First, it was the monkey man terrorizing New Delhi, and now it is the shoot-out at the royal palace in Katmandu. Americans along with many others throughout the world are struggling to come to grips with this bizarre assassination of nearly the entire Nepalese royal family. Allow me to set the scene for a better understanding of Nepal's national nightmare. (My exclusive sources come from several colleagues who write for the Hindustan Times, a most reliable newspaper of south Asia.) The first two players in Nepal's shocking drama are the king and queen who are no the longer rulers because they are both dead. Next, there is the alleged mass-slayer and would-have-been king, Dipendra-he is also dead. He actually became king for a day before he died of a self-inflicted gunshot. Finally, the other major player was Devyani, Dipendra's girlfriend. She is alive and well back in New Delhi where she fled after the royal rampage.
Why did Dipendra kill or wound fourteen people including himself? It seems that alcohol played a significant role; he had been drinking heavily before the killing spree. However, the real issue was that his parents, the king and queen, who weren't going to allow him to marry the love of his life. Why? Well, the queen was upset with his girlfriend's family pedigree. While Devyani came from the same clan as the queen, there obviously were some significant unresolved issues among their kinfolk. In addition, Dipendra's fiancée was alleged to have had some Indian blood in her family. The queen didn't want a mixed race royal marriage; how would that look? From our perspective in the West, we tend to lump India and Nepal into the same ethnic and racial bag. Apparently, there were some real differences between them. Consequently, the queen put her royal foot down on Dipendra's marriage plans.
Then came that fateful family dinner when Dipendra told them that he planned to marry Devyani with or without their royal approval. Spencer Tracy didn't like who was coming to dinner and neither was the queen able to stomach having Devyani coming for dinner. In spite of his parents' parental displeasure, Dipendra was going to push his point. However, the king and queen had one royal ace in the hole: if Dipendra married Devyani, he would be deleted from the line of succession to the throne of Nepal. So, Dipendra kills them and much of the rest of the royal family in a tragic bloodbath after dinner.
Before I go further: the Nepalese royal family had been, until recently, an absolute monarchy. After several years of social unrest, they set limits upon themselves and created a parliamentary monarchy based upon the English system. The overreaction of the crowned prince illustrates that there is more to a parliamentary monarchy than merely copying a constitution. The British royals are noted for their stiff upper lips in the face of an imperial flap. The Nepalese royal family unfortunately didn't import this characteristic along with the constitution or perhaps Dipendra might have been dosing during the royal deportment lecture.
I recall a similar situation in England just before WWII. Edward VIII was king but wanted to marry the love of his life, Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American. The royal family, parliament, and the church told Edward that he couldn't marry Simpson. Edward didn't shoot-up Windsor, Parliament, or Canterbury. He quietly abdicated the throne to his brother without a bullet fired or even a harsh word spoken. As he said, "I found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love." Therefore, he resigned without any sort of royal rage or rampage.
I hope that Nepal settles down quickly-after all, my trip to Nepal depends upon it. It is dangerous enough to go to India in search of the monkey man; I don't want to get involved in a bloody civil war over this senseless shooting spree in that diminutive mountain monarchy on the roof of the world. It has taken me most of my life to position myself to make this trip of a lifetime; I don't want some act of royal rage to upset my plans. This trip is turning into an adventure-what with the mysterious monkey man of New Delhi and the aftermath of the meaningless murders in Nepal. Truth does indeed seem stranger than fiction. I shutter to think what might be next on my road trip to the land of the rajahs.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 7/12/01.