertain that the suited man in glasses with the sly grin was in fact the DA and that his office was right next to where I was sitting, now not chained. So when I saw the chance to wander into his office I took it. After letting him finish the call he was on I introduced myself and asked him if he had heard of three Australians in one of his prison cells. When he told me no I asked if I might be able to make a phone call. The call I made was the only one I needed to make. I called Mr Barohj.
Mr Barohj is a small pudgy man with a friendly face. He talks as if he needed to be somewhere else about three hours ago but would never rush you. A true man of dignity and honor that is seldom seen in a society that is so rife with corruption. With all that in mind we find it so lucky that he works for the Australian embassy. Around this time we also have the arrival of the tall and muscular Narayan. Narayan is a lawyer referred to us by the DA and we seemed obliged to take on his services. The DA made it clear, in not so many words, that Narayan was a friend and things will move a lot faster with him on our case. Mr Barohj seems to agree with this and later explains that in Nepal even the embassies have only a certain amount of sway and money oils the wheels of corruption. So with reluctance we take the advice of all around us and take on Narayan Seerethan as our lawyer.
Narayan is the sort of guy you love to hate. The kinda guy who looks you in the face and tells you all is ok, then turns around later and gives you a beat around the bush answer when things aren’t. Not really the friend you want, but when he holds the card between freedom and a legal three month non-condition holding right, you can’t tell him what you really think of him. He also has a jest about him that makes you uneasy. The sort of, “Once this is all over you should come and have dinner at my house. We can get stoned there no problem”. Makes you a little uneasy when you are looking down the barrel of possible deportation and a drug charge on your passport.
After a lot of back and forth from the courts the next few days go past rather quickly. After about a week in the prison and having been recruited by the killers in the next cell to work for them when this is all done, I think I have seen it all… That is until a Tibetan monk walks through the front gate of Hanuman Dhoka. Lama Kanju is 42 years old. He was born in Nepal but when he was only six his family took him to Tibet to study to be a novice monk. This is where he stayed until it became time for him to make a decision to either become a monk or lead a normal life. He chose to be a monk. After many years of study in Tibet he decided to spread his wings and take his teachings abroad to Europe. He found a place in Germany and started a monastery. It is now here where he calls home. But as all who have traveled know, home is where the heart is. So with the ache of missing family pulling him back to Asia he made his way back to Nepal to visit. It was on his return to the airport that things started to go amiss for the globe-trotting monk.
After a visit to his homeland Lama Kanju was looking forward to seeing the smiling faces of his students again. It was with them in mind that he tried to board a plane back to Germany. But when he failed to understand the language of the Nepali people they found it odd that a passport holder of Nepal couldn’t understand Nepali. So with him trying to explain that the reason he was wearing the dress of the Tibetan monks was the same reason for the communication breakdown, he was slapped in hand cuffs and subjected to further investigation. There is nothing sadder in the world than seeing a man with nothing but good in his heart being treated like a common criminal. Apparently the Chinese influence of atrocities to monks has climbed the Himalaya and seeped into the Kathmandu valley, polluting the already corrupt minds of the Nepali politicians and police. This proved to be true when the papers of the monk came back to be that he was completely innocent. But still in Hanuman Dhoka he remained. It turns out that the Nepali police now want 500,000 rupees (around $10,000 AUD) for him to be set free… a lot for a person without any material possessions to find lying around.
Our saga ended with our final court date on the 31st of December. We were in the courts first thing in the morning and following a short and hard to follow court session we were free. Of course by free I mean we were left in the hands of our lawyer, who promptly took us to an ATM so we could pay the ‘lawyer fee’. But I guess that’s better than three months in the cold cells. So our embassy had come through with shining colors and put pressure and payments in the right places. So, a happy New Year to all!