"Whattaya mean Mao's dead?!" News travels slowly in Nepal
Ever wanna go to Kathmandu? Not me. I was never a hippie. The hippie types always talked about heading off to Nepal for spiritual enlightenment, but it sounded like my idea of Hell: a bunch of grimy beggars grabbing at you, yelling gibberish, trying to sell you yak dung as prime-grade hash. Some of the old acid casualties in my community college classes had been there and always said it was a real deep experience, but it didn't seem to've done those zombie trolls much good. Most of them were on SSI, paid by the State of California to watch reruns of Gilligan's Island and not bother anybody with their acid flashbacks.
The first sign most people had that things weren't so peace'n'lovey in Nepal was June 2001, when the whole Nepalese royal family got wiped out over dinner. Turned out to be the old story: bratty son wants to marry a local slut, Dad says no, bratty son has a tantrum. Except this little prince had his tantrum with an automatic rifle. One of those classic dinner-table arguments, like in American Beauty or something. "Dad, can I marry Devi?" "No, no, no. Now eat your curry." "'Scuse me...gotta, um, wash my hands." And before Daddy and Mummy and sisters and brothers can dig into their chicken koorma, the li'l prince is back, peppering the whole dining room with lead. The whole family wiped out before the entree, just like King Ralph.
You gotta hand it to the Prince, though. I mean, that's love. "Honey, I shot the folks." I bet his girlfriend was real touched. Nothing says "I love you" like wiping out your entire family.
Still want to go to Kathmandu? Well, it gets worse. Way worse. That hot-tempered prince wasn't the only person in Nepal sayin' it with automatic rifles these days. Turns out there's a big, bloody, serious Maoist revolution going on there right now. Man, Bob Seger is gonna be bummed. I still can't really believe it myself. Maoists in Kathmandu? Nepal is where rich liberal assholes like Dianne Feinstein go "trekking." It's not where you expect to find Charlie, up there at 20,000 feet with the Gurkhas and the Sherpas.
But it's a fact: they've got a Maoist insurrection, and a big one too. Been going on since 1996. It started out in the classic way: the local Communist Party split between the peaceniks who just want to go handing out leaflets, and the hotheads who want to start fighting now. The hotheads won out, the Nepalese commies split up, and the two or three dozen university types who always dreamed of being the local Che Guevara headed for the hills to radicalize the Nepalese peasants.
They found the peasants already pissed off, in the mood to go off and kill some landlords. You don't think of Nepal as having masses of oppressed peasants, but some of the stuff I've been reading is pretty gross: people selling themselves and their whole families to the local landlord just to get malaria medication. Seriously: a peasant gets sick, figures anything's better than dying, and uses his family as collateral for the money he needs to get malaria medication. When he gets better, he and his wife and kids are the property of the local loanshark.
Slavery was actually legal in Nepal till a couple of years ago. You could buy whole families if you needed household help. Sometimes the debts were a hundred years old: because granddad had bad luck with the dice, all his kids, for ever and ever, were slaves. Little kids working 18-hour days, every day, for no money, for life. Hell, with a life like that, Ashcroft'd turn into a Maoist.
So if you're living a miserable life as a Nepalese slave, and a nice clean-cut Maoist recruiter sneaks into the village one night and tells you it's all gonna change and all you have to do is learn a few of Mao's little inspirational haiku and hack your landlord to death...well, I have to say, I'd join up myself. And these recruiters were university types, all clean-cut and inspiring. The peasants must've been dazzled just to see'em, Nepal's finest, paying attention to them and their grubby villages. They joined up, and the revolution started cranking.